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New terrarium - not sure what to grow

Posted by Karyn963 9 So Cal (My Page) on
Mon, Jun 30, 14 at 22:20

I have taken a 39 gallon aquarium and turned it into a terrarium. I have a layer of gravel topped with charcoal, sphagnum and then potting soil. It is not in a sunny location but gets indirect sun and I put the aquarium top back on with the light.

Any help would be appreciated. I planted a creeping Charlie and ficus both rooting from cuttings and they died.

Thank You.

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RE: New terrarium - not sure what to grow

Dear Karyn963,
What fun! 39 gallons to play with! For north-window-character light/part shade and good humidity I’ve had good luck with
1. miniature begonia for some height; there are also vining ones (check out the choices at and The one I have is Begonia dregei “maple-leaved begonia”: it can be pruned as needed and grown as a pseudo-bonsai to provide a small tree for your terrarium landscape). When allowed to grow it makes lots of white flowers.
2. mosses! Definitely. Go for the carpeting forms (pleurocarps) that grow on the ground in shady places. Literally. Get several kinds from your backyard.
3. ferns! Definitely. With the size of your tank you’ll have lots of options. The ones I’ve used in much smaller terraria than you have are Lemmaphyllum microphyllum (bean fern; I got both forms of it), Selaginella kraussiana “Brownii” (pincushion spikemoss), Asplenium x ebenoides (dragon tail fern), and Microgramma heterophylla. Ones on my to-try list are Nephrolepsis exaltata “Elzevir” and button fern (Nephrolepsis Dufii or the different version available at Also check out,, and for others.
4. micro-mini Sinningia pusilla. Should bloom for you: totally sweet and amazingly robust.

Check out the many other terrarium plants offered by the sites I’ve mentioned above and note ones you like that have similar light and water needs to the other plants you have. Pay attention also to the mature size to be sure they won’t outgrow your space.

Have fun!

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