15 Different Types of Orchids for Terrariums

Looking for some orchids to put in your terrarium but aren't quite sure where to start? There are actually many different orchid species that can thrive in terrarium environments. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss looks at the most popular orchids to grow in your terrariums!

Orchid flowers in terrariums

Contents

Terrariums are a fascinating, and attractive way to house plants outside of the usual, tropical plants that comprise the lion’s share of the indoor variety at most retailers and nurseries. Growing one of these small, self-contained habitats can be fulfilling and stress-relieving work, as well as bringing nature and beauty into your interior design.

If you are a fan of orchids, you might have wondered if there is a way to incorporate orchids into a terrarium project, and the answer is, absolutely. There are many types of orchids that will thrive in a terrarium if given the proper conditions.

The orchids that thrive best in this type of environment tend to be low-light, high-humidity orchids, of which there are quite a few genera and hundreds of species to choose from. Let’s dig into 15 different orchids that grow well in terrariums!

Orchid Genera

Tiny gardens in glass containers need plants that are small, need lots of humidity, and little light. There are seven main orchid genera that are very low-maintenance and self-nourishing when planted in a terrarium. It is ideal to understand each orchid genus and its care before selecting an orchid species for your terrarium.

Masdevallia

Close-up of two flowers featuring spectacular pink blossoms composed of sepals that join at the base to create a small bell-shaped tube. Bright green foliage is in the blurred background.
Masdevallia orchids thrive in persistent colder temperatures and are recognized for their vivid beautiful flowers.

The Masdevallia genus of orchids works very well as a terrarium plant. These orchids thrive in very high humidity, preferring levels of 80%-100% humidity. This means that they work very well in a closed terrarium. They also prefer low light, so don’t place these plants in direct sunlight, as it will burn their foliage.

Masdevallia orchids are cooler weather orchids. They are native to the mountains of tropical areas in Central and South America.

There are roughly 350 species in this genus known for their brilliantly colorful showy flowers. These orchids thrive in consistent temperatures, so keeping them indoors in a terrarium makes them quite happy.

Dracula

Person's fingers holding the back of an exotic flower. The flower is white with purple speckles throughout, getting thicker toward the edges. There are three points, creating a sort of triangular shape to the flower. The center has a white labellum. The background is green and blurry.
These unique flowers sort of resemble the face of a monkey.

The Dracula genus is another group of orchids that prefers low light conditions and lots of humidity. The unique appearance of these orchids makes them a great conversation piece and the perfect plant for an unconventional space.

The name means ‘Little Dragon,’ but quite of few of these quirky orchids look more like the face of a monkey.

Dracula orchids, much like vampires, do not like any direct sunlight. Rather, they prefer about the same amount of light that a Masdevallia likes. Just a few hours daily of filtered light is enough for Dracula orchids. This is another type of orchid that thrives in high humidity, as much as 70-80%.

Lepanthes

Close-up of a tiny orange-veined flower with vivid rough green leaves and small red flowers in the center.
This orchid is native to Central and South America and has a labellum that looks like a small frog.

Lepanthes orchids are wonderful terrarium plants. In fact, they are probably better suited to terrariums than any other captive environment.

These tiny plants only grow to about 6cm tall, and like moderate to cool temperatures. They also like quite a lot of humidity, close to 75% is just about right for these diminutive orchids.

Commonly known as Frog Orchids, Lepanthes’ flowers have a labellum that resembles a tiny frog. They originate in Central and South America and are surprisingly easy to cultivate.

They do not like direct sunlight and will do well with several hours of filtered or indirect light. These orchids also don’t mind substrate that remains moist.

Angraecum

Four greenish white star shaped flowers growing on the ends of thin flexible green stems among thick grass-like green foliage that is in the shape of a fan. Each flower has five longer pointed petals with a large labellum that is white and onion-shaped. The greenhouse in the background is blurred.
The flowers on these orchids are usually white or greenish and star-shaped.

This rather large genus has its origins in Africa and is commonly known as the Comet Orchid. Their more than 200 species are monopodial in growth habit, and the name is derived from the Malayan word for Vanda.

They come in sizes from only a few inches to several feet tall, and most have white and green star-shaped flowers.

Their sunlight needs vary, but in general, these are cooler-weather orchids, so they prefer low light. There are some species that do well in warmer climates, and they are able to tolerate more sunlight, but in general, these are low-light orchids. Angraecum orchids need a lot of humidity, 80% is fairly standard for this genus.

Paphiopedilum

Close-up of several colorful blossoms with a big, pouch-shaped labellum like a lady's slipper. In the background, a garden is seen in blurred form.
As low-light orchids, Paphiopedilums need filtered light and temperatures.

Also known as Slipper Orchids, these semi-terrestrial orchids are native to Asia. The dwarf varieties work very well in terrariums. Their semi-terrestrial nature makes their roots more tolerant of moisture, although they do still need proper drainage. This can be achieved by using the proper layers of substrate in your terrarium.

Paphiopedilums are low-light orchids whose leaves will blush if given too much light. In general, they are happy with filtered light and temperatures between 60-85°F.

They do well in open terrariums with their humidity needs being lower than most orchids on this list. They are fine with 40-50% humidity which is not difficult to achieve in an open terrarium.

Their blooms are colorful with a large, pouch-shaped labellum that resembles a lady’s slipper, hence the nickname.

Phalaenopsis

The overlapping leaf bases cover the thin leafy stems of exotic flowering plants. The leaves are large, leathery, and oblong in form. Numerous small, flat, colorful flowers placed in a flowering stalk that branches at the end. Each plant has round green leaves and is clipped to a small support stick at the stem.
Phalaenopsis orchids require little care and rebloom frequently.

Dwarf Phalaenopsis orchids are a great place to start if you are just experimenting with terrariums. These orchids are inexpensive, hardy, and easy to find. Their low light needs and thick, sturdy roots make them an obvious choice for any experimental use.

Also known as Moth Orchids, they have large, rounded flowers that tend to hang pendulously on long, curved flower spikes

In my experience, these Asian and Australian natives are one of the easiest orchids to grow indoors, and they rebloom easily as well. Phalaenopsis orchids like bright, filtered sunlight, and tolerate moist roots as long as they are given adequate air circulation.

They adapt well to indoor temperatures and love humidity, preferring from 55-75%. This makes them suitable for an open or closed terrarium.

Tolumnia

Close-up of a flowering plant with lovely pastel pink flowers that mimic the swirling skirts of dancing ladies and are attached to a thin brown stalk. The background is blurry and gray and green.
These fast-maturing orchids need bright, indirect light and adequate air movement to thrive.

Tolumnia orchids were once grouped with oncidium orchids. Much like another orchid genus that was originally thought to be oncidium, the miltionopsis, these orchids have flowers that resemble pansies. The plants rarely reach heights taller than 6-8”, but can have 12-18” inflorescences, so they require a large terrarium or an open one.

These orchids are fast to mature, making them desirable for fast blooming. They like 50-70% humidity and are the most light tolerant on this list. They thrive in bright, indirect light, slightly more than a phalaenopsis, but less than a cattleya.

The only caveat to terrarium growth is that these orchids must have proper air circulation, and they need to dry between waterings, so an open terrarium is necessary. These plants are endemic to the Caribbean Basin.

Ludisia

Close-up of a flowering plant with striking straight yellow patterns on its dark green leaves. The flower has a rough texture and is pure white with a pale yellow center.
This orchid, sometimes known as a Jewel Orchid, has lovely leaves and is simple to grow and spread.

Ludesia is known commonly as the Jewel Orchid. They have small, inconspicuous flowers, which although pretty, are not typically the focal point. These orchids have really beautiful foliage and grow quickly.

They are also easy to care for and propagate. This makes them something of a conundrum, as many retailers still charge a lot for these orchids, but once you’ve got one, you can multiply it rapidly.

15 Orchid Species for Terrariums

Now that we better understand the seven genera, let’s dive into 15 different orchid species that are great for growing in terrariums! All of these are excellent, colorful options for these tiny spaces.

Masdevallia striatella

Close-up of three very tiny flowers that have petals that meet at three points making it triangular in shape. The points are yellow, but the rest of the flower is white with three purple thin stripes coming from each point toward the center of the flower. In the background, a closed flower bud is among thick green foliage that is blurred.
The flowers on this orchid are very small and slightly fragrant.
botanical-name botanical name Masdevallia striatella
sun-requirements sun requirements Low Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-10

Costa Rica is where the Striatella Masdevallia orchid calls home. Everything about this orchid is miniature, with the plant ringing in under 12” tall in bloom, making it a great terrarium option.

Another characteristic that makes this orchid a good choice for cultivating indoors is its very low light requirements. This little orchid needs only about 2-4 hours of diffused sunlight per day. The flowers are small and white to yellow with dark purple stripes on the sepals and a tiny labellum peeking out from within.

Image Credit: Chris Clowes (http://www.www.peripatus.gen.nz/gallery/gallery.html), Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons. Image Use Permitted With Attribution

Masdevallia decumana

Close up of a showy flower that is yellow-orange with purple speckles throughout. There are a few other flowers to the right that are not fully in view. The petals gather at three distinct points, making it triangular in shape. There is a tiny purple labellum in the center of each flower. Thick lush green foliage is in the blurred background.
The flowers of the Masdevallia decumana grow to be about 2 inches wide.
botanical-name botanical name Masdevallia decumana
sun-requirements sun requirements Low Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-10

The Large Flowered Masdevallia, or Masdevallia decumana orchid, is native to Ecuador and Peru. This plant has rather large flowers for its size, with a bloom about 2 inches across.

This plant’s love for high humidity makes it a great option for growing in terrariums. The flat flowers are yellow-orange with dark purple speckles with a small dark labellum. There are three main petals that are triangular in shape, with long points growing from the ends.

Dracula lotax

Close up of a single white flower that has fuzzy textured petals that gather into points in three places, making it triangular in shape. The petals are pure white, the points are a dark purple, and there are darker purple markings toward the center that make it look like the face of a monkey. There is a small pure white labellum in the center. Dark green foliage is in the blurred background.
Another name for Dracula lotax is Clown Orchid because it sometimes looks like a smiling clown.
botanical-name botanical name Dracula lotax
sun-requirements sun requirements Low Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-11

Lotax is a cute little miniature Dracula orchid that bears a resemblance to a monkey’s face. Like all Dracula orchids, Lotax likes to have soil that is evenly moist and has lots of humidity. These factors paired with its small size make it perfect for terrariums.

Dracula flowers are all sepal for the most part. The three large triangular sepals of Lotax are white and coated with fine, white hairlike structures. Deep red colors the ends of the sepals as well as the markings in the center of the flower, which create the look of the monkey’s face.

Image Credit: User Toapel on de.wikipediaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Image Use Permitted With Attribution

Dracula vampira

Close-up of a flower having heavily patterned pale green sepals and a creamy white, spoon-shaped labellum with a green starburst. The background is black.
This dramatic-looking orchid is one-of-a-kind and eye-catching.
botanical-name botanical name Dracula vampira
sun-requirements sun requirements Low Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-11

Dracula vampira is one of the most striking orchids in the genera, which is saying a lot as they are a very interesting type of orchid, to begin with. Vampira looks the way it sounds.

Although the sepals are pale green, they are very heavily patterned with black veining, so much so that some cultivars can look entirely black. A pretty green starburst crowns the creamy white labellum which is spoon-shaped and stands out from the center of the flower.

Lepanthes rupestris

Two very tiny flowers growing on the ends of two short stems that meet at a central stem that grows down. The two flowers rest on a green round leaf. Each flower has yellow sepals that grow on top in beneath, with reddish orange centers, they look sort of like butterflies. The flowers have a fuzzy or hairy texture to them.
These flowers do best in cool, wet conditions where moss is present.
botanical-name botanical name Lepanthes rupestris
sun-requirements sun requirements Moderate Indirect Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-11

This small Lepanthes orchid has teeny tiny flowers compared to the size of the plant and they are quite beautiful. Also called Rock Babyroot Orchid, there is a single rounded leaf

Rupestris has beautiful red-orange sepals and yellow petals. They are covered with very fine hairs that give the appearance of being fuzzy. This species is found only in Puerto Rico among rocks. Its name means, “Rock Dwelling Lepanthes,” so this would make sense. It thrives in wet conditions among mossy stones.

Lepanthes horrida

Close up inside view of a unique flower that has one large puddle at the top that comes to a point and another puddle at the bottom that splits into two about halfway through. The bottom pedal is solid red, but the top pedal is yellow green with bright red stripes. A red labellum protrudes from the center. The flower grows on a thin brown textured stem that is curved. Several brown stems and round green leaves are in the blurred background.
The flower of the Lepanthes horrida orchid is very unique in appearance.
botanical-name botanical name Lepanthes horrida
sun-requirements sun requirements Low to Moderate Indirect Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-11

Horrida is another dwarf orchid with flowers that reach only about 1 inch in length. It likes cool temperatures and low to moderate exposure. This orchid grows well indoors as long as it is cold enough.

The flowers are translucent yellow with red markings on the interior and a delicate labellum. Their flower formation looks different from most orchids, with one larger petal at the top that is striped with red and one petal that splits about halfway that is mostly solid red.

Angraecum pusillum

Close up of eight incredibly tiny flowers growing laterally along a bright green stem. The background is black, gray, and blurry with a few brown stems.
This is an incredibly small orchid that reaches heights of about 2 inches.
botanical-name botanical name Angraecum pusillum
sun-requirements sun requirements Moderate to Bright Indirect Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-12

This miniature epiphyte has tiny white flowers that grow laterally along thin flexible stems. It is native to Africa and thrives in shady, moist conditions. The foliage is grass-like, thick, green, and shaped like a fan. Up to 15 flowers can grow on each stem at a single time.

Angraecum pusillum is one of the smallest orchids in the world, only about 2 inches tall with flowers that are .15 of an inch in diameter. This incredibly small size makes it a good option for growing in a terrarium. “Pussillium” means “very small,” which refers to this plant’s tiny flowers.

Angraecum erectum

Two star-shaped white-green flowers with five longer petals and a large, bright white labellum growing from entwined light brown stems with lush green foliage and other star-shaped flowers in the blurred background.
This pretty orchid grows in an upright manner.
botanical-name botanical name Angraecum erectum
sun-requirements sun requirements Moderate to Bright Indirect Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-12

This easy-to-grow orchid hails from Uganda and likes moderate temperatures and sunlight. It has pretty, fragrant, white flowers, like most Angraecum orchids. The flowers stand up straight from their stems, which is how they got their moniker.

All petals and sepals are thin and pointed, including the labellum. These small orchids work very well in closed terrariums.

Image Credit: Wilferd Duckitt from Darling, South AfricaCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Photo Use Permitted With Attribution

Paphiopedilum philippinense

A close-up of a flowering plant, which has twisted purple sepals, a large striped dorsal sepal, a single petal at the bottom, a yellow pouch-shaped labellum, and delicate leaves.
Native to Cebu, Philippines, the dwarf variety of this plant makes an excellent terrarium plant.
botanical-name botanical name Paphiopedilum philippinense
sun-requirements sun requirements Filtered Sun
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-12

The dwarf version of this species is a great terrarium plant. It is endemic to Cebu, Philippines, and can be difficult to acquire, but it is a fascinating plant. The flowers have two long, twisted purple sepals, and a larger, striped dorsal sepal.

Only one petal is noticeable, at the bottom of the bloom, it sits beneath a large, yellow, pouch-shaped labellum. It tends to have plenty of thin, graceful leaves, making it an attractive plant even when it is not in bloom.

Paphiopedilum niveumSnow White

Close-up of a flowering plant, which has two delicate, creamy white blossoms with a sprinkling of small, purple freckles toward the middle. The labellum is pouch-shaped, with a brilliant yellow anther cap perched on top.
‘Snow White’ is a rare and costly orchid that is best suited to expert collectors.
botanical-name botanical name Paphiopedilum niveum
sun-requirements sun requirements Filtered Sun
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-12

This rare and beautiful orchid is small, likes hot climates, and has lovely, mottled foliage. The blooms are a soft, creamy white, with a light smattering of fine, purple freckles toward the center.

The labellum is small for the genus and pouch-shaped with a bright yellow anther cap set on top. This is not an orchid for the novice, as it is generally difficult to find and expensive, but for the experienced collector, it is quite the specimen.

Phalaenopsis finleyi

Close-up of a flowering plant with tiny but strong blooms, pointed petals and sepals, and a labellum like a dragon's mouth. These are roughly the size of a fingertip and are white with purple patterning throughout.
This is a kind of deciduous orchid that thrives on the branches and trunks of trees.
botanical-name botanical name Phalaenopsis finleyi
sun-requirements sun requirements Bright Indirect Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-12

Finleyi is native to Myanmar, Burma, and Thailand where it grows on tree branches and trunks. It is a warm-temperature orchid that appreciates a lot of humidity, so it works well in open or closed terrariums.

This dwarf phalaenopsis is deciduous, which is a particularly rare trait in Phalaenopsis orchids. The flowers are tiny but fierce, with petals and sepals that point upward and a labellum that resembles a dragon’s mouth. They are white with purple detailing throughout, and about the size of a fingertip.

Phalaenopsis lobbii

Close-up of an epiphytic plant which features small pure white blooms with petals and sepals bending slightly forward. The labellum is large and contains brownish-orange patterns. It has elliptical green leaves and hard gray roots that are attached to a tree.
Lobbii is a unique deciduous Himalayan orchid with tiny pure white flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Phalaenopsis lobbii
sun-requirements sun requirements Bright Indirect Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-12

Lobbii is a pretty Himalayan orchid. Interestingly enough, this is another deciduous phalaenopsis, which, I promise, is not the norm. The small plant has pure white flowers with petals and sepals curving slightly forward.

The labellum is prominent and has brownish-orange markings. These tiny flowers are only a few centimeters in diameter.

Tolumnia ‘Maroon’

Beautiful flowers include short petals and sepals, as well as a huge, showy labellum. Buttercream yellow flowers with brilliant red streaks throughout and a stronger yellow hue towards the middle. The background is pure black.
‘Maroon’ is a small orchid with fleshy leaves and showy, oncidium-like flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Tolumnia jairak firm ‘Maroon’
sun-requirements sun requirements Bright Indirect Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-12

‘Maroon’ is a miniature orchid with fleshy, succulent-like leaves and showy blooms. It prefers moderate, indirect sunlight, and warm temperatures. The flowers closely resemble those of an oncidium, with small petals and sepals and a large, flashy labellum. The blooms are a buttercream yellow with bright red splashes throughout and a brighter yellow tinge toward the center.

Tolumnia jairak firm ‘Fine Point’

Close up of several flowers that are yellow with bright red patterns throughout. There are three lobes at the bottom of each flower, the center is the largest and has a ruffled edge. The top three lobes are solid. These flowers look sort of like dancing ladies with very full skirts. More flowers and green foliage are in the blurred background.
The showy flowers on this orchid resemble a dancing lady wearing a full skirt.
botanical-name botanical name Tolumnia jairak firm ‘Fine Point’
sun-requirements sun requirements Bright Indirect Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-12

Fine Point is very similar in habit and appearance to Maroon. The yellow of the flower is deeper, and the petals and sepals are completely red rather than a combination of red and yellow.

The labellum of this orchid is exceptionally large and showy. It has three lobes, the center of which is the largest and has a ruffled edge. All three lobes are yellow patterned with bright red.

Ludisia discolor ‘Alba’

Close up of bright green foliage that is unfurling from the center. There are white veins throughout, making it have a lacy appearance. There is a ruler to the right and other plants of the same species are in the blurred background.
Because of its stunning foliage, Alba, a kind of Ludisia orchid, is getting more popular.
botanical-name botanical name Ludisia discolor ‘Alba’
sun-requirements sun requirements Moderate Indirect Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-11

There are two species of Ludisia orchid, and ‘Alba’ is arguably not the most common, but it is gaining in popularity because of its very attractive foliage. The leaves are flat and ovate, and bright green. They are heavily veined with silver.

The foliage is the main attraction for these orchids. However, they do produce flower spikes, quite plentifully. The flowers are small, white, and plentiful.

Final Thoughts

All of these stunning orchids make additions to your terrarium landscape. The keys to keeping an orchid thriving in a terrarium are proper drainage, the right lighting conditions, and lots of humidity. If you can balance these factors, you should be well on your way to cultivating beautiful, terrarium orchids.

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