Moss And Terrariums: Tips On Making Moss Terrariums

Moss And Terrariums: Tips On Making Moss Terrariums

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By: Liz Baessler

Moss and terrariums go together perfectly. But how do you go about making a mini moss terrarium? Keep reading to learn more about how to make moss terrariums and moss terrarium care.

How to Make Moss Terrariums

A terrarium is, basically, a clear and non-draining container that holds its own small environment. Anything can be used as a terrarium container – an old aquarium, a peanut butter jar, a soda bottle, a glass pitcher, or whatever else you might have. The main objective is that it be clear so you can see your creation inside.

Terrariums don’t have drainage holes, so the first thing you should do when making a mini moss terrarium is put down a one inch (2.5 cm.) layer of pebbles or gravel in the bottom of your container.

On top of this put a layer of dried moss or sphagnum moss. This layer will keep your soil from mixing with the drainage pebbles on the bottom and turning into a muddy mess.

On top of your dried moss, put a few inches of soil. You can sculpt the soil or bury small stones to create an interesting landscape for your moss.

Finally, put your live moss on top of the soil, patting it down firmly. If the opening of your mini moss terrarium is small, you may need a spoon or long wooden dowel to do this. Give the moss a good misting with water. Set your terrarium in indirect light.

Moss terrarium care is extremely easy. Every now and again, spray your moss with a light mist. You don’t want to overwater it. If you can see condensation on the sides, then it’s already moist enough.

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How to Make a Basic Terrarium

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

A terrarium is a unique type of indoor gardening container that is fully or partially enclosed to allow heat and light to enter while confining moisture. Terrariums can be entirely closed to prevent moisture loss, but often they are left partially open to allow some airflow.

You can make a basic terrarium in less than an hour with very few inexpensive materials. Glass containers, small jars, and even goldfish bowls, make beautiful terrariums and miniature terrarium plants may only cost a couple of dollars each. Terrariums also make wonderful and impressive gifts, even for people who consider themselves plant-challenged.

What is a Moss (and Why Use it in a Terrarium)?

They might not look it, but moss is still a type of plant.

They’re a non-vascular type known as a bryophyte. This means they don’t have vessels for transporting water like other plants, and basically why they appear as a simple grassy mound.

The fact that they have no roots or water vessels means they tend to like high humidity and a consistent water supply – which makes them great for closed terrariums.

They not only like high humidity, but they really help to stabilise humidity too. So your other tropical plants will love them.

  1. They won’t compete with your other plants
  2. You can place them anywhere in your terrarium!

Just like in nature, moss grows anywhere and everywhere. Moss loves to grow on hard surfaces like rocks, logs and trees.

Which means they’re perfect for filling out your terrarium.

If you’re wanting to go all out with moss, you can do an entire build with them! That’s called a mossarium.

Steps to Make a Moss Terrarium Garden

  1. Clean the jars thoroughly. Toss in your decorative gravel, pebbles, or glass marbles of choice to sit at the bottom of the jar. This creates a space where excess water can drain away from plant roots and evaporate upwards, feeding the plant’s need for constant moisture. The material you use for the bottom layer creates a decorative element you can match to the plant’s colors or your room’s decor.
  2. Try placing a barrier made out of paper cut exactly to the interior size of the container. Place the paper over the gravel or pebbles to keep soil, sand, or moss from sifting into your colorful bottom layer. I like to keep layers clear and separate because you can see them through the glass jar. This is a good overall design practice.
  3. Take a chunk of your living moss in your hand. Do not pull out slivers of it because you want to keep a good measure of the thatch mat intact to hold the moss together. Form it so the green side hits the glass and the brown side is facing inward or down. Leave a space or hole in the center to fit a small terrarium plant with a rootball about 1 inch wide.
  4. Find your favorite plant. I often use Ficuspumila (variegated creeping fig) or Pellaearotundifolia (button fern) for this project. Both plants have thick leaves, are strong growers, and will be good candidates for the small living quarters.
  5. Squeeze your plant’s wet rootball and place it in the center of your forest moss bed. Tamp it down.
  6. Pull the moss closely around the rootball using a tool such as a knife or chopstick to manipulate it. If you have the lid of the jar, screw it on. This will ensure the moisture does not escape and you will rarely have to water your new jar terrarium. You are done!

Excerpts and photography reprinted with permission from Living Decor: Plants, Potting and DIY Projects by Maria Colletti, © 2019. Published by Cool Springs Press. Photography: Alcides Aguasvives.

Moss Jar Gardens


Thousands of moss species live worldwide, providing carbon offset along with trees. A variety of mosses are preserved or dried for florists, crafts, and event displays. Craft projects come to life with each different form of moss. Each type of moss brings a different texture and can fit into a variety of projects. Here are three types of moss you’ll find most useful in craft projects.

  • Reindeer moss: I find this to look a bit like sea coral. If your batch grows dry, it can become brittle. You should lightly mist the moss bunches with water to revive and soften them for use. This moss has shades of dark and light green, with which you can create a subtler design within a larger a moss design.
  • Spanish moss: This moss is related to the epiphyte family of plants, which live on trees, such as orchids or air plants. Spanish moss dangles off giant oaks in the Southern states. Follow a winding driveway lined with oak trees of the Old South plantations and you will find Spanish moss in its natural habitat and natural gray color. Spanish moss looks like wiry hair and gives a particular look to any project you add it to.
  • Mound moss: This variety is often used to create hillside terrain in a terrarium design with rocks larger than pebbles that mimic boulders. So many talented terrarium landscape artists utilize this moss effectively. Try using it in a flat tray alongside white sand for an Asian-inspired Zen garden.


Moss is broken into two types or classifications: Pleurocarpous and acrocarpous. Pleurocarpous moss grows outward with tiny branches, as if it is slowly creeping around. Acrocarpous moss grows upward into neat, thick little mounds of tightly packed stems. Understanding the growth pattern of the moss you intend to use in your living decor will give you a better idea of how to use and care for it.

For example, sheet moss, a common type used in craft projects, is a pleurocarp and has a flat growth habit. The thatch bottoms of pleurocarps attach well to stone, making them better for colonizing on hard surfaces.

Moss has no true root system and can therefore live on many surfaces. If you walk in a woodland area, you will find moss growing on rocks, bark, in crevices, and on the ground. Moss is drought tolerant and takes moisture from rain, humidity, and even fog, while absorbing dotted sunlight through tree canopies.

The tiny green structures of moss do not produce flowers, pollen, or seeds, so how do they reproduce? After fertilization they develop sporophytes, which are mini stalks topped with single capsules that contain spores.

How to Rehydrate Terrarium Moss

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Terrariums generally require less care than houseplant or outdoor plant arrangements, but they still need attention in order to keep the moss healthy. From time to time, terrarium moss may dry out and turn brown. When making your own terrarium, dehydrated moss is an option for the project, requiring rehydration while assembling the arrangement. Monitoring the terrarium over time will help you learn how often to hydrate the moss, resulting in a healthy terrarium environment. The specific needs of each terrarium vary, based on the inner terrarium environment as well as where it is kept.

Remove the lid from the terrarium. Spray the moss with a gentle mist of water from a spray bottle, covering the entire surface rather than spraying large amounts in one area. If the moss is beneath the top layer of material, spray the terrarium matter until a minimal amount of water is visible in the bottom pebble or charcoal layer.

Replace the lid of the terrarium and store it in a place receiving filtered light rather than direct sunlight.

Inspect the terrarium at least once a week to ensure plant health. If the plants, including moss, appear to be brown, dried out or dying, repeat the misting process. If you are unsure whether the terrarium needs water, touch the soil, adding water if it feels dry.

Remove the lid for a few hours whenever you observe more than an average amount of condensation within the terrarium. A small amount of condensation is healthy for the plants and indicates the terrarium environment is thriving.

  • Keep the terrarium out of full continual sunlight if kept outdoors. Some natural light from a window part of the day, or general ambient indoor lighting, is good for a terrarium.
  • Watering an open (non-lidded) terrarium is done in the same fashion as the traditional closed style. Open terrariums require more frequent watering, since moisture can evaporate into the air.
  • A newly created terrarium will require more water during its first few weeks, as the moss and plants become acclimated to their environment.
  • Distilled water or rain water are preferable to chlorinated water for terrarium environments, as a terrarium is a miniature ecosystem.
  • A terrarium environment that is too wet could grow mold be sure to air it out if abundant condensation is present. Avoid overwatering the moss too little water is better than too much for a terrarium environment.

Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.