Can A Bonsai Tree Live In A Terrarium?

Terrariums are glass containers that house living plants. Traditionally, a terrarium is a curved glass with a lid. It’s filled with gravel, charcoal, moss, and soil to recreate a miniature garden.  They are decorative and bring a little bit of nature indoors. These miniature gardens enhance any living space. Some bonsai gardeners are intrigued by the idea of combining their trees and terrariums. But, can a bonsai tree live in a terrarium?

Yes, a bonsai tree can live in a terrarium. However, not all tree varieties can withstand the growing conditions. Only trees with certain qualifications can successfully survive in a terrarium. These qualifications include size, moisture level tolerance, and humidity tolerance.

In this article, we will discuss how a bonsai tree can live in a terrarium.

Bonsai trees come in various sizes. Because terrariums are typically are small, miniature-sized bonsais are ideal. Miniature-sized bonsai trees are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and can comfortably fit inside the glass container.  

There are two types of terrariums: open and closed.

Open terrariums are best suited for dry plants that prefer airflow and dislike high moisture levels. Plants like succulents and cacti are ideal for open terrariums because it allows for air to circulate and moisture quickly evaporates. An open terrarium is like a normal plant pot.

Closed terrariums are best suited for plants that prefer high humidity and low air circulation. Plants native to rainforests, moss, and ferns are ideal for closed terrariums. A closed terrarium is a glass container with a lid that traps water inside and increases humidity. Because of this, closed terrariums don’t require constant watering and are easiest to maintain. 

Can A Bonsai Tree Live In A Terrarium
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What Are The Best Bonsai Trees For Terrariums?

Bonsai trees can be planted in both open and closed terrariums. Because open terrariums mimic the conditions of a pot, any bonsai tree of the appropriate size can be planted.

Closed terrariums cannot house all kinds of trees. When you choose a bonsai tree, do your research to understand its humidity and airflow requirements. Many bonsai trees require humidity because they lose their ability to self-regulate their exposure to moisture.

The ideal bonsai for terrariums needs to tolerate humidity, warm weather, and wet roots. Tropical plants are ideal for this environment.

Best Bonsai Trees For Terrariums

  • Bald Cypress
  • Bougainvillea
  • Brazilian Rain Tree
  • Ficus
  • Fukien Tea
  • Water Jasmine

Bald Cypress

The Bald Cypress thrives in swampy, humid regions such as Florida and Louisiana. This is one of the few trees that can grow in water. The tree features red-toned bark and feather-like leaves. The Bald Cypress is a great choice for placing in a terrarium.


The Bougainvillea is originally from tropical and subtropical America. This unique tree has beautiful, pink flowers that look delicate and paper-like. The Bougainvillea loves a warm, humid environment. The Bougainvillea is a great flowering tree that can thrive in a terrarium.

Brazilian Rain Tree

The Brazilian Rain Tree can be found in the rain forests in Brazil. This tree features small, light-green leaves and delicate branches. At night, the leaves fold up and opens again when the sun comes up. This tree also has white, puffy flowers that are fragrant. The Brazilian Rain Tree is a great option for a terrarium due to its strong preference for high heat and humidity.


A Ficus tree is another great choice for a terrarium. The tree has shiny, dark green leaves that are thick and sturdy. This tree has a thick trunk and thrives in a humid environment.

Fukien Tea

A Fukien Tea tree is native to China. This beautiful tree has small, white flowers that turn into red berries. The leaves are dark green and small. This beautiful tree works well for terrariums due to its love of heat and humidity.

Water Jasmine

The Watering Jasmine is a gorgeous flowering tree that features white, fragrant flowers. People love this tree for its strong scented flowers that fade to pink as they age. This is a tropical ornamental tree that will thrive in a terrarium.

How Do I Put A Bonsai Tree In A Terrarium?

When you’re ready to put a bonsai tree in a terrarium, gather your supplies. You will need:

  • Miniature-Sized, Tropical Bonsai Tree
  • A closed terrarium
  • Large stones or pebbles
  • Soil
  • Decorative rocks
  • Fine sand
  • Moss
  • A Gentle Mister
  • (Optional) Decoration

These are the steps for placing a bonsai in a terrarium.

  1. Clean the terrarium.
  2. Add a thin layer of the large stones to the bottom of the terrarium. The stones will act as drainage.
  3. Add a layer of soil evenly over the stones. Be sure to use soil designed specifically for terrariums to avoid fungal growth.
  4. Add another layer of soil and create a slope on one side of the terrarium. The slope should take up most of the space in the terrarium. You will place the bonsai tree on the top of that slope.
  5. If desired, add decorative rocks over the soil. You can use the rocks to create a barrier between the sloped soil and the flat part.
  6. Plant the bonsai tree on the slope. You may need to adjust the slope by adding more soil.
  7. Pack down the soil that is not sloped.
  8. Add a layer of fine sand and decorative rocks until you achieved your desired look.
  9. Add moss accordingly.
  10. Add decoration, if desired. 
  11. Finally, use a mister to spray down the terrarium. Be sure not to drench the container.
  12. Close the lid and put the terrarium near a window for sunlight.

There are several bonsai terrarium kits available online and in garden nurseries.

Can A Bonsai Tree Live In A Terrarium
Photo Courtest of Jarijungle Terraium

How Do I Care For A Bonsai Tree In A Terrarium?

Bonsai trees require daily devotion and techniques for pruning, watering, feeding, shaping, and styling. Placing a bonsai tree in a terrarium requires additional care and new problems.

Transplant Shock

Bonsai trees may experience signs of transplant shock once they’ve been planted in a terrarium. The signs may be evident within the first couple of weeks. Transplant shock is normal behavior when plants are moved to a new home. Symptoms of transplant shock include:

  • Bruising
  • Browning
  • Leaves turning yellow or falling off

Any leaves that are damaged will not recover. Remove any damaged or yellowing leaves so new growth can start.

To help your bonsai transition through transplant shock, you can add inoculant to the soil. Watch your bonsai and track its symptoms.


You will need to water your bonsai tree even if it is in a terrarium. Typically, you would need to water a bonsai tree every day, but because your plant is in a terrarium, you can cut back. Use a mister to saturate the top layer of the soil.

Overwatering can result in root rot so don’t drench the soil and regularly check the soil’s moisture level. The soil should be partially moist.

If you chose a succulent bonsai, you should water it every three to six weeks. Watch your terrarium every day to ensure the soil isn’t completely dry.


Your bonsai tree will need at least 5 hours of sunlight depending on the tree variety. If setting your terrarium by the window does not offer enough sunlight, you should invest in a grow light. Find the right location for your terrarium and keep it there. It’s not recommended to move your terrarium around too much because your bonsai needs to adapt to its new environment.


Be sure not to allow an extreme fluctuation in temperature between night and day. This may result in shocking your tree. You shouldn’t let your bonsai tree get cold or overheated. During the winter, you may need to wrap your terrarium to keep it warm. Don’t leave the terrarium in direct sunlight all day. Instead, you should keep your terrarium in a brightly lit room away from direct sun. Keep the temperature between 70 and 74 degrees F.


New soil in your terrarium should provide your bonsai enough nutrients for about six months. You can use a bacterial inoculant fertilizer after that. The inoculant fertilizer will add micro-organisms to the terrarium and keep the ecosystem thriving. An alternative to bacterial fertilizer is using a foliar fertilizer spray directly on your tree’s leaves. You can use it one to two times per month.

Avoid using chemical fertilizers because they kill the bacteria in the soil and make it more difficult for your bonsai to sustain itself.

Be careful not to over-fertilize your bonsai tree. You can potentially harm your tree’s small roots. Signs of over-fertilizing include leaves turning yellow. If you think you used too much fertilizer, flush the soil with water to remove the excess.


Terrariums are a beautiful centerpiece, but the high humidity and warm temperature may lead to mold. If you come across any white, topical mold in your terrarium, it can easily be treated.

You can remove any mold growing on the top of the soil by using a butter knife or any other utensil. Let the area dry and then spray a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide. If mold continues to form on top of the soil, you can repeat this treatment one to three more times.

Final Thoughts

Terrariums offer a warm, humid ecosystem that some bonsai trees can thrive in. Tropical bonsais like ficus or bald cypress enjoy the high humidity and moisture in the soil. There are several unique challenges with keeping a miniature bonsai tree in a terrarium. Transplant shock is more likely to occur and your bonsai may lose a few leaves. Your tree requires less watering and fertilizer, but mold can be a problem. Luckily, there are simple treatments that can keep your bonsai alive and healthy. 

Learn More About Bonsai

Growing a bonsai requires horticultural skill, artistic skill, patience, and dedication. Bonsai trees are fragile pieces of art that need constant and proper care. 

As a bonsai artist, you will need to have an extensive understanding on topics including: 

* How to get started 

* Bonsai History  

* Major Bonsai Styles 

* Bonsai tree species

 * Bonsai specialty tools 

* Healthy, Aged appearance

* Trunk line & Branching Patterns

* Potting your Bonsai

*Wiring and Shaping

* Pruning

* Watering & Fertilizing

* Repotting  & Seasonal Care

* Displaying your bonsai

If you want to learn these topics quickly and ensure that your bonsai trees thrive, check out this easy-to-follow guide on How To Grow and Care for a Bonsai Tree.

can a bonsai tree live in a terrarium

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