Does a Terrarium Need Sunlight (Simple Lighting Guidelines)

Terrariums are essentially just small, sealed, indoor gardens and ecosystems. So when asking yourself does a terrarium needs sunlight, ask yourself do plants need sunlight. The answer may vary depending on the plants in question. But generally:

All terrariums need a light source for the plants inside to survive. That light source can be sunlight, but it can also be artificial light. What’s important is that the light is not direct or too bright or else it might burn the plants inside.

While figuring out the lighting needs of a terrarium is a very simple process (you’ll soon see), it’s also a very delicate process.

The only telltale way to know how much light, and what type of light your terrarium needs is to look at the plants inside. But if you have lots of terrariums you might not be able to use the same setup for them all, especially if you’re relying on sunlight, and that’s where artificial light kicks in. Let’s dig in, I’ll tell you all about it.

Sunlight 101

Sunlight will always benefit terrarium plants because it is natural light. Though it can also be deadly if the plants are placed in the wrong spot for a long enough time.

Different plants will also have different lighting needs. Some prefer bring light, others like shade. But generally figuring out the lighting needs of a terrarium is simple, and all you need to do is a few google searches about the plants inside and you’ll have what you need.

BUT, what if you don’t know the names of the plants inside?

In that case, you can’t go wrong with just placing the terrarium in a spot that gets a lot of indirect sunlight. Those are very neutral conditions, and most plants, excluding mosses, will thrive in such.

Plant Groups And Their Lighting Needs

Grouping plants shouldn’t be as strict and complicated as some sources tell you. Most terrarium plants are very versatile and will be able to bloom in a variety of conditions as long as they’re not extreme.

An example of an extreme would be succulents. Succulents are plants that prefer low humidity and a lot of light. Putting them in a closed terrarium and placing them next to your moss terrarium, under the same light, would be extreme for them. And vice versa.

I can make this article 100 pages long telling you about the specific conditions of each plant, to the exact c, but It’d just be overwhelming, and quite frankly not useful. Stick to the basics, do your due diligence, and unleash your creativity!

Terrarium Placement

A lot of people overthink terrarium placement when actually that too is fairly simple unless you’re dealing with very specific plants. This is the advice I follow:

  • If you have a handful of terrariums, and frequent sunlight, you can place them near a window where they will receive daily indirect light
  • If you have many terrariums or infrequent sunlight, then you should look into using artificial lights and setting up a terrarium stand


Now you know exactly what to do for your terrariums in terms of light. It’s that simple.

To conclude:

  • Not all terrarium plants need the same amount of light, but most can do very well if you follow the general advice which is bright indirect sunlight
  • If you have many terrariums you might find it hard to find suitable spots in the house where they can get indirect sunlight, which is when artificial lights kick in
  • Don’t overthink it, and when in doubt, follow the general advice observantly

Have fun with your next terrarium build!

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