How to Create a Stunning Orchid Terrarium

create your own orchid terrarium

Orchids are known for their exquisite beauty but can be challenging to grow due to their specific temperature and light requirements. However, there is a solution that allows you to easily control these environmental factors: creating an orchid terrarium. By cultivating your orchids in a controlled enclosure, you can manipulate the temperature, light, humidity, and airflow to create the perfect atmosphere for your plants to thrive and bloom.

Throughout this article, we will explore the process of creating an orchid terrarium. From selecting the right plants and substrate to adjusting the environmental conditions, you’ll learn everything you need to know to create a stunning and healthy orchid terrarium. So, let’s dive in!

Why Choose an Orchid Terrarium?

Instead of rearranging your entire living space to accommodate your orchids, a terrarium provides a contained and controlled environment for your plants. With a terrarium, you can easily regulate essential factors such as temperature, light, humidity, and airflow, ensuring optimal conditions for your orchids to flourish.

Moreover, creating an orchid terrarium allows you to design a captivating display for your plants. Even when your orchids are not in bloom, you can enhance the terrarium’s aesthetic by using filler or companion plants, along with decorative props or mini sculptures.

It’s worth noting that while closed orchid terrariums may look appealing on social media, they are not always suitable for orchid growth. Orchids generally require adequate airflow, and enclosed environments can lead to root rot and decay. To ensure proper air circulation, it is often best to create an open terrarium for your orchids.

1. Choose the Right Plants

how to choose plants for your orchid terrarium

When selecting plants for your orchid terrarium, it’s essential to choose varieties that can thrive in high humidity and are proportionate to the terrarium’s size. Opt for orchids that can tolerate low to medium light levels and moderate temperatures. By grouping plants with similar growing conditions, you can ensure the longevity of your terrarium.

Here are some suitable orchid varieties for terrariums:

  • The Paphiopedilum orchid, also known as the lady slipper orchid.
  • The miniature Phalaenopsis, commonly referred to as moth orchids.
  • The Masdevallia orchid, found in various high-altitude regions of South America.
  • The Pleurothallids orchids, a diverse group of tropical orchids from the Americas.
  • Jewel orchids, which are predominantly grown for their foliage.
  • Miniature Angraecum orchids, ranging from a couple of inches to over 6 feet in height.
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While these orchids are well-suited for closed terrariums with high humidity, it’s important to note that each variety may have specific care requirements. It’s advisable to do thorough research and choose plants that prefer similar conditions to simplify terrarium maintenance.

Additionally, you can include filler plants that complement your orchids and can handle humidity. Some suitable options include small ferns, fibrous rooted begonias, short crotons, and peperomia. These plants add a charming touch to the terrarium and can provide color when your orchids are not in bloom. However, be mindful not to overcrowd the terrarium, as your orchids should remain the focal point.

2. Prepare and Set Up the Terrarium

how to create your own orchid terrarium

Proper preparation and setup are crucial for a healthy orchid terrarium. Follow these steps to ensure the best environment for your plants:

Clean and Sterilize

If you are using an old aquarium tank, thoroughly scrub it with soap and rinse it with water. For saltwater tanks, additional steps may be required to remove any salt residue. It’s essential to eliminate any potential disease or bacteria that could harm your plants.

If you are using a used terrarium, wash it multiple times and rinse it with a diluted bleach solution to remove harmful bacteria. One tablespoon of household chlorine bleach per gallon of water is recommended. Cleaning and sterilizing the tank will help create a healthy environment for your orchids.

Choose the Substrate

Instead of traditional substrates like sand or soil, consider using an eggshell crate as the base layer of your terrarium. This material allows for proper drainage and ease of maintenance. You can find eggshell crates at home improvement stores and easily shape them to fit your terrarium.

You can also place a layer of small stones at the bottom of the terrarium to further aid drainage. Make sure to wash the stones and let them dry thoroughly before placing them in the terrarium.

Place and Add Props

Position moss around the orchid pots to cover them and create a natural-looking terrarium. You can also include cork, driftwood, or additional moss as decorative props. While you can purchase items from aquarium stores, collecting props from the outdoors can add a unique touch. Ensure that all items are properly cleaned before placing them in the tank.

After adding the substrate and props, arrange your filler and companion plants to frame your orchids. Place larger plants behind the orchids and shorter ones towards the front, ensuring that your orchids remain the focal point. Be cautious not to introduce any diseases or pests to your terrarium.

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Remember to keep your orchids in their pots to maintain their health. Although the initial placement may look unconventional, as the plants grow, the arrangement will come together beautifully.

3. Control Airflow and Humidity

To maintain proper air circulation in your terrarium, consider installing a small fan. This will help prevent stagnant air and promote healthy growth. You can purchase specialized fans or repurpose a computer fan, placing it at the top or back of the terrarium. While smaller tanks may not require additional airflow, larger terrariums benefit from gentle air movement.

Adequate airflow is crucial because excessive humidity and stagnant air can lead to bacterial growth and root rot. Orchids require sufficient air movement to prevent suffocation and allow carbon dioxide to dissipate. Remember to monitor humidity levels and ensure they remain within the recommended range for your orchid variety.

4. Adjust Light and Temperature

Proper lighting and temperature are essential for orchid growth and blooming. Orchids require fluctuations in temperature, particularly at night, to stimulate flowering. Aim for a temperature drop of 10°F to 15°F (-12.22°C to -9.44°C) at night to replicate their natural environment. Consistent temperatures throughout the year can lead to heat stress or hinder blooming.

Different orchid varieties have specific temperature preferences. Warm-growing orchids typically prefer temperatures between 64°F (18°C) and 90°F (32°C). Intermediate-growing orchids thrive in temperatures ranging from 55°F (13°C) to 86°F (30°C), while cool-growing orchids prefer temperatures of 50°F (10°C) to 75°F (24°C).

Choose an appropriate location for your terrarium, avoiding direct sunlight to prevent leaf burn. If you place the terrarium near a window, make sure to leave sufficient space to insulate it from outdoor temperature fluctuations. Consider using bulbs or reflective backgrounds to provide adequate light if your location lacks natural sunlight. Proper lighting is crucial for orchids, and different varieties have varying light requirements.

Monitor your orchid’s leaves for signs of inadequate light or temperature extremes. Adjust the positioning of the terrarium or lighting accordingly to ensure optimal conditions for your plants. It’s important to note that some orchid varieties marketed as high-light may not tolerate excessive sun exposure, so research the specific needs of your plants.

5. Water and Fertilize

Maintaining proper moisture and nutrition is vital for healthy orchids. Here are some guidelines for watering and fertilizing your orchid terrarium:

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Watering for Egg Crate or Soil Substrate

If you are using soil or egg crates as the substrate, mist your terrarium with water every four days. The frequency may vary depending on venting and the presence of a fan. Misting ensures adequate moisture and humidity levels. Focus on misting the orchid roots rather than the leaves or flowers to prevent bacterial spotting and infection.

Watering for Rock Substrate

If you opted for rocks as the substrate, fill the terrarium with about an inch of water. Be careful not to let the water reach the bottom of the orchid pots, as this can cause root rot. To water the orchids, remove their pots and place them in a tub filled with distilled water at room temperature for around 30 minutes. After soaking, let the orchids drain for another 30 minutes before returning them to the terrarium. Watering once a week is generally sufficient, but adjust as needed based on humidity levels.


Fertilize your orchids at a reduced concentration, no more than once a month, to prevent salt buildup. Use a fertilizer specifically developed for orchids and dilute it to about one-eighth or 12.5 percent of the recommended dosage on the label. This limited fertilization ensures your orchids receive adequate nutrients without harming their overall health.


Creating an orchid terrarium provides a beautiful and controlled environment for your delicate orchids. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can establish a stunning terrarium that mimics their natural habitat. Remember to select the right orchid varieties, prepare the terrarium properly, and maintain optimal environmental conditions.

Creating an orchid terrarium may require some experimentation and adjustment, but once you find the perfect balance, your orchids will thrive with minimal care. Enjoy the beauty of your orchid terrarium and watch as your plants bloom and flourish!