Why Is My Terrarium Dying? Reasons And Tips

Terrarium is a Latin word, terra means earth and arium means place or receptacle. Terrariums are beautiful miniature gardens in a glass bowl or bottle or jars. 

This is a creative way of growing plants at home. You can create a tiny ecosystem of small plants and place other decorative materials inside the glass enclosure. Terrariums need little maintenance and can last for a long time with proper care. 

Terrariums can be used to decorate your home but sometimes it happens that your plants start dying. In this article, we are going to discuss with you some reasons and tips about this problem. 

After reading it you will understand all the reasons and with the help of tips, you can avoid those issues.

1- Overwatering

Overwatering is a serious problem. It can result in root rot of your plants. This is a common mistake and it can be a reason for the death of your terrarium

The mold starts growing due to excess water and eventually your plant rot. Different plants need different frequencies of water. Before choosing the plants you should research their need for water. 

The following are the symptoms that show plants are receiving excess water.

  • The clear symptoms of overwatering when you see the leaves are turning brown or white.
  • In the case of succulents, the leaves start losing their firmness and become very soft. 
  • The roots of the succulent plants will start turning brown.


  • When you see the affected roots of your succulent plant then you can remove them. So you can save the entire plant. 
  • In case you see the plant is very soft and crumbling then it means it has rotted.
  • If you use air plants then they can not be affected by overwatering and rotting.

2- Using Wrong Containers

You should be careful while choosing the container for your terrarium as some plants can’t grow in a closed terrarium.

 If you are planning for creating a succulent terrarium then you should keep in mind that they can only grow in an open terrarium. The reason is that succulents like to grow in good ventilation and need low humidity levels which is not possible in closed terrariums.

Air plants also need fresh air and proper watering once a week. Closed terrariums can’t fulfill all the requirements of the air plants so you should be careful.

If you grow your carnivorous plants in a closed terrarium. The direct light when hitting the terrarium may destroy your plants. It means an open terrarium is best for carnivorous plants.

If you are a beginner then an open terrarium is best for you. If you are willing to make a closed terrarium then you should choose plants such as ferns, mosses, lichen, and tropical plants.

3- Mixing Plants With Different Requirements

  • Different plants have different care requirements so it is not possible to mix them in one place. 
  • For instance, you can’t grow carnivorous plants with other types of plants. As they need bright light and more water. It is suggested that you can grow mosses and lichen with carnivorous plants.
  • In the same way, you can grow live moss with such plants that like to grow in dry environments.
  • But if you are an experienced gardener then you can grow mixed plants such as succulents, moss, and air plants in your terrarium.

 4- Plants Are Too Big

  • A terrarium is a miniature garden and if your plants get too long then it will become the reason for the death of your terrarium.
  • Long plants can touch the sides of the terrarium and become the reason for plant rot.
  • If you see that your plants are getting too long then you can prune them to make their size according to the terrarium. 
  • In case your succulent plants are not getting enough light then they will become thin and leggy.  You can solve this problem by placing the terrarium in bright but indirect sunlight. 
  • It is recommended that you should turn your terrarium once a week. This will allow all the sides to get proper light.

5- Too Much Fertilization

  • Overfertilization can become the reason for the death of your plant. For instance, carnivorous plants will die due to strong fertilization because they can grow in poor soil. 
  • You should fertilize your air plants once every two months. Use those fertilizers which contain high nitrogen and potassium. You can also use spray during the growth of plants.

6- Lack Of Light

  • The plants which can easily grow in terrariums need bright but indirect sunlight. Coronavirus plants, air plants, and succulents like to grow in bright and indirect light.
  • The black leaves of your plant show that they are receiving low light. So you should change the location of your terrarium. As the location is very important for the growth of your plants. Choose the best location where plants receive indirect sunlight. A south-facing window is also the best place for keeping your terrarium. The western-facing windows receive a lot of light so you should avoid placing terrariums there.
  • If you don’t have any location where your plants get enough light in your house then you can also use artificial lights to fulfill the lighting requirement of your plant. Fluorescent and LED lights keep your plants happy. 
  • Make sure the fluorescent lights are about 10 inches or 25 cm away from your terrarium. The distance of LED lights from your plants should be around 20 inches or 51 cm. If you place your plants too close to the light then it will promote faster growth. As you know, terrarium plants don’t need faster growth. 

7- Too Much Light And Heat

  • Too much light and heat is also a reason for the death of your terrarium plants.
  •  If you place your terrarium where it gets direct and unfiltered sunlight then soon your terrarium starts dying. So you should place your terrarium away from the direct sunlight. 
  • The plants of the terrarium need bright but indirect light. In case you are using artificial lights then you should make a suitable distance between your plants and light.
  • When you see that it dries dead leaves of plants in the terrarium then it is a clear sign that your plant is receiving too much light and heat.
  • Too much heat is also not good for your plants so make sure that you should not place your terrarium near a hot radiator.

8- Underwatering

  • Like overwatering, underwatering is also a problem for the plants in the terrarium. 
  • Your terrarium will start dying when it faces the problem of underwatering. Sometimes it happens that you don’t know how much water your plants need. In that case, your terrarium may die.
  • Falling leaves, dry and shriveled leaves, brown spots on leaves are clear symptoms that your plants are not getting enough water.
  • When air plants do not receive enough water then the leaves will start drying and become crispy. Yellow leaves also show the sign of underwatering. When you see yellow leaves on your plant then don’t waste time and remove them because they will not become green again.
  • If you are growing succulents in your terrarium then you should keep in mind that they can store water in their cells. When they receive enough water then they stand straight but in the case of underwatering, they become soft and can even fold.
  • Carnivorous plants need a lot of water so you should water 1 to 2 times a week. On hot days they need more water as compared to winter. Carnivorous plants are very sensitive about the quality of water so it is suggested that you should use distilled or bottled water.

9- Lack Of Terrarium Care

If you want your terrarium to live for a long time then you should maintain it with proper care. It doesn’t mean you water your plants on time and think you have done your job. You have to care about lighting, temperature, and humidity. If you follow the following tips then your terrarium will last for several years.

  • When you see dirt on the glass of the terrarium then clean it.
  • If you see the constant water drops inside your terrarium then use a tissue to wipe it once a week. 
  • Dead leaves should be removed from the plant because they can spread mold and fungi. Dead leaves and overwatering will spread fungus in your terrarium.
  • Make sure to remove mold from the plant. It can become the reason for killing your plants.
  • If you see any affected plant then cut off the affected part of it. If most of the plant is soft and rotted then it is suggested that you should discard it and plant a new healthy one.

Read More

  1. How To Make A Succulent Terrarium? Step By Step Guide
  2. 15 Best Plants For Terrariums
  3. 15 Indoor Plants For Beginners

10- Lack Of Air Circulation

  • Fresh air is very important for your plants. If the plants in the terrarium will not get proper airflow then the terrarium will start fogging up and soon the plants will start rotting and dying. 
  • This situation is true for air plants and succulents. They need good airflow for drying up the soil and preventing the water from trapping between the leaves.
  • Carnivorous plants like a bright light to grow but if they don’t get proper airflow then due to high heat they will be cooked. Open terrarium is best for most of the plants but if you select a closed terrarium for growing then your terrarium will not last for a long time. 

11- Not Adding A Charcoal Layer

On the bottom of the terrarium, you must add a layer of charcoal. The reason for doing this is as follows.

  • The first reason is your terrarium has no drainage holes. The excess water of terrorism cannot come out from it.
  • There is limited space for plants in the terrarium so air exchange is also limited.
  • The layer of charcoal will help to fight against mold and fungus. This will help to keep your Terrarium clean and free from bad smells as a charcoal layer absorbs the bad smell.
  • This layer also acts as a purifier, terrarium is an enclosed space so it is essential for it.
  • The plants which grow in soil and need water must have a charcoal layer on the bottom of the terrarium. If you don’t apply a charcoal layer then your terrarium starts dying sooner.

12- Using The Wrong Type Of Soil

  • The other reason for the death of your terrarium is not using the right type of soil. If you are planning to create a succulent terrarium then you must use well-drained and porous soil.
  • If you are growing air plants then there is no need to put them in soil. Make it possible that the filler you are using under them must be dry.
  • Carnivorous plants like to grow in moist soil but with proper drainage. 
  • You can buy the high-quality potting mix from any nursery or gardening store because it contains vermiculite, peat moss, and perlite. If you don’t use high-quality potting mix then it is possible that your terrarium will not last too long.

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