Open Terrarium Plants

Open Terrarium Plants

An open terrarium is a perfect home for cacti and other succulents. Not only are succulent collections unique, but the plants also grow slowly, are easy to maintain, and naturally look great together. Open terrariums are an excellent way to display the incredible assortment of shapes, sizes, spine patterns, and colors of these unusual plants.

No matter which type you decide upon, choose plants with similar preferences. It’s much easier to keep plants healthy when they thrive on similar requirements.

The watering requirement is the most crucial preference to match, as well as the preferred light needs. If you want to grow succulents, note that not every specimen is a sun-worshipper that likes to bake in the heat. Choose plants that fit your terrarium’s conditions.

Sturdy succulents with fat leaves that store water are usually good candidates to handle the heat and droughts of terrarium life. As a general rule, darker plants usually tolerate less light than other succulents.

There are far too many suitable succulents to list, but here are a few popular, easy-to-keep candidates:

Open Terrarium Succulents For Direct Light


This low-growing succulent has rosette-styled leaves shaped like a flower. There are countless variations, including the famous “Neon Breakers” with purple leaves. Echeverias produce flowers on stalks late in the season.


This varied family is so hardy and forgiving of poor soil it’s commonly called “Stonecrop.” They typically grow fastest in full sun but can tolerate less. It’s a friendly beginner’s plant. One popular variety is the Burro’s Tail.

Tiger’s Jaw (Faucaria tigrina)

The descriptive name fits: a sharp row of spines grows along the edge of paired triangular leaves. It’s a low-growing succulent that won’t quickly outgrow its container. They love heat and, if given strong light, can bloom in the fall. There are many hybrids to choose from.


This highly varied succulent lends volume and texture to a scene. Agave is typically slow-growing, hardy, and loves the sun. Though many Agaves are landscape plants, there are beautiful mini varieties that can live a long time in a terrarium before outgrowing it.


These cylindrical or ball-shaped succulents are miniatures of a classic spiny cactus. They need lots of light and a sparse amount of water.


A free-flowering family of plants with a lot of variety, smaller specimens of this popular houseplant do well in an open terrarium. Most will outgrow the space eventually, but they don’t grow quickly indoors.


There are over 400 species of Aloe and an astounding number of hybrids, including tiny miniatures that thrive in open terrariums. They appreciate a lot of sun but not scorching rays.


These “living stones” are unique and stay small enough to be permanent terrarium residents. These fascinating succulents have the unfortunate reputation of being difficult, but that’s because they need little water and rot easily. They do well with plenty of direct sunlight. Watering five times a year is generally enough; never water in winter.

Open Terrarium Succulents For Indirect Light


Haworthia is a large family of small, eccentric succulents. They need a bit more water than many succulents but won’t tolerate wet conditions and need careful watering. They don’t like direct sun, either, and are generally slow-growing.

Dwarf Sansevieria

This smaller cousin of the ever-popular and durable Snake Plant is easy to care for and tops out at six inches high. Its straplike variegated foliage makes a nice contrast to blockier succulents. It accepts a range of bright indirect light but loses some striping in dim conditions. It grows relatively slowly, water sparingly.


There are countless varieties of this popular button- or barrel-shaped family. They are easy to grow and flower easily, putting out summertime flowers often bigger than the plant itself. Rebutias like cool nighttime temps and prefer strong light but will tolerate less.


Most jades will eventually outgrow a terrarium, but they grow slowly and respond well to being pruned. They make great bonsai plants for this reason. Jades prefer strong indirect light but can handle a wide range.

Sand Rose (Anacampseros Rufescens)

These hardy succulents have fleshy leaves with green centers and pastel pink- or purple-tinged edges. They are slow-growing and top out at four inches. They like infrequent watering and indirect light strong enough to bring out their colors.


Sempervivum is another highly varied member of the Crassula family that includes Jade, Sedum, and Echeveria. It grows in tight rosette-shaped clumps of fleshy leaves. The plant takes on different shades at different times of the year.

Ox-tongue Gasteria

This easy-going succulent comes in a range of sizes down to the dwarf glomerata or the liliputana, which reach only 4 inches high. Their attractive straplike leaves often have a rough texture. Gasteria like bright indirect light and can handle dimmer situations than many succulents. They are slow-growers that need little water.

Ball Cactus (Parodia)

The Parodia genus includes many easy-to-grow small cacti that suit an open terrarium. Their spines are often unusual and showy. They don’t like intense sunlight and typically want a bit more water than other succulents.