Terrarium Plants: Jungle and Desert Flora Behind Glass

A terrarium is more than functional housing for your exotic pets. They reproduce a section of the fauna habitat within the display container. In addition to correct climatic conditions and suitable soils, this of course includes terrarium plants that fit into the respective habitat and are suitable for the culture behind glass. Here you can find out more about terrariums with plants.

What is Special About Plants in the Terrarium?

In addition to species-appropriate animal care for spiders, snakes, or geckos, creativity and horticultural skills are required from terrarium keepers. The vegetation in the terrarium also needs to be looked after and taken care of. The exciting thing about it: You cultivate plants under different conditions than house or garden plants.

Instead of open space, the terrarium offers the plants only limited space. Your growth needs to be planned and kept under control. To ensure that the plants do not grow too quickly and the terrarium overgrows, a sure instinct is required when selecting the plants.

Especially in a more elaborate setting, it can be complicated to replace plants that have intertwined with one another if necessary. Depending on the size of the tank, plants that grow slowly or that remain small offer advantages.

Hunger for Light and Vegetation Zones – the Demands of Terrarium Plants

Particular importance is attached to the decision about the planting of the lighting. Plants, which are more likely to be found in the shady areas of the vegetation, also need sufficient light in suitable spectra and strengths. In a terrarium with no incidence of daylight, you, therefore, need artificial plant lighting in addition to heat or UV lamps for the animals.

In addition to the light intensity, the distance between the lamp and the plant is essential. In a flat terrarium, there are different possibilities for the light distribution and thus the possible arrangement of the plants than in a box that is rather narrow and high.

In high terrariums, climbing and creeping plants such as Amazonian wine (Cissus amazonica), efeutute (Epipremnum) or slant leaf (Begonia schulzei) enjoy first-class development potential. If ground dwellers populate the terrarium, lower leaf plants such as the mosaic plant (Fittonia) or armchairs (Pellionia) provide good hiding spots.

Which Plants Belong in a Terrarium?

Depending on whether a desert or a tropical rainforest is depicted, different types of plants are recommended for the culture.

But there is another criterion that you should consider when planting the terrarium. Aloes, for example, are terrarium plants that a bearded dragon would never encounter in their natural habitat: The plant grows in Africa and Madagascar; the animal is native to Australia. If you take it very carefully, choose the plant not only to match the climate zone shown but also to suit the habitat of the inhabitants.

The botany in the desert terrarium is comparatively spartan. The high temperatures (depending on the distance to the heat lamps between 26 and 50 ° C) and the low humidity require plants that have to cope with little water and heat. The ambience for such terrarium plants is suitable for snakes from corresponding climatic zones, various iguanas, scorpions, or tarantulas.

Popular Plants in the Desert Terrarium are:

  • Various succulents (echeveria, lithops, and others),
  • Cacti,
  • Agaves,
  • Aloe,
  • Gasteries,
  • Bow hemp,
  • Midday flowers,
  • Stacks.

In a rainforest terrarium, the plants find the opposite growth conditions: At 20 to 30 ° C, it is somewhat cooler. There is a high humidity of 70 to 100 percent, which results in a humid and humid climate – excellent growth conditions for lush terrarium plants that provide shelter for geckos, frogs, tropical tarantulas, or snakes such as the garter snake.

In the rainforest, plants vie for the light that falls through the dense treetops. Plants that can climb up or thrive as epiphytes right on tree branches; near the ground, there are plants that get by with a lower light yield.

Typical Botanical Representatives in a Tropical Terrarium are:

  • Different bromeliads,
  • Orchids,
  • Ferns (e.g. Microgramma, Pleopeltis, Pyrrosia),
  • Moss ferns,
  • Philodendron,
  • Anthuriums,
  • Ornamental asparagus,
  • Green lily.

Are There Plants That are Not Good for the Terrarium?

An essential requirement for suitable terrarium plants is that they are adapted to the respective climatic conditions. In addition, when buying a young plant, you should consider how quickly it will grow to what size and what care measures are required. Fast-growing foliage plants such as a monstera do not fit into a small tank for long.

The plants must also not pose a threat to the animal inhabitants. Plants that are ideal for cultivation behind glass, such as the carnivorous pitcher plants (Nepenthes) from Southeast Asia, are not advisable for terrariums with small inhabitants such as frogs or insects. On the other hand, snakes or spiders could injure themselves on very prickly cactus species.

Note that some terrarium animals also eat plant-based foods. “Tasty” plants don’t get old in the terrarium. For the safety of your animals in such arrangements, you should also make sure that the plants are non-toxic.

Are Artificial Plants Sufficient in a Terrarium?

If you as a terrarium owner do not have the green thumb, terrarium plants are offered as a decoration that looks real but is made of materials such as silk or polyester. Apart from the fact that they do not wither or need to be renewed, the animals cannot damage or injure themselves on these artificial plants. Artificial plants are immune to pests such as aphids and scale insects and can be cleaned if you need to disinfect the terrarium. In addition, they do not change their size and do not grow out of the aquarium. However, if nothing serious speaks against it, real plants should be used if possible, because they also have climatic functions in the terrarium.

However, artificial plants are unsuitable in terrariums with herbivores: the risk is too great that an animal will eat from the decorative plant and, in the worst case, die from it. You shouldn’t do without real plants in the terrarium in tropical terrarium: The complex metabolism of leafy plants contributes to the natural rainforest climate.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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