How Long Do Terrariums Last (If Properly Cared For) + Pro Tips

We all want our beautiful terrariums to thrive and bloom as long as possible and always be as vibrant as they are when we built them. But, how long do they actually last?

Under optimal conditions and when properly cared for terrariums can last for decades. Though the average terrarium only lasts from four months to two years. Factors like light, moisture, temperature, selection of plants, and size of the container, all play a role in the lifespan of a terrarium.

The longest terrarium that lasted on its own lived for 53 years.

So, now the question remains, how can you maximize the lifespan of a terrarium without sacrificing the shiny, perfect look that all of the terrariums you see on Pinterest have? Well, it all comes down to a few basic steps. I’ve included my checklist to get all of my terrariums to bloom for 3+ years further down.

Terrarium Lifespan

Theoretically, a perfectly optimized terrarium can last ridiculously long – years. Though, the average terrarium lasts only about 4 months to 2 years. Perfect conditions are not easy to provide, in fact, they’re almost impossible. And such a terrarium only exists on paper.

Bummer right? Don’t worry, average is just average, and most don’t go out of their way to learn how to build great terrariums – as you have.

The closest you can get to the “ideal” self-sustaining terrarium, is to build a bioactive terrarium and mimic the natural processes and cycles by adding lots of biodiversity (there’s a neat trick about biodiversity in the checklist). One problem though, it won’t look that good. Yikes?

Truthfully, as a long-time terrarium enthusiast and a self-proclaimed expert, I wouldn’t overthink this. Terrariums are art. They’re not a natural reserve. If you want to build an ecosphere, it’s going to look much different than an enclosed garden – a terrarium.

You should aim to build beautiful terrariums, that last at least a few years – which is completely fine. They’re not always going to be picture-perfect, but that’s fine – the ones you see online were all cleaned and wiped before they got posted.

The trick is to follow a simple process, and have a set of rules that have been tried & tested. You want to make art, and beautiful terrariums, not rediscover photosynthesis. So that’s what you’ll do.

The Checklist For An Eternal Terrarium

Eternal, not likely, but a long-lasting (3+ years), healthy, and lively terrarium, absolutely!

To understand why this checklist works, it’s essential to understand what terrariums actually are. Terrariums are not just plants. They’re ecosystems.

How many plants that you’ve owned met an early grave? Probably a few. It was just nature’s way you told yourself (of course it is!). The truth is, plants live outrageously long, and every plant that died on you… was probably your fault. Yikes again.

While plants need to be actively cared for, placed under the right temperature, with the right lighting, and watered regularly, terrariums just need a good initial setup, and good placement, so that they can sustain themselves afterward. And achieving that is much easier than you might think.

The checklist:

1. Research (The Scary Word)

Putting together a handful of pretty plants and building a terrarium is easy – anyone can do it. But, if you want to not only build a beautiful but also a healthy terrarium, then you have to put a little bit of thought into it.

Research doesn’t mean reading heaps of biology articles and memorizing the Latin names of every plant you like (unless you like that, like me!), it means simply checking the compatibility of the plants you want to include in your terrarium.

Pro Tip:

  • Always group plants by their natural environment, only selecting the plants that thrive synergistically with one another. (ex. tropical plants, desert plants, woodland plants, low light plants, moss, etc).

2. Set-Up

Take the time to set up your terrarium properly at the very start. Don’t rush it. This step probably has the biggest impact on how long your terrarium will last.

Be mindful of where you place the plants, how much room each has to grow, it’s access to water, etc.

If you’re a beginner, you’re bound to make a few mistakes, it’s part of the process. Trial and error!

3. Once A Week Check

A once-a-week check up is all it takes to spot problems early on. This step is a given though, as I’m sure you’ll be checking your terrarium out of excitement anyways.

4. Springtails (Bioactivity)

Springtails are an essential element to making your terrarium last long. They’re the pinch of bioactivity that is super low cost, and that will extend the lifespan of your terrarium the most.

They’re often referred to as a clean up crew. The role of springtails is to fight mold and recycle decaying matte.


Terrariums are so great because they require little to no maintenance once you’ve set them up (correctly). The little maintenance a terrarium will sometimes need is a little haircut, or removing decaying matter. 


Now you know how long terrariums typically last, and, how you can make your terrariums last a lot longer by employing a simple process.

Remember, a few extra steps of initial planning can save countless terrariums, and make your time creating them so much more enjoyable!

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