Tropical Plants for Terrariums

A terrarium is a garden enclosed in glass. It provides healthy and controlled conditions to nurture tender, young or small plants. By providing a humid ecosystem, a terrarium is also ideal for tropical plants that do not normally grow in dry areas, such as indoors. With proper care, tropical plants will thrive in a terrarium.

Chinese Evergreen

The Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema commutatum) is a perennial, herbaceous plant that grows well in USDA Hardiness Zones 10b and 11. It can thrive in clay, sand or acidic soil types, but is intolerant to salty soil. Chinese evergreen requires very little sunlight; therefore, it is suitable for terrariums. Growing slowly up to 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide over several years, the Chinese evergreen has dark evergreen foliage, with each oblong, waxy leaf extending from 9 to 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. White flowers usually bloom during the summer. The stalks bear bright reddish oval fruits, hidden in the plant's thick, luscious, green leaves. A non-invasive plant that is not an easy prey for pests, Chinese evergreen can be susceptible to mites, which causes health problems to the plant. Excessive watering will result in pale roots and leaves, while exposure to temperatures below 45 F can also damage the plant's foliage.

Eyelash Begonia

Eyelash begonia (Begonia boweri) is a miniature, creeping plant that can reach up to 10 inches tall and 7 inches wide. It thrives in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 to 12. Eyelash begonia exhibits long, heart-shaped leaves that extend to about 4 inches long and 2.5 inches wide. Multicolored leaves have dark green tops with blackish tips and light-green undersides with reddish tips. Pinkish flowers bloom from winter through early spring. Much like the Chinese evergreen, the eyelash begonia requires very little sunlight. It has a very low frost tolerance and requires an average to warm climate with a minimum night temperature of 60 to 65 F. Give eyelash begonia only a moderate amount of water and do not get the leaves wet. Keep the soil uniformly moist, but not wet. Maintain the eyelash begonia by cutting the leaves in spring and the rhizome during summer. After removing the root from the ground, cut the rhizomes into 1- to 2-inch pieces, making sure each piece contains buds and roots. This is also one of the ways to propagate begonias aside from leaf cuttings. Reduce watering when the plant is resting.

Parlor Palm

Parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans) is a single-stemmed, upright, indoor plant that grows slowly up to 4 to 6 feet; the parlor palm can take over a decade to reach 2 or 3 feet tall. Purchase parlor palm in its young form to keep it longer in a terrarium. It thrives in USDA Hardiness Zones 10b to 11. The parlor palm's light green, wide leaves measure up to 8 inches long, and usually appear in clumps. It has white flowers that bloom periodically throughout the year and bears inconspicuous, black round fruits which measure one-half inch in diameter. Requiring very little sunlight, the parlor palm is ideal for indoors and terrariums because it can withstand both very little and too much water. It can even survive in air-conditioned areas, although temperature between 60 and 80 F are ideal for this plant. Avoid exposing parlor palm to extreme cold drafts and too much humidity. Maintain a well-drained soil that has moderate moisture. Trim fronds as they mature to keep the parlor palm from growing too tall. Avoid pruning from the terminal bud because it will cause the parlor palm to stop growing or die.

Keywords: terrariums, terrarium tropical plants, planting in terrariums, eyelash begonia, parlor palm, Chinese evergreen

About this Author

Josie Borlongan is a full-time IT Manager and a writer. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in medical technology from Saint Louis University, Philippines. Borlongan writes for eHow, Garden Guides,, and She is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and a Cisco Certified Network Associate.