How to Make Moss for a Terrarium: Step-by-Step Guide

Moss is one decorative element that can easily turn your terrarium from good to a great one. This tiny plant grows naturally on tree bark and rocks in the wild, but it's surprisingly easy to cultivate moss in a miniature container garden.

Growing moss involves more than getting your hands in the dirt. Moss is a plant that appears in different species. It is a non-vascular type known as the bryophytes, with no vessels to transport water, appearing as simple grassy mounds. They have no roots or containers to transport water, making them favorable for closed terrariums.

A terrarium is a clear, non-draining container with a small environment. Moss is an ideal ingredient in terrarium making. The two grow together perfectly. All they require is little soil, low light, and dampness. 

But how do you make a perfect mini moss terrarium at home? The solution includes preparing a layer of gravel at the bottom of a container and adding dry moss, and the layer prevents the soil from mixing with the gravel on the bottom. Next, add a few inches of soil on top of the dried moss. First, however, it is essential to differentiate and understand the different types of moss you are using. 

 This article will show you how to make the perfect moss for a terrarium at home.

Why use Moss for Terrarium?

Before picking on any moss, it is necessary to understand the many types of moss species. Most are used as ground covers in almost all types of terrariums. Moss has no roots, presenting two essential benefits you can take advantage of

  1. Moss will not compete for nutrients or water with other plants in your garden
  2. Moss can be placed anywhere in your terrarium

How to Make Moss for a Terrarium

Choose your container-making moss of terrarium begins by choosing a proper container to use. You can select a plastic jar, a glass, or a decorative container that is transparent and see-through. The size of the container depends on your preference of the height and broadness of your terrarium.

flytrap terrarium
A terrarium is a clear, non-draining container with a small environment.

If you would like your terrarium to house animals, choose a container-sized for the animal species. Large containers can hold more moss and are good masterpieces for tables and desks. The small ones are easier to clean, control humidity and keep clean.

If you plan to house animals in your terrarium, choose a glass container that does not overheat. Plastic containers can overheat, leaking chemicals into the water. Any terrarium used for animals should have a proper lid and ventilation to allow appropriate air circulation.

  1. Add gravels to your terrarium.

Gravels and pebbles make one of the essential parts of the terrarium’s foundation. Graves represent the perfect material to use in creating bottom drainage. They collect the excess water in the container’s soil layer to prevent root rot.

The gravels should be rinsed properly with water. They should be layered 1-2 inches at the bottom of the container. While adding gravels to the container, you could add color and ambiance by layering gravels of different colors. You can also swirl with other substrate choices, as long as they drain quickly.

Gravels on a terrarium.
Gravels represent the perfect material to use in creating bottom drainage.

On top of the graves, add a layer of activated carbons or charcoal to absorb odor and purify excess water. Charcoals absorb harmful elements in the soil and water that can build up inside the terrarium over time, damaging your plant. The process is critical in safeguarding the plant for long periods. 

  1. Choose the type of moss you will use

Firstly, avoid using any wild plants considered illegal or restricted by authorities in your area. Consider buying them from a shop or purchase in an online store. Below are the four most common types of moss that are easy to source, and above all, legal. 

 I. Cushion moss

Cushion moss is a general term for Leucobryum glaucum. This species is green with silver-tinted leaves. When growing, it creates a puffy, pillow shape. The shape makes it a popular choice in the terrarium. In addition, it creates a hillside and shrubberies effect.

  1. Hair cup moss (Polytrichum commune)

 It is also an excellent added feature to a terrarium setup. It works perfectly with large terrariums because of their height. It grows as high as 40cm. Most importantly, the moss creates star-shaped leaves, bringing a good effect when designed appropriately.

  1. Terrestrial moss

With proper airflow, these types of moss will do better in the damp substrate. They can properly grow in any location above the aquatic line. This type of moss can also work well if you add some animals in your terrarium. 

A terrestrial Moss.
They can properly grow in any location above the aquatic line.
  1. Spanish moss

The “old man’s beards,” as they are locally called, create a stringy, long strand and spooky feeling. It works for humid and forestry terrariums because it naturally grows in wet and humid environments. This type of moss will also provide your pet with the necessary comfort and shelter.

  1. Prepare your soil

Coco-coir, peat moss, or house plant soil works with most moss plants. Besides, succulents prefer a well-drained inorganic medium. You can also mix a decent amount of activated carbons into the cactus potting mix. Avoid using a potting soil mix with already-corporate fertilizer as the terrarium plants don’t necessarily require the extra fertilizer.

  1. Choose other decorations

You can check in your local stores or online store for terrarium décor. This item includes shells, rocks, plastic figurines, or other small items that can fit in your terrarium. Small scenes with figures may be good inside a container, but animals should not use moss.

Equipment needs for terrarium.
Small scenes with figures may be good inside a container.

You can also choose tiny plants from your nursery to plant in your terrarium, along with moss. The plant used should be live plants to keep your terrarium moss oriented. These trees may include newly sprouted oak tree saplings, ferns, or colorful weeds like sprouts. The grass may not be appropriate as it becomes invasive in a moist environment.

Making the Terrarium

  1. Add substrate to your container.

In the terrarium container, add the substrate at the bottom of the container to form the base. If gravels are not available, sand, rock granules, or loose potting soil can be used. Ensure they cover a better part of the pot for proper drainage.

  1. Add moss

Moss can be used to cover the entire top of the substrate. It can be spread around and filled in the gaps with other smaller pieces of decorations. When placing the moss, it should not be layered but taped to prevent mold from growing due to lack of proper drainage.

Moss can be placed in different styles. While other colored mosses make beautiful patterns, different types of moss pull your terrarium together. Tape it to the sides or scatter it when using the Spanish moss or other hanging species.

A terraium.
It can be spread around and filled in the gaps with other smaller pieces of decorations.

Adding a stick or a large rock in the middle of the terrarium then hanging the moss is also a perfect idea. When adding moss, avoid packing it too tightly. Also, ensure it does not press up against the walls of the terrarium.

  1. Add some extra décor

To make the terrarium look more sociable and fill in the gaps, you can add some extra decorations. For example, natural-looking rocks can make a great accent with green or brown moss. Others like quartz enhance bright-colored moss.

Using decors made of plastic is not recommended for a terrarium. When kept in the sun for long, plastics may meltdown, affecting the water purity. In addition, plastic décor does not look natural near-real moss or other plants for aesthetic purposes.  

Did you Want to Add some Animals to Your Terrarium?

Well, doing proper research on various animals you would like to keep is essential. Knowing the side effects of these animals and their best habitat is essential. Generally, when choosing animals, some of the most recommended animals are non-aquatic salamanders or small toads. Adding a tiny insect or frog is recommended to enhance a complete ecosystem.

Amphibians may need a small source of water. Some of the good insects you can use include harmless beetles, pillbugs, and snails. The insect will love it more when there is a cap-full of water or light with frequent misting.

 In all the animals you keep, ensure you have the means to provide care, food, and a safe environment for them. Follow the care instructions for each animal after adding them to the terrarium. Ensure you practice proper handling measures, such as washing your hands, before and after touching them or their environment.

Proper Care for a Terrarium

  • Always keep your terrarium wet. Ensure to mist your terrarium once a day with chlorine-free water.
  • Always remember to feed your plants and animals. Animals should be fed with their specific species’ diets while the plants can get some fertilizer. The fertilizer added should be in a very small amount and in liquid form.
  • The terrarium should always be placed in a rightful area. Place it in a room with proper temperatures, and in a place, it does not get direct sunlight.
  • After about nine months, you can always replace the substrate and clean the container. To allow enough air to the moss, remove the container top for two hours every week.

Bottom Line

What next if not to enjoy your terrarium? Remember that moss bouncy and verdant nature gives texture and perfect depth to any design. By reading this article, you can even decide to go a step further to offer your terrarium, different effects of rolling hills, wild grassland, or even dense jungle. With proper care, something captivating is on the make, and your neighbors will be peeping or seeking advice on how to maintain their terrarium as yours!

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