How To Make Moss Terrariums | From Beginner To Advanced

A closed moss terrarium

This article will cover the basics of making moss terrariums and first, we’ll explain how to choose a container, how to make a base layer, and the different moss species that are suitable for a terrarium. The next chapter explains the basics of moss terrarium design and the third chapter will cover care and maintenance. The last chapter will explain how you can enhance your terrarium and the article will end with some ideas for moss terrariums.

1. Getting Started with Moss Terrariums

Making a moss terrarium is a way to bring a true piece of nature indoors. This chapter will explain the initial steps required to build your (first) moss terrarium.

1.1 The Foundations of a Moss Terrarium

First, you’ll need to choose a container that suits the kind of moss you have picked and the environment you want to create.

Creating a base layer for a moss terrarium
Creating a base layer for a moss terrarium

With the following steps, you can lay the foundations for a moss terrarium.

  1. Choose the environment you wish to create.
  2. Pick moss that suits this environment.
  3. Choose a container with clear glass to ensure visibility and lighting.
  4. Add a layer of drainage rocks.
  5. Add some activated charcoal.
  6. Insert some sphagnum moss; and
  7. Add a layer of soil.

TIP: We sell moss terrarium kits.

After you have created a proper base, you can begin with planting the moss. Be aware that a solid foundation is crucial for the moss to thrive in the terrarium.

1.2 Moss Terrarium Containers

Make sure to choose the right moss terrarium container because this will significantly impact the health and aesthetics of your terrarium.

A bottle turned ito a small moss terrarium
A bottle turned into a small moss terrarium

Never use a container with poor clarity because the moss won’t survive for the long term in a container without proper lighting. Even though moss doesn’t need much light, it still needs it to photosynthesize and it will die with very poor lighting. Another factor you need to consider is proper sealing (in case of a closed terrarium).

1.3 Terrarium Moss Species Selection

It is not always easy to choose the right type of moss. Here is a list of some of the most popular mosses (and one lichen) and how they can be used in a terrarium.

  1. Carpet Moss (Hypnum Cupressiforme): This moss is perfect for creating a little green carpet in both open and closed terrariums. It can create a solid base which makes it perfect for background foliage (you can buy Carpet live moss here).
  2. Mood Moss (Dicranum Scoparium): This plant is often used in closed terrariums for textured undulating landscapes due to its clumpy growth and has a preference for moderate to high humidity (you can buy Mood live moss here).
  3. Pincushion Moss (Leucobryum Glaucum): This is a moss that can be used in open terrariums because it can handle lower humidity levels than other mosses. It is bright green and has a cushion-like appearance (you can buy live cushion moss here).
  4. Sheet Moss (Hypnum Curvifolium): Sheet moss is very similar to Carpet moss (both of the genus Hypnum) and can also be used for open and closed terrariums. This moss plant forms flat sheets of moss that are perfect for covering areas smooth and it can act as a base (you can buy live Sheet moss here)
  5. Fern Moss (Thuidium delicatulum): This is a kind of moss that resembles ferns and is perfect to use in closed terrariums to mimic a forest floor. It prefers moist humid environments which makes it more challenging to grow in an open terrarium (you can buy live Fern moss here).
  6. Hedwigia Moss (Hedwigia Ciliata): This moss is more suited for open terrariums because it can handle drier conditions and needs a good airflow. It is a visually appealing plant due to its unique and stark appearance (you can buy live Hedwigia moss here).
  7. Reindeer Moss (Cladonia rangiferina: This is not a moss but a lichen. It can be used for open terrariums because it needs low humidity and can tolerate a wide range of light conditions. It creates a unique light and airy texture to a terrarium (you can buy live Reindeer moss here).
  8. Haircap Moss (Polytrichum commune): This moss can be used in open terrariums because it needs more airflow and less humidity than most moss species. It is relatively tall and grows up and will create a deeper dimension to the landscape of the terrarium (you can buy live Haircap moss here).
  9. Bryum Moss (Bryum Caespiticium): This one is suitable for closed and open terrariums. It grows in green clumps and can be used to fill in smaller gaps or create miniature hills (you can buy live Bryum moss here).
  10. Sphagnum Moss (Sphagnum platyphyllum): Most people know this moss because it is often used as part of the base layer for terrariums for moisture retention (it can hold up to 20 times its weight in water). But it can also be grown and feature moss in closed terrariums (you can buy live Sphagnum moss here).
  11. Tree Moss (Anomodon attenuatus): This moss thrives in a closed terrarium where it can live on the branches of driftwood and it needs humid conditions so, therefore, it is less suitable for an open terrarium (you can buy live Tree moss here).

2. Designing Your Moss Terrarium

Designing a moss terrarium isn’t only planning some moss. Most people do this to create a. visually appealing miniature landscape that acts as a living piece of art. This chapter dives into different design ideas and combinations.

2.1 Simple Terrarium Design Ideas with Moss

Designs of moss terrariums can range from simple designs with some moss to complex intricate miniature landscapes. As explained before, you need to put the layer in first. Next, you can focus on the design ideas.

A simple moss terrarium design
A simple moss terrarium design

A simple moss terrarium doesn’t need a sketch and can be created on the spot. Design the terrarium around the shape of the container and use this as a ‘guide’ to layer the rocks, moss, and other elements. Begin with the lowest point and work your way up. Try to incorporate different ideas and elements until you come to your final and natural-looking design. You can add some other natural elements to create miniature gardens or forest scenes.

2.2 Creating Miniature Landscapes with Moss

Creating a miniature landscape with moss takes a bit more planning. Besides sketching, you’ll also need to plan the placement of the stones, bark, and mosses to simulate the natural scene you have in mind.

Follow these steps when you want to create your miniature moss landscape:

  1. Choose a suitable container for the miniature landscape you want to create
  2. Create the base layer as explained before.
  3. Make a list of the elements and moss you want to include.
  4. Buy or collect the moss and the natural elements.
  5. Sketch the design.
  6. Begin with the first layer and build your way up.
  7. Add realistic details such as pathways, decorative figures, or miniature plants.

Make sure there is enough moisture available but don’t make it too damp. Ensure that the soil drains well so there is no standing water. Especially in a closed terrarium. Keep the terrarium in a place with indirect sunlight and keep temperature fluctuations at a minimum.

2.3 Moss and Succulent Terrariums

Mosses and succulents together are an interesting combination because of their contrasting textures. We have to warn you that this is a terrarium design that is a bit more advanced because of the different environmental requirements of mosses and succulents.

A moss and succulent terrarium
A moss and succulent terrarium

This type of terrarium needs a proper layer as explained before and sufficient drainage for areas where you want to plant the succulents and areas with more moisture for the moss plants.

The moss should be positioned lower because the water will go down and keep the moss moist enough while the succulents can be placed higher so they don’t drown. This way the moss will thrive in the ‘wet zone’ while the succulents will thrive in the ‘dry zone’.

3. Care and Maintenance

The longevity and beauty of a terrarium are partly determined by care and maintenance. This chapter will explain tips on how you should water it and we’ll explain the difference in care between open en closed terrariums.

3.1 Watering Moss Terrariums

Moss plants aren’t fond of being drowned but they also don’t want to deal with drought. The key to a healthy moss terrarium is finding that perfect balance for maintaining the right moisture levels specifically for the type of moss(es) you are using.

With a proper seal, a closed terrarium (usually) needs very little watering because the sealed environment recycles moisture. When you do though, make a note in your calendar and monitor the health in the period after. Alternate between periods and experiment with how much water you use. Monitor the health of the moss closely and you’ll find that perfect balance over time.

Open terrariums need regular misting to maintain the humidity without over-saturating the moss. Never use tap water but use filtered water or rainwater. Avoid any chemicals because this will disturb the delicate habitat within the terrarium and it might even kill the moss.

3.2 Closed Moss Terrarium Care

As explained in the previous section, closed moss terrariums do not need much water because they create self-sustaining environments where the condensation recycles water. But this terrarium still needs monitoring (especially the first couple of weeks and months).

A closed moss terrarium
A closed moss terrarium with some condensation

Add some water if it seems to dry and keep it out of direct sunlight because overheating will increase the temperatures to a level that might kill most live within the terrarium. After the first couple of months, you can check on it monthly to adjust moisture levels or remove dead and organic matter to prevent mold.

3.3 Open Moss Terrarium Maintenance

Open terrariums need more care than closed ones. An open terrarium doesn’t have a recycling system for its water so it requires regular misting to maintain humidity. Especially in dry heated living rooms. Make sure to keep an open terrarium in an area with indirect sunlight (never in front of a window) and ensure good air circulation.

The rule of thumb is that the terrarium should be in a place where it would be in nature as well. Consider the temperature, light conditions, moisture levels, and airflow to ensure vitality and a healthy moss terrarium.

3.4 Troubleshooting Common Moss Terrarium Issues

A proper airflow is required to prevent the growth of mold. This can be a big issue but it’s often solved whenever the airflow is improved.

Excessive condensation can also be an issue you are struggling with. This can be adjusted by adjusting the watering schedule. Try to automate this process because it will make it easier to find the optimal watering schedule. Dare to experiment with different watering schedules to ensure that the moisture levels are sufficient and stable.

High condensation levels can also be caused by too much light exposure. The water will condense whenever it is exposed to too much light.

3.5 Moss Terrarium Care Tips

This article only touches on the basics of terrarium maintenance but there are also other techniques such as pruning, selective watering, and periodic soil replacement which can ensure the health of a terrarium and enhance its aesthetic value.

But this is for advanced terrarium fanatics because you’ll need to be able to understand when the terrarium will self-regulate and when it is necessary to intervene. In the future, we will write an article that dives deeper into moss terrarium care but for now, we’ll only cover the basics.

4. Enhancing Your Terrarium

After basic construction and maintenance, you may want to enhance your moss terrarium. This chapter will cover ways of adding some unique touches to your terrarium with accessories or by creating a theme.

4.1 Moss Terrarium Accessories

As explained before, you should select the element you want to incorporate into the terrarium beforehand. But after you have created a solid base and a healthy living environment, you may want to add some times such as miniature figurines, and decorative stones or you can even add temperature and humidity gauges. The list of possible accessories is almost endless.

A moss terrarium with some accessories
A moss terrarium with some accessories

Some accessories are only for decorative use while others improve the overall health and vitality of the moss terrarium.

4.2 Thematic Moss Terrariums

If you feel like you are stuck with the design of your terrarium, you may want to choose a theme. Thematical terrariums can range from special occasions to personal interests or anything that comes to mind.

Some ideas for thematic moss terrariums are:

  • Whimsical Fairy Garden: Use Carpet Moss so you can create a lush carpet that can be the base for miniature fairy figures and tiny houses.
  • Desert Landscape: You can use Hedwigia Moss (because it can withstand drier conditions) and combine it with cacti and succulents in an open terrarium.
  • Miniature Rainforest: Mood Moss is ideal for a textured landscape and can thrive in a closed terrarium with tropical plants and a small water stream.
  • Zen Garden: Sheet moss is a good choice for a zen garden because its smooth sheets complement a minimal design with stone, sand, and some greenery.
  • Coastal Theme: Use Pincushion moss to mimic coastal greenery and combine their cushion-like appearance with air plants and sea shells.
  • Prehistoric Setting: Ferns used to cover our planet in prehistoric times so you can pair Fern moss with dinosaur figurines to bring back prehistoric times.
  • Winter Wonderland: The ‘whiteness’ of Reindeer moss can create an airy texture and can mimic frosty landscapes if combined with white stones and pine-like plants.
  • Mystical Forest Scene: Tree moss loves to grow on driftwood and is perfect for creating a forest-themed terrarium with a touch of mystery.
  • Magical Night Sky: You can use Haircap moss to add some depth to a night sky theme and complement it with darb pebbles and fairy lights.

The list of ideas is endless. Feel free to contact us if you have any (moss-related) questions!

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