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Moss Terrarium: Crafting Your Enchanted Ecosystems

Learning how to make a moss terrarium, or mossarium, can be a gateway to terrarium growing for beginners. Mosses are marvellous things and building a terrarium to view these fascinating plants can allow you to see them up close and give them pride of place in your home.

moss terrarium tips

Of course, mosses can be included alongside a wide range of other plants. But beginning with mosses alone can be a great place to begin. 

What is Moss?

Mosses are non-flowering plants which produce spores rather than seeds. They have stems and leaves but not true roots. Instead, they have tiny hair-like structures known as rhizoids. Some mosses suck up moisture and nutrients through these rhizoids, while others draw in water through their surfaces. 

Along with their cousins liverworts and hornworts, they are known as bryophytes. Tracing their origins back 450 million years, these plants have survived many drastic climatic changes and spread to occur in a huge range of ecosystems on every continent. 

Many mosses thrive in damp and humid conditions, which means that they can be ideal choices for a closed terrarium where an internal water cycle keeps moisture and humidity both relatively high. 

Choosing Mosses for a Moss Terrarium

Mosses for a terrarium can be purchased as living portions of plant, or sometimes, as spores or slurry that can be used to grow new moss areas when spread over a piece of stone, wood or other feature. 

Of course, the former will give a more instant result, while mosses from spore or a slurry into which spores or pieces of moss have been mixed will take longer to grow and look attractive – sometimes months. 

But this second option may allow you to fill a larger terrarium more affordably and can also give access to mosses that are more unusual and not as readily available for indoors cultivation. 

It is important, when choosing mosses and sourcing them, to make sure that their collection has not caused depletion or degradation of natural ecosystems. Be sure to look into sources and make sure that you are making a sustainable, ethical and eco-friendly choice. 

Make sure that you do not purchase mosses or hornworts or liverworts that have been collected in the wild as this is of course harmful to the environment. 

When choosing mosses for a terrarium, it is best to select tropical or subtropical species. While some species found in the wild in temperate climates can grow in a terrarium, those from warmer climes will tend to be better suited to indoors cultivation. 

Some mosses that you might choose include:

  • Dicranum scoparium
  • Hypnum cupressiforme
  • Hypnum imponens
  • Leucobryum glaucum
  • Sphagnum ssp.
  • Taxiphyllum barbieri
  • Thuidium delicatulum

There are thousands of mosses out there. Not all are ideal for terrarium cultivation – but many are.

When choosing mosses, one thing to note is that they can generally be divided into:

  • Acrocarpus mosses, which grow in clumps.
  • & pleurocarpous mosses, which grow in sheets, to cover an area. 

Selecting one or more of each type of moss means more variety and a better display. (Remember, here we are talking about live mosses – so don’t get confused with sphagnum moss sold as an amendment for terrarium soil in its dried (dead) form.)

Choosing a Container for a Moss Terrarium

Many mosses will thrive in a closed terrarium, where in sealed conditions, moist and humid conditions will prevail. But mosses can be grown in a huge range of different terraria of different shapes and sizes. 

So if you would like to create a moss terrarium then another important step is  to decide which container to use to make your closed terrarium display. 

You could purchase a purpose-made terrarium. But you might also make your own using a number of glass items originally designed for other uses, from small glass jars with lids, to glass vases or biscuit containers, to old fish tanks… any glass-walled item which can have a lid fitted could work, though it will be easier if you can easily fit a hand inside to tend the small indoor garden. 

Adding the Substrate for Mosses

Once you have chosen and carefully cleaned your chosen container, it is time to decide what to place inside this terrarium structure. 

The substrate that you will choose will of course depend on the particular mosses that you have chosen to grow. Some mosses are terrestrial (growing in soil or on the ground) while others are epiphytic, growing on rocks, dead wood, living trees etc…

Some mosses will grow best on terrarium soil, often though not always one with an acidic pH. Others grow directly on rock, or pieces of wood. You can introduce a range of different materials to suit different species of moss that you would like to grow. Most additions will need to be wet before the moss is placed upon them. 

Additional Features for a Mossarium Scene

Adding additional features to your mossarium can help to turn your collection of mosses and other bryophytes into a miniature landscape, or a particular scene, tying everything together in a range of interesting and creative ways. 

Adding pieces of natural wood, driftwood from a local beach, pebbles, small rocks, etc… or even features like little ‘fairy houses’, pathways or roads of sand or gravel… or other quirky additions, can help you to create a beautiful and interesting display for your home that brings the mosses you wish to display to the fore.