Red Foliage Terrarium Plants
by Reannan Raine
Small Terrarium Plants
Mosaic plants (Fittonia verschaffeltii or Fittonia albivenis “Verschaffeltii Group“), the “Luna Red” Emerald-Ripple peperomia (Peperomia caperata “Luna Red” ) and the “Tiny Bright” Rex begonia (Begonia Rex cultorum “Tiny Bright”) stay under 8 inches tall. They can be planted in smaller terrariums or as a splash of color in larger terrariums. Mosaic plants, also known as nerve plants or painted net leaf, are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 11 and 12. They have 2- to 4-inch-long, dark-green oval leaves with wide, bright pink-red veins over the surface. The “Luna Red” peperomia is hardy in USDA zone 10. It has 1- to 1 1/2-inch-wide, deeply rippled, dark-red, heart-shaped leaves. “Tiny Bright” Rex begonia has heart-shaped leaves with red, black, white and green bands across the leaf surface. All Rex begonias are hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11.
One-Foot-Tall Terrarium Plants
Average-size Rex begonias (Begonia Rex cultorum) and shorter coleus hybrids (Solenostemon scutellarioides or Coleus x hybridus) will grow to only about 1 foot tall. They can be planted in medium or large terrariums. “Helen Teupel” (Begonia Rex cultorum “Helen Teupel”) and “Merry Christmas” (Begonia Rex cultorum “Merry Christmas”) are two of the many Rex begonia hybrids with red foliage. “Helen Teupel” has dark red and silver leaves with deeply pointed toothy edges, while “Merry Christmas” has red and pink heart-shaped leaves with bright-green edges. Rex begonia leaves can have a lopsided heart shape, a rounded shape or a maple leaf shape, depending on the hybrid. “Scarlet Poncho” (Solenostemon scutellarioides or Coleus “Scarlet Poncho”) is a shorter coleus hybrid that grows to only 1 foot tall. Its oval leaves are red with green speckles and yellow-green edges. Coleus are available in heights ranging from 6 inches to 6 feet. When selecting a coleus for a terrarium, confirm the mature height of the plant before purchasing it. They are hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11.
Two-Foot-Tall Terrarium Plants
Caladiums (Caladium bicolor) and polka dot plants (Hypoestes phyllostachya) grow to a height of 1 to 2 feet. They can be grown in medium or large terrariums. There are more than 1,000 named caladium cultivars, many of which have red foliage. They are all hardy in USDA zones 9 to 12. The “Freida Hemple” caladium cultivar (Caladium bicolor “Freida Hemple”) produces an abundance of red leaves with bright green around the edges while “Fire Chief“ (Caladium bicolor “Fire Chief”) produces crimson leaves. Polka dot or freckle face plants commonly have pink-spotted foliage, but there are hybrids with red-spotted foliage. They are hardy in USDA zones 10B and 11. Their leaves are oval and 2 to 4 inches long. “Red Splash Select” (Hypoestes phyllostachya “Red Splash Select”) has splotchy red spots on a green background, while “Red Confetti” (Hypoestes phyllostachya “Red Confettii”) has smaller red spots on its green leaves.
Taller Terrarium Plants
Bloodleaf (Iresine herbstii) and ti plants (Cordyline fruticosa) generally can grow to over 5 feet tall. Bloodleaf or beefsteak, however, tends to grow to only about 2 feet tall when grown indoors and can be pruned as needed to maintain a smaller size. The species has 4-inch-long, purple-red oval leaves, while the “Brilliantissima” cultivar (Iresine herbstii “Brilliantissima”) has pink-veined purple-red foliage. The “Hawaiian Bonsai” dwarf ti hybrid (Cordyline fruticosa “Hawaiian Bonsai”) grows to a height of 3 feet with dark red foliage that resembles a corn plant. Bloodleaf and “Hawaiian Bonsai” can be grown in medium-to-large terrariums. They are both hardy in USDA zones 10 to 12.
University of Missouri Extension: Terrariums
Missouri Botanical Garden: Terrariums and Vivariums
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension: Aggie Horticulture: Plants Suitable for Tropical Terrariums
Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Schenectady County: Terrarium Construction
Missouri Botanical Garden: Fittonia Albivenis (Verschaffeltii Group)
University of Vermont: Perry’s Perennial Pages: Fittonia Verschaffeltii
Cornell University: New York State Horticulture Study Guide for Youth: Emerald-Ripple Peperomia
University of Vermont: Perry’s Perennial Pages: Peperomia
University of Illinois Extention: Plant Palette: Rex Begonias
University of Vermont: Perry’s Perennial Pages: Begonia Rex Cultorum
Clemson University Cooperative Extension: Home & Garden Information Center: Begonia
Missouri Botanical Garden: Solenostemon Scutellarioides
Floridata: Coleus x Hybridus
University of Vermont: PSS123 Herbaceous Garden Plants: Solenostemon (Coleus)
Floridata: Caladium Bicolor
University of Florida: IFAS Extension: Caladiums for Florida
University of Vermont: PSS123 Herbaceous Garden Plants: Caladium Bicolor
University of Florida: Cooperative Extension Service: Hypoestes Phyllostachya
Cornell University: Growing Guide: Polka Dot Plant
University of Illinois Extension: Master Gardeners: Identification Garden: 2012 Plant List
About the Author
Reannan Raine worked for 30 years in the non-profit sector in various positions. She recently became a licensed insurance agent but has decided to pursue a writing career instead. Ms. Raine is hoping to have her first novel published soon.
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