Can Air Plants Live in a Closed Terrarium? [Exploring the Viability]

Air plants, known for their resilience and unusual lack of soil requirements, have garnered attention for their ability to thrive in various environments. They absorb moisture and nutrients through their leaves, leading to the common belief that they could be ideal candidates for enclosed spaces like closed terrariums.

However, air plants require more air circulation than a closed terrarium typically provides to prevent moisture from settling on their leaves, which can promote rot.

Closed terrariums, on the other hand, are designed to create a self-sustaining micro-environment where humidity and moisture can circulate within a sealed container. This type of terrarium is better suited for plants that require high humidity and a stable temperature but can be detrimental to air plants. Due to the lack of ventilation in a closed terrarium, air plants might not receive the air circulation they need to stay healthy.

Can Air Plants Live in a Closed Terrarium

While the appeal of a low-maintenance, self-contained ecosystem is evident, it is crucial to consider the specific needs of air plants. They perform best in conditions where there is ample air flow, and while high humidity can be beneficial, ensuring proper ventilation is paramount. Thus, the common practice of growing air plants successfully involves keeping them in open or partially open terrariums where air exchange is readily available.

Understanding Terrariums

Terrariums are unique environments, essentially miniature ecosystems enclosed in glass. They offer a glimpse into a world of self-sustainability where plants can thrive under controlled conditions.

Types of Terrariums

  1. Open Terrariums: These feature an opening that allows for air circulation and are typically less humid. Open terrariums are suitable for plants that require a drier environment, resembling a desert or temperate habitat.
  2. Closed Terrariums: Sealed and highly humid, these terrariums create a rainforest-like ecosystem. The high level of humidity and consistent temperature in closed terrariums is favorable for tropical plants.

Terrarium Design and Components

  1. Terrarium Container: Glass terrariums are the most popular choice as they allow for clear viewing and efficient light entry. The terrarium container can vary in size, shape, and whether it’s open or closed.
  2. Hardscape: This refers to the non-living elements such as rocks, wood, and other structures that provide form and function to the terrarium. The hardscape helps to create an aesthetically pleasing environment and can also support the soil and plants.

In creating a terrarium, one must consider the balance of light, moisture, and the ecosystem’s components to foster a healthy environment for the plants within.

Essential Care for Air Plants

Air plants require specific conditions to thrive, particularly when it comes to watering and misting as well as exposure to the right amount of light.

can air plants live in a terrarium

Watering and Misting

Air plants, known for their resilience and minimal root systems, absorb moisture and nutrients through their leaves. They typically prosper in environments with high humidity. A recommended routine is soaking the plants for about 30 minutes weekly.

After soaking, they should be given a gentle shake to remove excess water and then placed upside down to ensure complete draining, a step crucial to prevent rotting. For environments with lower humidity, regular misting between soaks can be beneficial.

Light Requirements

To mimic their natural habitat, air plants should be positioned in spaces where bright indirect light is available for the majority of the day. Direct sunlight, especially during hotter parts of the day, can be detrimental and lead to drying out. Placement near a window with a sheer curtain is ideal, providing them with the light they favor without the harsh exposure.

In the context of an air plant terrarium, while some adaptability is present, it is essential to ensure that there is adequate air flow as stagnant air can lead to moisture-related issues. Hence, closed terrariums are not recommended for housing air plants.

Air Plants and Closed Terrariums

When considering the integration of air plants into a terrarium, it’s crucial to understand the unique requirements of these plants, particularly their need for air circulation, and how these needs intersect with the features of closed terrariums.

Advantages of Closed Terrariums

Closed terrariums create a humid environment which is beneficial for many tropical plants. These ecosystems capture and recycle moisture, resulting in a high humidity level that mimics some of the natural habitats of tropical species. The condensation that often forms inside these enclosures can help maintain consistent moisture levels with minimal watering.

Challenges and Solutions

However, air plants (Tillandsia) thrive in conditions with good ventilation and air flow—conditions not typically found in closed terrariums. The stagnant air and continuous high humidity in a closed terrarium can lead to rot and disease for air plants. To address these issues, one could create a terrarium with openings or a lid that is occasionally removed to promote air circulation.

Another approach is to choose a partially closed or open terrarium design that supports airflow while still retaining some humidity. It is clear that while air plants may appreciate some aspects of the humid environment, their health is contingent on adequate air movement to prevent harm from excess moisture and condensation.

can air plants grow in a closed terrarium

Terrarium Maintenance and Health

Maintaining a closed terrarium involves careful monitoring of humidity levels and taking steps to prevent plant rot. Specific maintenance practices ensure a healthy environment for air plants.

Monitoring Humidity and Moisture

Closed terrariums create a humid environment due to evaporation and condensation cycles. Regular checks are necessary to maintain the right humidity level:

  • Use a hygrometer to track the humidity.
  • If the terrarium appears foggy, open the lid temporarily to reduce excess moisture.

Proper drainage layers with materials like gravel or charcoal are crucial to prevent moist soil which can harm air plants. It is recommended to keep the soil slightly damp but never soggy.

Preventing Plant Rot

Air plants in terrariums are susceptible to rot if conditions allow excessive moisture to accumulate. Here are steps to take to prevent rot:

  • Ensure air plants are not in direct contact with water by using a bed of moss or creating a barrier.
  • After misting, allow air plants to dry before placing them back in the terrarium.
  • Check regularly for signs of rot and remove any affected parts promptly.

Proper maintenance, including careful monitoring and adjustment of humidity and moisture levels, can prevent rot and promote the longevity of air plants in a closed terrarium.

Selecting Companions for Air Plants

When styling a terrarium for air plants, it’s crucial to consider companion plants that thrive under similar conditions. These plants should complement air plants without outcompeting them for space and resources.

Choosing Terrarium Plants

Terrarium plants should be chosen based on their compatibility with the high humidity and indirect light requirements of air plants. Tropical plants and certain mosses have similar needs and can coexist well with air plants, fostering a micro-ecosystem. It is essential to avoid using plants that require different conditions or have the potential to introduce pests or diseases to the terrarium.

  • Tropical plants: These usually thrive in the moist conditions suitable for air plants.
  • Mosses: They can provide a lush, green carpet that contrasts nicely with the air plants’ unique structures.
will air plants grow in a terrarium

Combining Plant Varieties

When combining plant varieties, consider both the aesthetic and practical aspects to ensure all plants can flourish. Ferns and succulents are popular choices, but they come with caveats:

  • Ferns: While ferns appreciate humidity, they may require more soil moisture than what air plants prefer.
  • Succulents: Often desired for their low water needs, some succulents will not tolerate the humidity that air plants enjoy. However, there are succulents that can coexist with air plants provided the terrarium has adequate air flow.

Small plants and companion plants that share similar care profiles to air plants can make the maintenance of a terrarium simpler and more rewarding. Choosing the right combination of plants will augment the beauty and health of the terrarium, turning it into a harmonious display of varied textures and forms.

Frequently Asked Questions

In understanding the nuances of terrarium gardening, especially with unconventional choices like air plants, it becomes essential to address common concerns and provide clear guidance.

What are the best types of plants to grow in a closed terrarium?

Closed terrariums favor plants that thrive in high humidity and low to moderate light conditions. Ferns, mosses, and orchids are most suitable for this environment. Air plants can be grown in closed terrariums, but they require special attention to moisture levels due to their sensitivity to overwatering.

How do you care for air plants in a terrarium environment?

Caring for air plants in a terrarium requires ensuring proper air circulation and preventing excess moisture. While air plants need higher humidity, stagnant water can lead to rot. It’s critical to let them dry completely before returning them to the terrarium after misting.

Are large terrariums suitable for growing air plants?

Large terrariums provide more airflow and space, which can be beneficial for air plants, allowing them to receive adequate light and reduce the risk of moisture buildup. However, the key is maintaining a controlled environment that does not become too humid.

What are some creative air plant terrarium design ideas?

For a captivating terrarium, incorporate elements like driftwood or stones. These materials not only add to the aesthetic but also offer crevices for air plants to attach. Implementing varied heights and textures can create an appealing miniature landscape.

How often should air plants in a closed terrarium be watered?

Air plants in closed terrariums should be watered sparingly, only when the air inside begins to appear dry. This typically amounts to occasional misting, being cautious to avoid oversaturation. It’s advisable to water less frequently than you would for air plants in open-air environments.

Where can one find a variety of closed terrarium plants for purchase?

A range of plants suitable for closed terrariums can be sourced from local nurseries, garden centers, or online retailers that specialize in terrarium plants and supplies. It’s important to select species that can adapt to the humid, low-light conditions of a closed terrarium.


Air plants, known for their adaptability and unique appearance, thrive in environments that mimic their natural habitat which consists of ample air circulation and proper light.

A closed terrarium creates a highly humid environment that typically lacks the necessary air flow, putting the health of air plants at risk. Tillandsia species, as air plants are scientifically recognized, require exposure to the air to absorb moisture and nutrients, a process hampered in enclosed spaces.

It is recommended to house air plants in open or partially open containers that allow for adequate air movement. A closed terrarium environment can be detrimental due to the buildup of moisture, leading to potential rot and fungal diseases for the plants. Although the aesthetic of air plants in sealed jars is appealing, their longevity and health are compromised under such conditions.

Maintaining air plants involves ensuring the right balance of light, water, and air circulation. When displayed properly, they become a low-maintenance and enchanting addition to any indoor space. It is important that their specialized requirements are met to enjoy their full beauty and growth potential. For those still wanting to create a terrarium-like display, using containers with openings, like light-bulb shaped terrariums, can offer a suitable compromise.

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