If you want some greenery in your home or office but you’re not too keen on, or skilled at, tending a high-maintenance plant, a moss terrarium is a hassle-free bit of greenery you practically have to try to kill.
Unlike some of the previous plants we’ve suggested, moss isn’t going to improve your air quality. It will, however, add a touch to your counter or desktop that only something living and green can provide. It also requires very, very little maintenance in the process.
Inspired by a tutorial we shared with you about making a moss terrarium in a wine bottle, I kept the basic idea in the back of my head and on my craft list. I wasn’t 100 percent sold on using a wine bottle—it seemed like it would be really difficult to place the moss—but the end effect was very novel. Still, I wanted a little bit more control over how I placed the moss into the container. Moss is a pretty forgiving medium, and you have a wide range of latitude in how you go about creating your moss terrarium. You’ll need the following basic components:
Moss: Obviously you’re going to need some moss. You can buy moss online—and if you want moss that grows outside of your climate, you’ll have to do so—but moss is readily available around you, and at extremely little risk of every being classified as an endangered organism. If you decide to gather moss from your environment, which is the route I took, please do so responsibly.
I hiked deep into some public woodland, well off any hiking trails, and into a thicket of briers before collecting my moss samples. I only took small portions of large carpets of moss in order to allow it to regenerate. Don’t go down to your local park and start ripping the moss up from the scenic walkway and other public areas where people are actually enjoying its presence.
Bring a small and flat tool like a butter knife or putty knife to help with removing the moss. Moss is attached to forest surfaces by thousands of tiny little tendrils. You can very gently slide a flat tool under a carpet of moss and slowly work a piece free by cutting through the tendrils. Done slowly and carefully, it is easy to lift up and entire piece of moss as though you’d just gently pried the top crust off a pie. It’s ideal to remove the moss, if possible, by taking some of the substance that it is attach to along with it instead of damaging the tendrils. If you look for moss on fallen trees that are fairly decomposed, it is easy to put your tool under the soft bark and take the top layer with you.
Bring some gallon-sized zipper-locked bags for collecting the moss. Your moss samples will keep for quite a long time in a plastic bag, so you don’t have to rush to replant them when you get home.
Glass Container: I took a trip to the local World Market and poked around for some interesting containers. You can easily use any glass container you want as long as you can place your hand inside—or for the more industrious, that you can fit some chop sticks inside to move things around with. I found two containers I liked, one open-air and the other with a closed lid. I wanted to see which would yield better results and would require less work to maintain. The photo featured above, the rock resting on the moss, is the closed container, and is shaped like a common floral vase with a simple lid on top. The second container I experimented with is more like a glass serving bowl:
A week or so into the experiment, both the open and closed containers seem to be still lush and green. The one in the closed container has stayed a little bit better moisturized, but there is occasionally condensation on the inside of the container that is quickly remedied by opening it for a few minutes.
Substrate: Moss doesn’t need dirt—you can grow it on a brick if you want. I used a layer of peat-moss potting soil in both of my containers because it created a nice sense of depth and solidity to the bed of moss. You could easily use gravel or any other substrate that the moss could attach itself to. If you are going to use soil, peat-moss potting soil is a great choice because it’s highly acidic and when moss isn’t growing on the bark of a tree or rocks it thrives on acidic soil.
Placement: Because I opted to—and I recommend you do too—use a container I could reach my hand into it was fairly easy to place the moss. In the case of the round container I took a piece of moss and trimmed it with a pair of scissors into a suitable circle and with the square container I took two large pieces and squared them up on three sides and then overlapped the middle. In both containers I added a small stone from my garden for some visual interest. Whatever left over pieces you have can be used for another terrarium or you can go place them back out in a suitable outdoor location to continue growing—my leftovers ended up in a corner of my garden that is moist and shady.
Maintenance: Once you have your substrate and moss in the container the only thing left to do is keep the moss moist. That’s it. As long as the moss isn’t in harsh sunlight or left to dry out you’ll have great difficult killing it off.
Have experience with terrariums, moss-filled or otherwise? Let’s hear about it in the comments.