DIY: A (Free) Moss Terrarium
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What? That gross outdoor moss can be made into a terrarium? No way. You be trippin’.
I’m not trippin’. It was really nice out Sunday and I was cleaning my yard, pulling weeds for spring, etc, and I noticed a fresh bunch of moss around my firepit. Every year, moss is the bane of my existence. It’s a gross sponge that covers backyard patios everywhere, always in inconvenient spots that require a noisy shovel to scrape away. And every year I power wash the heck out of it, are promptly left with clean, naked patio stones until tomorrow when it returns. But Sunday was different, I looked at this tiny piece of moss. I poked it, it was fuzzy. And soft. And goshdernit kind of adorable. I took this fluffy chunk, cleaned it a bit and placed it in a vintage candy jar I had lying around…I stepped back and was like, “Ooh.”
Completed, my moss terrarium looked like a tiny Ireland – full of lush and dewy green. But it needed something, so I added Ted (see above), this tiny T Rex. There, just like present-day Ireland.
Lately, I’ve wanted some small houseplants for terrariums, and I think this just fit the bill. On that note, it was also free. Yup, moss is free everyone because it’s freaken everywhere. I did bit of reach about moss so you can make a (free) small jar of Ireland in your home (T-Rex optional but recommended).
What is moss?
To say there are a few different kinds of moss is an understatement considering there are over 10K kinds all over the world. Certain types are more common depending on where you live, but generally, free range moss is known as Cushion Moss, Irish Moss, Krauss’ Spikemoss, Spreading Club Moss, or Trailing Irish Moss. Kate Moss is unrelated, I learned.
Mosses are bryophytes and don’t operate the same way a typical plant does. Actually they are kind of an inverted plant. Those adorable fuzzy hairs you see on the surface are called rhizoids which act as the roots and drink water, and also anchor to your backyard firepit. Moss is a non-vascular plant which means they are missing the water-transporting vascular tissue. Their little rhizoids on top are actually their roots and do this for them.
Bringing moss indoors
Your annoying patio moss is completely safe to bring indoors and can actually thrive indoors. I would recommended cleaning it a bit first and inspecting for bugs before placing in your terrarium. Lice and those small, creepy red bugs can be hiding in the crevices. Also keep in mind where it’s from. If you find moss from an area high in pesticides or chemicals, it may not be safe to handle or keep around pets. Note: cats really like moss.
Is moss safe for cats and dogs?
Yes, fluffy moss lumps are safe for your fluffy fur balls. Just another reminder that any outside moss with pesticides can be hazardous to people and pets, so clean, natural moss is the best way to go. Moss and the aquatic moss balls Marimo, are non toxic to cats and dogs. As with any plant, I would still caution against consistent pet consumption with moss or any plant.
The gathering process is not difficult at all. Put on your galoshes and find some good, puffy moss – green in color and moist. Gently pry it from the surface and bring to its destination immediately. Keeping it without moisture or in the sun for more than a few minutes can cause it to turn brown.
Make a moss terrarium
Now that you have some fresh moss, it’s time to make your own tiny, green moss world. I do think one or two small mammals (extinct or not) really add to it. I’m not fan of the fairy garden stuff, but I appreciate a dopey little dinosaur in my terrarium. Here’s what you need:
- Fresh moss in different shades of green
- A large glass jar with a lid (but vintage is always better)
- Moist, peaty potting soil (enough to cover the bottom of the jar)
- A spray bottle filled with water
- Tweezers (or if you want to get fancy – this)
- One chopstick
Gather your materials and find a nice warm space.
- Prepare your jar
Make sure the jar is clean and put about three inches of potting mix in the bottom, leveling it out with your knuckles. Spray the soil with water to dampen it.
- Enter the moss
Gently press the moss chunks in piece by piece. Ty to line up straighter edge with the outside of the jar. Use the chopstick to further press pieces in. You can also tear away excess if a chunk is too large.
- Spray it down
Once all of the moss is in and you’re happy with your world, give it a generous spray of water. Place in a bright room (but not in direct sunlight) and add the lid. Let it sit for about an hour.
- And some friends
Once the moss dries out a bit, add in your favorite town-dwellers – animals, faeries, Batman – anything goes. This is your world.
Moss is about as hands off as you get – I mean, it lives on rocks. But yanking it from it’s beloved concrete abode does mean a bit of care is needed during the rehoming period. These steps ensure your moss stays happy and plump:
- Light: Keep your jar in a bright to medium light location. More light will mean more water.
- Moisture: Moss = moist. The first two weeks check the moisture level, you’ll most likely need to give it a good spray 4-5 times a week.
- Feeding: No fertilizer is necessary IMO.
- Maintenance: If moss becomes brown or unsightly, just change it out and refresh.
Marimo Balls are another mossy option, and are also completely safe for cats and dogs. They follow a more aquatic set of rules, so another blog post about them is in store. You can find Marimo from Amazon or Etsy.
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Want to join in the fun but have questions about making your own moss terrarium? Leave a comment!
Join the conversation
I am using a 55-gallon aquarium for my plants. I’ll have wait until Spring to get my moss. I live in Mn so everything is frozen under the snow. This is my first terrarium.
Good luck! That large of a tank should give you an awesome terrarium!
How much light is needed for the moss to survive? I’m new to plants but would love to make one of these for my kitchen table!
These can live in bright sun or medium – they aren’t super fussy. A kitchen table is probably fine as long as there was some light and ample humidity.