orchid terrarium

Crafting the Perfect Orchid Terrarium: Complete Guide

Step into the mesmerizing world of orchid terrariums, where the elegance of floral design meets the charm of miniature ecosystems. Orchids have captivated plant enthusiasts for centuries with their diverse array of classic blooms and exotic tropical allure. While they boast unique aesthetics, each orchid species also presents its own set of requirements, making it essential to carefully tailor your terrarium environment for the most captivating blossoms.

Rest assured, as this guide will take you on an inspiring journey through the art of crafting the perfect orchid terrarium. We will explore the process of selecting the finest plants, substrates, and environmental conditions to ensure your orchid terrarium flourishes with vibrant blooms. Orchids thrive when provided with precise temperature, light, and humidity settings, which can be easily controlled and maintained within the microcosm of a terrarium.

We will delve into the art of cultivating a captivating atmosphere that fosters the growth and vibrancy of your orchids, allowing you to fully embrace the magic of these enchanting plants. So, grab your gardening gloves and prepare to be inspired by the world of orchid terrariums!

Orchid Terrarium Design and Ideas

orchid terrarium

Designing an orchid terrarium is an opportunity to create a miniature indoor garden that showcases nature’s beauty. From selecting the orchids to choosing appropriate accessories, each element plays a crucial role in creating a visually appealing and healthy environment for your orchids.

Here are some orchid terrarium ideas to inspire your design:

  • Choose a glass container: Select a container with enough space for your orchids to grow. Consider using different shapes and sizes, such as terrariums, aquariums, or repurposed fishbowls, to add interest to your design.
  • Miniature orchids: To avoid overcrowding and to fit within a smaller terrarium, consider using miniature orchid species, such as Masdevallia, Dendrobium, and Oncidium.
  • Add a substrate layer: Use a mixture of materials like pebbles, sand, or coconut husk to create a proper drainage layer for your terrarium. This will ensure excess water does not harm your orchids’ roots.
  • Orchid potting mix: Opt for a high-quality, well-draining mix that allows for proper aeration and growth of orchid roots.
  • Foliage and filler plants: Include other tropical plants, such as ferns, mosses, and bromeliads, to add depth, color, and texture to your orchid terrarium.
  • Decorative features: Enhance the terrarium’s appearance with ornamental elements such as driftwood, small stones, or miniature figures to create visual interest.
  • Humidity control: Maintain a humid environment within the terrarium using a humidifier, lid, or frequent misting to ensure the orchids remain healthy.

When designing your orchid terrarium, always consider the specific needs of each plant species, including light, temperature, and humidity levels, to ensure their long-term health and growth.


Create a captivating indoor garden with an orchid terrarium by selecting the right container, using miniature species, adding substrate, potting mix, tropical plants, decorative features, and controlling humidity to ensure a healthy environment for your orchids.

Creating a Suitable Environment

Crafting the perfect orchid terrarium requires an understanding of the specific environment each orchid needs to thrive. Based on their structure and ventilation, terrariums can be classified into two main types: closed terrariums and open terrariums. This section will explore both types and explain how to create a suitable environment for your orchids.

Closed Terrarium

Closed terrariums simulate the natural habitat of many orchids by providing a high-humidity environment that is ideal for moisture-loving species. However, the increased humidity necessitates sufficient airflow to prevent issues such as mold growth. To set up a closed terrarium that addresses these concerns, follow these steps:

  • Clean and sterilize: Ensure all parts of the terrarium are clean and sterilized to avoid infections or pest infestations.
  • Base layer: Add a 2-inch layer of small terrarium stones or gravel to the bottom of the container, improving drainage and protecting the roots from rotting.
  • Substrate: Choose a suitable substrate like bark or moss that replicates the natural habitat of epiphytic orchids.
  • Position plants: Place the orchids in the terrarium with enough space between them for proper air circulation, and cover the pots with moss or other natural materials for humidity retention and visual appeal.
  • Enhance air circulation: Introduce springtails to mitigate mold issues, and consider using a tabletop orchid terrarium with a partial seal or opening it occasionally to improve airflow. Alternatively, opt for a larger tank-style terrarium that accommodates mechanical ventilation systems (fans) and misting systems for optimal moisture and airflow.
  • Monitor and control: Regularly check the temperature and humidity, adjusting as needed by opening the terrarium or employing a small fan for air circulation.

Open Terrarium

Open terrariums offer better air circulation, making them suitable for orchid species that prefer lower humidity levels and increased airflow. To set up an open terrarium, consider these steps:

  • Clean and sterilize: As with closed terrariums, ensure all parts are clean and sterilized before proceeding.
  • Base layer and substrate: Add a suitable base layer and substrate, similar to closed terrariums, for proper drainage and an appropriate growing medium for orchid roots.
  • Position plants: Install the orchids with enough space for air circulation and ensure they receive adequate light based on their species requirements.
  • Maintain humidity levels: While open terrariums inherently have lower humidity, it is vital to maintain appropriate moisture levels. Use a humidifier or regularly mist the plants and substrate to ensure proper humidity.
  • Choose suitable orchid species: Opt for low-humidity orchids, such as moth orchids, which are more forgiving in open terrarium environments. Miniature Phalaenopsis orchid species can also be a great choice for their classic look in a regular-sized terrarium.
  • Incorporate preserved moss: To add lush green color without the added challenge of live moss, consider using preserved moss in your open orchid terrarium.


Design the ideal orchid terrarium by tailoring the environment to your orchids’ unique requirements. Choose between high-humidity closed terrariums and airy open terrariums, and follow essential steps for setup, plant positioning, humidity control, and decorative touches.

Orchid Terrarium Essentials

flowers in a glass container

Crafting the perfect orchid terrarium involves carefully considering essential elements like the growing medium, light, humidity, ventilation, and temperature control.

Growing Medium

Selecting a suitable growing medium is crucial for the health and growth of your orchids. The most commonly used growing media for orchid terrariums include:

  • Bark mix: Made from various types of finely shredded bark, this mix provides excellent drainage and air circulation, enabling the roots to breathe.
  • Sphagnum moss: This natural moss retains moisture and is great for creating a humid environment without waterlogging the roots.
  • Charcoal: Often added to the growing medium for its ability to filter impurities and improve air quality within the terrarium, charcoal also helps with drainage.


Orchids require sufficient light for growth, but most species cannot tolerate direct sunlight. The ideal orchid terrarium should have low to medium light levels. Use artificial light sources if necessary, such as fluorescent tube lights or LED grow lights, to ensure your orchids receive adequate light without being exposed to harsh sunlight.

Humidity and Ventilation

Maintaining an appropriate level of humidity is vital for healthy orchid growth. Orchids thrive in a humid environment, so humidity levels within the terrarium should be kept between 50% and 80%. You can increase humidity by using a humidifier, misting the plants, or incorporating moisture-retaining elements within the terrarium, such as sphagnum moss. Ventilation is equally important since it helps prevent diseases and allows the roots to breathe. Make sure your terrarium has proper air circulation by incorporating a small fan or using a terrarium with ventilation holes.

Temperature Control

Orchids are sensitive to temperature changes and prefer moderate temperatures. Maintain a temperature range between 65°F and 75°F (18°C to 24°C) during the day and 55°F to 65°F (12°C to 18°C) at night. Monitor temperature levels with a reliable thermometer and adjust as necessary, either by moving the terrarium to a warmer or cooler spot or by using a heating pad or cooling device.


Carefully select a suitable growing medium, ensuring adequate light, maintaining proper humidity and ventilation, and controlling temperature. Design a thriving environment that caters to your orchids’ unique needs for a flourishing indoor garden.

Building Your Orchid Terrarium

orchid terrarium in a fish tank

Crafting the perfect orchid terrarium and creating a beautiful and thriving environment for your orchids can be an enjoyable and rewarding process.

Terrarium DIY

Building a terrarium for your orchids is a simple process that can be accomplished with items you may already have around the house. First, choose a suitable glass container, such as a fish tank or a large jar. Next, layer the substrate materials at the bottom of the enclosure, with a focus on proper drainage and air circulation. Finally, arrange your plants and decorative props to create a visually pleasing display.

Selecting the Right Container

Choosing the right enclosure for your orchid terrarium is crucial for its success. The container should be large enough to accommodate your orchids and filler plants with plenty of room for growth. Opt for a glass or clear plastic container with a lid to help regulate humidity levels. Some orchid terrarium enthusiasts prefer fish tanks or specially designed tanks with removable tops.

Choosing a Substrate

Selecting the perfect substrate is crucial for mimicking the natural environment of orchids and promoting their growth within a terrarium. Most orchids are epiphytic, thriving in conditions where they are attached to trees and exposed to the varying moisture levels of the rainforest. This necessitates a substrate that offers excellent moisture retention and aeration.

Orchids require well-draining materials that encourage airflow, such as:

  1. Orchid bark mix: Traditional orchid mixes often contain chunky bark pieces, which create air pockets throughout the substrate. Contrary to its name, orchid bark is not derived from orchids but rather serves as a suitable medium for their growth.
  2. Sphagnum moss: This moisture-retentive element is commonly used in combination with orchid bark mix to provide an optimal growing environment for epiphytic orchids.
  3. Coconut husk: Another popular choice for orchid terrarium substrates, coconut husk promotes proper drainage and aeration.

For terrestrial jewel orchids, consider using a high-quality tropical substrate mix such as the classic ABG mix or a similar variation.

While your initial instinct might be to use sand, soil, or gravel as the base layer, these materials can introduce diseases, negatively impact the terrarium’s environment, and be challenging to remove and clean. Instead, orchid terrarium enthusiasts highly recommend utilizing an egg-crate base layer. This material keeps the plants elevated above any accumulated water and can be easily removed for maintenance or to start a new terrarium. Egg-crate material can be found at home improvement stores and is commonly used for fluorescent light fixture coverings. It is easy to cut and shape to fit your terrarium.

An alternative base layer option is to use a 2-inch (5-centimeter) layer of small stones. Be sure to wash the stones thoroughly with soap or a diluted bleach solution and let them dry before placing them in the terrarium.

Adding Props

Prop selection is essential for creating visual interest in your orchid terrarium. Some popular props include:

  • Driftwood
  • Rocks or stones
  • Artificial waterfalls
  • Orchid mounts

Combine elements to create a visually appealing and functional environment that supports the growth and wellbeing of your orchids and accompanying plants.


Use suitable containers for your orchids, substrates, and visually appealing props. Focus on drainage, air circulation, and moisture retention to mimic the orchids’ natural environment, ensuring their healthy growth and a thriving indoor garden.

Choosing the Right Orchid for Your Terrarium

orchid terrarium in a fish tank

When crafting the perfect orchid terrarium, selecting the appropriate orchid is crucial for its success. Various orchids thrive in different environments, so it is important to choose one that is suitable for terrarium conditions.

Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis)

Moth orchids are popular choices for terrariums due to their adaptability and ease of care. They prefer low to medium light levels and can handle moderate temperatures. Moth orchids can also grow well in high-humidity environments, making them ideal for closed terrariums.

Lady Slipper Orchid (Paphiopedilum)

Lady Slipper Orchids are another excellent option for terrariums. They require moderate light levels and consistent humidity to thrive. Their unique slipper-shaped flowers add visual interest to any terrarium setup.

Masdevallia Orchid

Masdevallia orchids are well-suited for terrariums due to their compact size and preference for high humidity. They thrive in low to medium light and can handle cooler temperatures. Masdevallias are known for their vibrant, uniquely shaped flowers that bring a burst of color to your terrarium.

Pleurothallids Orchids

Pleurothallids orchids, including the genera Dracula, Lepanthes, and Platystele, are ideal plants for terrariums. They enjoy high humidity and low to medium light conditions. These miniature orchids often possess intricate, delicate flowers that enhance the overall visual appeal of your terrarium.

Jewel Orchids (Ludisia discolor)

Jewel Orchids are primarily grown for their stunning foliage rather than their flowers. They are well-adapted to terrarium conditions, requiring high humidity and low to medium light levels. The striking pattern of their leaves adds an interesting texture and visual element to the terrarium.

Miniature Angraecum Orchid

Miniature Angraecum Orchids are suitable for terrariums due to their compact size and high-humidity requirement. They thrive in low to medium light conditions and possess striking star-shaped flowers that add beauty to your terrarium.

African Orchids (Aerangis, Ansellia, Disa)

African orchids, such as Aerangis, Ansellia, and Disa, are well-adapted to terrarium conditions. They typically require high humidity and low to medium light levels. These orchids offer unique flower structures and colors, adding diversity to your terrarium setup.

By selecting the appropriate orchid from the options above, you can create a stunning and thriving orchid terrarium suited to the specific needs of your chosen plants.

Adding Filler Plants

In addition to orchids, other plants can be included in your terrarium to create a lush, diverse environment. Some popular choices for orchid terrariums include:

  • Ferns
  • Bromeliads
  • Mosses
  • Peperomias

Ensure that the chosen filler plants are compatible with the orchids’ humidity, temperature, and light requirements to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

Orchid Terrarium Maintenance

Proper maintenance is essential for keeping your orchid terrarium healthy and thriving. This involves consistently monitoring watering, humidity, and ventilation to ensure optimal growth conditions.

Watering Orchids in Terrariums

Different types of substrates in terrariums require specific watering techniques. When watering orchids, it is crucial not to overwater them, as this could lead to root rot and other health issues.

Watering for Rock Substrate

Orchids planted in rock substrate should be watered either by misting the roots and surrounding area or by directly pouring water onto the substrate. Make sure to let the rocks dry out somewhat between watering. You can use your fingertip to check the moisture level.

Watering for Egg Crate or Soil Substrate

Orchids in soil or egg crate substrate often prefer a more even distribution of moisture. Watering with a spray bottle works well, but be cautious not to oversaturate the substrate. A more controlled approach, such as using a turkey baster or a small watering can, can help maintain appropriate moisture levels.

Optimizing Humidity and Ventilation

Orchids thrive in humid environments, which is why many terrarium setups include a vivarium fan, ensuring proper airflow and ventilation. However, it is important to find the right balance between humidity and air circulation to prevent issues such as mold or bacterial growth.

A hygrometer can be utilized to monitor humidity levels inside the terrarium. Ideal humidity levels fluctuate between 60 to 70% for most orchid species. To maintain proper humidity, try one or several of the following methods:

  • Add a layer of sphagnum moss to the substrate
  • Include a small water dish or humidity tray
  • Mist the inside of the terrarium regularly
  • Install a humidifier nearby

Similarly, proper ventilation is vital in managing humidity levels and maintaining a healthy orchid terrarium. The vivarium fan plays a crucial role, and it is important to select the right size and type appropriate for your setup. Ensure there is some exchange of fresh air daily by either keeping the terrarium lid ajar or opening it briefly for a short period.


Maintain a healthy orchid terrarium by monitoring watering, humidity, and ventilation. Use appropriate watering techniques for different substrates and maintain ideal humidity levels (60-70%) using moss, water dishes, or humidifiers. Ensure proper ventilation with vivarium fans and fresh air exchange to prevent mold and bacterial growth.

What’s next…

By embracing the art of orchid terrarium creation, you can transform your space into a mesmerizing botanical haven. Don’t stop here—dive deeper into the world of orchid care by exploring more captivating articles on our blog. Unleash your inner gardener and let your orchids thrive in their enchanting new home. Join us on this captivating journey:

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