Best Terrariums

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

14 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
113 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best terrariums

Last Updated December 2019

Not everyone has access to a garden. If you live in an apartment building or an urban area, you may not have the outdoor space to cultivate your green thumb. Terrariums are self-sustaining mini gardens that you can enjoy in the comfort of your own home. These glass or plastic containers hold soil and plants while trapping moisture to create an enclosed growing system. Your inner botanist can experiment moisture-loving plants like tropical orchids, or you can try your hand at Insta-worthy succulents in an open terrarium.

Terrariums are an excellent addition to your home décor and come in an exciting variety of shapes and sizes. Some can hold multiple plant species, allowing you to get creative with miniature landscaping. With so many offerings on the market, choosing a terrarium can be tricky. What plants work in these structures? What’s the difference between an open and a closed terrarium?

Keep reading to learn all you need to know about showcasing indoor plants in a miniature ecosystem. If you’re ready to get started, check out our top terrarium picks derived from hours of careful research.

A terrarium can liven up your home by bringing greenery indoors.

Types of terrariums

The predecessor of the terrarium was an unattended glass jar. A Victorian physician experimenting with moths accidently discovered that he could grow rare ferns inside a sealed glass jar. This birthed stylized glass structures, known as Wardian cases, that became a popular fixture of Victorian parlors and sitting rooms. Today, the Wardian case is just one of the terrarium types you can choose from.

Wardian case: These classic, antique-style cases are modeled like mini-conservatories or greenhouses with hinged roofs that lift open. They tend to be the largest and priciest terrariums on the market.

Glass cloche: This bell-shaped cover also dates back to the Victorian era. Used indoors, it’s an attractive enclosure that can showcase moisture-loving plants. If placed over a dish with layers of gravel, charcoal, moss, and potting medium, it can create its own rain cycle.

Closed terrarium: This sealable glass container, often rectangular in shape, holds a special soil mix and plants to replicate the environment of the tropics. The glass shelter traps moisture, and the circulation of water creates a humid environment for moisture-loving plants like orchids, mosses, and ferns.

Open terrariums: Also made of glass, open terrariums have an opening that allows for the circulation of air. These are better suited for air plants, cacti, and succulents, which need less moisture to thrive. Open terrariums tend to be globe-shaped or geometric in design.

Hanging terrarium: Shaped as globes, tear drops, pyramids, or other geometric structures, many hanging terrariums are suspended from ceilings with twine or fishing wire. There are also some hanging terrarium options that hang from mountable hooks on the wall.

Vivarium: A closed terrarium with ventilation, the vivarium is designed to house reptiles and amphibians in a plant-rich, semi-natural environment.

EXPERT TIP

If you choose an open terrarium, mist the soil whenever it gets dry.


Staff  | BestReviews

Terrarium features

Stand

Some hanging terrariums come a metal stand that can hang one or two globe-styled terrariums. These sturdy stands can be placed on the floor, on a table, or on a shelf. Choosing a terrarium with a stand saves you the fuss of figuring out how to hang it from your ceiling.

Shape

The standard terrarium is rectangular and shaped much like an aquarium, but there are an array of other three-dimensional shapes to choose from. A common shape for open and hanging terrariums is a globe. You will also see terrariums in pyramid-like structures and other geometric shapes. Zany, unique designs — like lightbulb or tea kettle terrariums — can be found with some internet searching.

Kit

The majority of terrariums do not come with plants or soil mix. However, there are terrarium kits available for separate purchase. A terrarium kit may include gravel, rocks and/or pebbles, potting soil, moss, vermiculite, and activated charcoal. Some are specific to plant type, like succulents.

Kid-friendly terrariums

Most terrariums are designed for adult use and aesthetics. The glass housing is breakable and best handled by adults. However, building a terrarium with your favorite child is a fun, educational pastime that can be enjoyed with a terrarium kit designed specifically for kids. These kits come with a plastic lidded jar, soil mix, and seeds. Some also come with miniature toys and LED lighting in the lid.

Terrarium prices

Kids’ terrariums and hanging terrariums, including ones with stands, tend to be the most affordable options. These generally cost less than $20. Open terrariums that rest on a table or other flat surface cost a little more, from $20 to $35. Closed terrariums, including vivariums, are the priciest options. Most of these range from $50 to $100. Wardian case terrariums, however, can exceed $200.

DID YOU KNOW?

“Transpiration” is when a plant’s leaves give off water vapor. In a closed terrarium, that water vapor is trapped and forms water droplets that trickle down the glass. This mimics the rain cycle and sustains the plants inside the closed container.

DID YOU KNOW?

Tillandsia is a popular low-maintenance air plant that is well-suited in size and constitution for an open terrarium.

Tips

  • If you want to grow succulents, be aware that a closed terrarium requires a different soil mix than an open terrarium. For a closed terrarium, layer the following ingredients from the bottom up: pebbles, activated charcoal, moss, and potting soil appropriate for your plant species.

  • If you’re looking for a way to house moisture-loving plants, choose a sealed terrarium that won’t leak. Higher-quality terrariums tend to be more airtight and waterproof. If you’re just growing succulents, cacti, or air plants, however, this isn’t a huge concern.

  • Plan your miniature landscape ahead of time. When choosing plants for your terrarium, select species that won’t grow too wild and outgrow the container. For some people, the planning is half the fun.

  • Let your creativity flow. If you’re feeling crafty, consider adding miniature figurines to create a themed terrarium, such as a fairy garden or a woodland scene.

  • Keep in mind that all plants need some sun. Place your terrarium where it can get adequate light, but be mindful of what your particular terrarium inhabitants need. Some plants need only indirect sunlight.

Other products we considered

A terrarium can be a fun and educational foray for children, which is why we love Creativity for Kids Sparkle N’ Grow Butterfly Terrarium, designed for ages six and up. Popular with parents for its easy setup, the shatterproof plastic jar comes complete with a planting kit. Kids love the responsibility of watering their miniature garden and watching the seeds grow in just a few days. What’s more, science meets art with this terrarium kit’s fun stickers, figurines, and decoratable butterfly wings.

The Deco Glass Terrarium is a gorgeous and reasonably priced terrarium to showcase your succulents and air plants. This open, geodesic terrarium has beautiful gold joints that add a flare of style to any room. It’s a statement piece that’s small enough to place on your desk or accent a coffee table.

Activated charcoal is used in terrariums to kill moisture-loving bacteria and to deodorize the enclosure.

FAQ

Q. Do I need to water my terrarium?

A. Even though closed terrariums provide their own moisture, they do need extra water occasionally — roughly once a month. As long as you see condensation on the walls of your closed terrarium, however, you don’t need to add water.

For open terrariums housing succulents and other low-moisture plants, only add water when the soil is dry. Instead of pouring water directly onto the soil, we recommend using a spray bottle with water to dampen the soil around each plant. Roughly once every ten days is a solid rule of thumb when watering succulents.

Q. What is activated charcoal used for in terrariums? Do I need it?

A. Because terrariums do not contain drainage holes like you might find in the bottom of a planter, a layer of activated (or horticulture) charcoal helps soak up excess water that could otherwise rot your plants’ roots. This layer is typically placed over drainage gravel or pebbles in the base of the terrarium. Charcoal also helps absorb toxins and eliminates odor caused by mold or mildew.

Alternatively, you could use a layer of live moss to absorb excess water and odor. Another option is to open your (closed) terrarium for a few hours each day to help odors dissipate. Be advised, however, that you’d have to water more often due to the moisture loss.

Q. What kinds of plants are best to grow in a terrarium?

A. Plants that are petite are best. Consider the size of your terrarium; it’s best to select plants that won’t touch the walls. If you’re mixing species, we recommend picking plants with similar light and watering needs. A few plant species that you might consider for a closed terrarium that don’t need much sunlight are spider ferns, peperomias, moss, and violets. For a hanging terrarium, air plants are very low-maintenance and don’t even require soil! They do, however, need adequate light.

The team that worked on this review
  • Ana
    Ana
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer

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