How to keep moss alive indoors?

Contents

Keeping Moss Indoors: Care For Growing Moss Indoors

If you’ve ever wandered through the woods and seen trees covered in moss, you may have wondered can you grow moss indoors. These velvety cushions aren’t regular plants; they’re bryophytes, which mean they don’t have regular roots, flowers or seeds. They get their nutrients and moisture directly through their leaves from the air around them. Growing moss indoors in terrariums or large glass jars is a decorative way to create miniature forest landscapes to decorate your home.

How to Grow Moss Indoors

Learning how to grow moss indoors is a simple task; in fact, this can be a good project for parents and children to do together. Start with a clear glass container that has a lid, such as a terrarium or a large jar. Place about an inch of pebbles in the bottom of the container, then top that with about an inch of granulated charcoal, which you can find in fish supply stores. Add two inches of potting soil and mist the soil with a spray bottle filled with clear water.

Create the base of your indoor moss garden by placing different sized stones and branched sticks to make the ground look like the forest floor. Place larger objects in the back and smaller ones up front. Place sheets of moss over the larger objects and fill in the rest of the area with crumbled bits of moss flakes. Mist the moss, cover the container and place it in a room away from bright sunlight.

Press the moss firmly onto the rocks and soil when planting. If the potting soil is fluffy, push it down to firm it into one mass. Keep the sheets of moss stuck to the rocks with fishing line, if need be. The moss will grow over the line and hide it.

Collect your moss from nearby woods or even your own backyard. Sheets of moss are most convenient, but if all you can collect is crumbled bits, they will grow just as quickly. Make sure to get permission to collect moss if you harvest it away from home.

Moss Care Indoors

Keeping moss indoors is very carefree, as it doesn’t need much moisture or sunlight and absolutely no fertilizer. Mist the surface a couple of times a week to keep the moss moist. After you mist it, replace the top on the container, leaving a small amount of space for air to exchange.

Moss care indoors includes giving the container the right amount of light. A window with about two hours of morning light is ideal if you have one. If not, place the container in the sun for a couple of hours first thing in the day, then move it to a bright spot out of direct sunlight. Alternately, you can grow your indoor moss garden on a desk with a fluorescent lamp about 12 inches above the container.

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Are you looking for ways to bring nature inside home and at the same time decorate your home? Indoor moss garden is an ideal option to try this out. Its green colour will entice your neighbours or friends and light up your home as well.

You probably love going into the woods to watch many trees covered in moss. Then you keep wondering how beautiful it will look to grow an indoor moss in your home. Growing moss in your garden or in a terrarium is the simplest and elegant way of creating a miniature forest. This will give your home a perfect natural decoration.

How to make an indoor moss terrarium

Making an indoor moss terrarium is a fun do it yourself (DIY) for parents and kids together at home.

Video courtesy: Yosun Teraryum yapimi

Here are few steps to follow:

Step 1: You can create an indoor moss terrarium with a clear glass container. Choose a wide and shallow one. A wide terrarium jar or mason jar with a lid is an ideal choice. The size is depends on space available, location and budget.

Step 2: Create a bottom layer with small rocks and pebbles. This helps for proper drainage and avoids creating a swamp inside the container. Top the pebbles up with an handful of granulated charcoal. Collect it from pet stores or aquarium stores.

Step 3: Once topped with granulated charcoal, you can then add a couple of inches of potting soil. Push down the potting soil to make a good base for moss growth. Mist up this soil with clear water using a mister or sprayer.

Step 4: Now top up the base with some tree branches, rotten barks or pine needles. Mosses love these and grows fast. Rough rocks are another option to grow mosses. Use your creativity and aesthetic sense to arrange all these to create a miniature woodlands.

Step 5: Collect sheets of mosses from neighbourhood woodlands if you have any. Don’t worry if you are living in an urban environment; look for some moss terrarium kits online. You can also buy moss separately from garden centers.

Step 6: Arrange the moss sheets on top of rocks, barks and sticks placed inside your terrarium. Press it firmly into rocks and soil to make sure it gets attached to those.

Tips:

  • Do not over water your moss terrarium. Always use a mister or sprayer to water your indoor moss garden.
  • Do not keep it under direct sunlight, some moss only needs few hours of sunlight for proper growth.
  • Moss doesn’t need any fertilisers.

It’s easy to nurture an indoor moss garden, since it requires little or no moisture and light. However you must keep the surface of the moss moist for couple of days in a week. You may place the moss garden close to sunlight for two hours a day or place the moss garden under a fluorescent lamp. Make sure this lamp stands at about 12 inches above the container. Check out Martha Stewarts story: Moss Gardens.

How to use moss as a decor?

When placed indoors, a moss can beautify and transform a home from within. There are various options available for decorating home using moss.

1. Table top moss terrarium

Having a table top moss terrarium can fill up your home with greenery; that too in a very limited space.

2. Moss wall decor

Making a moss wall is another time consuming but elegant option to decorate your living space. A lot of expertise is required to grow moss vertically on the wall. You need to limit the growth to certain area, instead it will grow all over your wall to create more mess.

3. Kokedama moss ball garden

This is another option to decorate home using moss. This is a form of Japanese gardening which adds beauty to your living room and at the same time, helps you to practice small gardening.

4. Moss Graffiti

Doing art on the wall using moss is called moss graffiti. This is good option to try outdoor than indoor.

5.Floor decors using moss

Use creative containers to grow moss and place it as a decor on your pavement.

6. Zen Garden

Making a zen garden is another option to bring moss into your garden. This can be tried both both indoor and outdoor. If you would like to know more about zen gardens, check out our article: miniature zen garden inspirations.

7.Holiday decors:

If its holiday season you can use moss to decorate your home.

How to take care of moss indoor?

Moss is different from normal plants, thus they don’t need heavy watering. They requires only moistening, and that too only a couple of days a week, to keep the surface of the moss wet. Make sure you do not expose the moss garden to direct sunlight. Some species of mosses need very little sunlight. Here you get a complete guide of growing moss indoor from gardeningknowhow.com.

Moss is quite inspirational, especially for those who appreciate the gift of nature. Moss does not grow rapidly and it can survive varying weather conditions on its own. A perfect choice for your indoor small garden!!!

Moss Gardening
How to Create, Grow and Care for a Moss Garden

They make an excellent ground cover for shade gardens, accents for rock gardens and water features,
and are a low-maintenance alternative to grass lawns.
Mosses will grow on rocks, between paving stones, over logs, in soil, or any shady spot where other plants won’t grow.
The compact nature and slow growth of many mosses make them very usable for creating a beautiful indoor landscape in a terrarium!

Growing Requirements of Moss

There are four factors that will determine your success or failure at growing moss in your landscape.
Moss requires acid soil, shading, sufficient moisture, and humidity. Soil pH Mosses prefer acidic soils with a pH between 5.0 and 6.0. They will probably not survive if the pH is higher than 6.5!
(Testing kits are available at most nurseries and home centers. They are inexpensive and easy to use easy to use…)
The pH can be adjusted by the addition of sulfur (liquid or granular) or peat moss to the soil prior to planting. Shading Most mosses prefer a medium to fairly dense shade. A bit of morning sun will help
to intensify the color of the moss but direct, hot afternoon sun will burn it.
Very few mosses will survive in full sun. The ideal growing locations are northern or eastern facing slopes or wooded areas.
When choosing the planting area, be sure to consider the sun’s location during all four seasons.
(An area that is fully shaded now may be in full sun by mid summer!) Sufficient Moisture Once established, moss will tolerate periods of drought, but it prefers constant moisture.
However, if the moss is to survive, it is absolutely imperative that the area is kept constantly moist
for at least the first three weeks following transplanting. Humidity Because moss obtains its nutrients from the air, humidity is very important, but it is very hard to control.
If the area is kept moist enough there will naturally be a certain amount of humidity in the growing zone.
Water features will increase the humidity in the immediate area of the feature,
but the best method is probably to install an automated misting system.

Planting Moss

Moss plants need a firm soil bed rather than loose, fluffy soil, so if the area has been cultivated recently it should be tamped down lightly prior to laying your moss. Remove any debris, plants or leaves (moss doesn’t like compost).
Lay the sections of moss on the soil and tamp them firmly into position. (I lay a square piece of plywood over the patch and step onto it to create even pressure). If you purchase moss in a pot, firm the surrounding area then dig a planting hole the exact size of the pot. (No roots, remember?)
If you want to grow your moss on a rock or log, mix up some regular old mud and spread it on the surface you want to cover before pressing the moss into place.
Water regularly and thoroughly for the first 3 weeks.

Where to Get Moss

Unfortunately, at this time there are not many different types of moss available for sale.
Many nurseries don’t carry it at all….. The easiest way to acquire moss for the garden is to transplant
a strip from your own or a neighbor’s woods (With their permission, of course!).
It is best to remove the moss attached to a layer of the material it is already growing on to avoid excess damage to the protonema.
I use a square shovel to cut the edges of the patch I am after, then try to scoop an inch of soil with the moss.
Mosses which grow on rotting wood will most likely require a rotting wood surface to survive.
If possible, remove it still attached to the wood or gather some of the rotted material for the planting area.
If all else fails it will probably grow for you on packed garden bark mulch.
Remove moss from rocks carefully, with a wide putty knife.

Propagating Moss

Take a clump of healthy moss and crumble it into your blender.
Add 2 cups of buttermilk and 2 cups of water
Blend at the lowest speed until it is completely mixed and the consistency of a thin milk shake. (add water if necessary)
Paint the mixture onto rocks, pots or statuary, or simply pour it on the ground wherever you’d like your moss to grow!
Burl with many Mosses

Terrarium Plant Care

At our terrarium workshops we create succulent terrariums, where you learn how to create an ecosystem. A terrarium is a great introduction into plant care as terrariums are low maintenance and easy to care for. The succulent in your terrarium can survive with little water and indirect light. To keep your new terrarium glass garden happy and healthy there are a few things to keep in mind.

Water

When to water?

Water your succulent terrarium only when the soil has gone completely dry. This is usually a month after you first build your terrarium. Use a water bottle that has a release mechanism. Succulents are highly susceptible to root-rot. Overwatering is the number one reason a succulent will die. Ensure the plant has dried out before watering, this helps determine how many days it takes for your terrarium to dry out in your home or office. When in doubt, don’t water.

Water the roots of each plant, making sure to lightly spritz the soil around that plant. Remember, there is are no holes at the bottom of the terrarium for the water to get air from, therefore the lightest possible amount of water is best, otherwise you may begin to see the succulent root brown. If you see the bottom leaves shrivel up, remove them with a pair of eyebrow pliers. Succulents are desert plants and like to totally dry between waterings. Succulents like to have their soil moistened but never the root so saturated it can’t dry itself out again. Set a watering schedule for your terrarium and stick to it. Terrariums thrive on a regular and appropriate watering plan.

How do I know if I have over watered my terrarium?

The root of your succulent may look like it’s darkening lower on the succulent’s base stem. This is from too much water held in the root. If you have a sealed terrarium, condensation may build up. This signals excess water in the succulent. Open the lid until the condensation disappears. If you have an open terrarium, wipe the glass with a paper towel. Mold is another signal that you are over-watering your terrarium. Carefully clean the mold off the leaves and soil, removing the mold from the terrarium. Move your terrarium to a brighter space in your home and refrain from watering the terrarium until the soil fully dries out.

What should I water my terrarium with?

The best tool to use is our watering bottles. We do not recommend using a spray bottle. Water around the roots, giving your succulent’s roots a spurt of water. The succulent leaves are allowed to get wet, but do not rely on this method of watering for a full watering. Focus your watering on each plant’s roots, after weeks of no water. Make sure not to flood or over-saturate the terrain roots, as this may darken the lower succulent stem.

Light

Where should I place my terrarium in my home?

Place your succulent and cacti terrarium in a bright nook of your home. You’ll want it to be bright but not a spot where your terrarium would get too hot. Keep in mind that glass tends to magnify direct sun and can potentially burn your plants, If your terrarium feels hot, re-locate it. A lot of natural sunlight is the area you want to place your terrarium, it needs light to stay dry. Do not place your terrarium near or on a radiator or air conditioner, nor near a door or window with a cool draft. Finding the correct placement for your terrarium is key to it’s success.

How much light should my terrarium receive a day?

Terrariums need at least 5-6 hours of direct sunlight. Think of their natural desert environment. Place your terrarium where it can receive some direct light where the rays sun shines some daylight on the leaves of the plant. Generally, anywhere sun naturally lights up a room. Unobstructed southern and western exposures are the most constant and warmest sources of direct light.

Troubleshooting

What to do when your succulent looks yellow?

If you notice the leaves are turning yellow at the bottom of the succulent this means they have received too much water. It’s okay to pluck these away, they’ll regenerate shrink away or can be propagated into new pups. If this has happened to your terrarium, refrain from watering the terrarium until the soil dries, let your succulent completely dry out before watering again.

If your succulents leaves look like they’re turning brown and crunchy this means that the succulents in your terrarium is under-watered. If the leaves look completely dead, carefully remove the leaves from the plant with pruning scissors or eyebrow tweezers. This won’t harm the succulent as in this case, the leaves are crunchy and brown. Be sure to peak in at the base and if the full stem is dark the succulent may have died off.

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Terrarium and Vivarium Maintenance

The dream of many amphibian and reptile hobbyists is to create a thriving, self-sustaining, maintenance-free ecosystem that houses both live plants and animals. With proper planning, it is possible to create a beautiful living terrarium that comes close to the dreamed self-sustaining system.

Sometimes called a bioactive terrarium, beneficial microorganisms play a large role in the health of this type of setup and do much of the work involved in maintaining it for you. Unfortunately, these little creatures can’t do all the work, so with this article I would like to take a moment to discuss vivarium maintenance.

Definitions

First off, what is a terrarium and how are they different from other types of herp housing? Terrariums are miniature greenhouses. They glass enclosures that contain live plants. The addition of plants, which can help to breakdown animal waste, is the difference between a terrarium and your average reptile or amphibian enclosure. A vivarium is a terrarium that has been designed to house and accommodate the needs of animals. Generally, the focus of a vivarium is the animals that are being kept in it rather than the live plants. A paludarium, aqua-terrarium, or aqua-vivarium are all different words used to describe a terrarium or vivarium that is designed for semi-aquatic plants and/or animals and has a large water area to accommodate them.

How do you build a terrarium, vivarium or paludarium? See Creating a Tropical Terrarium

An example of a simple paludarium housing mossy frogs (Theloderma sp.)

In all of the above environments there is some maintenance required by the keeper. The amount of vivarium maintenance needed depends on the species being kept, the number of individuals being kept, the amount and types of plants, the size of the enclosure, the substrate, and other aspects of terrarium and vivarium design.

Waste Removal

The most frequent kind of upkeep involved in terrariums and vivariums, besides basic plant and animal care (feeding animals, regulating correct temperature and humidity, etc.), is removing waste from the tank.

When keeping insectivorous reptiles or amphibians, leftover dead feeder insects can create a lot of waste. Dead insects often mold over in tropical terrariums and can become a source of unwanted waste, so remove them as soon as they are noticed.

Fallen and rotting plants are another form of waste that is often overlooked. If a plant in the terrarium starts to rot or die it may need to be removed. A large dying plant in a small tank can create too much waste for the system to handle, however occasional fallen leaves and let to decompose on their own usually do not present a problem.

Other common sources of waste that should be removed include accumulating animal feces, shed skin, and infertile eggs.

Other than misting and feeding, the pruning of plants and removal of waste are the main forms of maintenance for terrariums.

But don’t worry; this work is not entirely left to you. A terrarium that has been set up for a few months should have healthy populations of beneficial bacteria that help take care of the waste. Additionally, other good microorganisms and small helpful invertebrates can be introduced into a terrarium by mixing leaf compost from outside into the soil or substrate. Unwanted organisms can also be introduced from leaf compost along with desirable ones, so consider the risks before going out and grabbing a handful of leaf mold to toss into a tank. Pests include slugs, snails, and other animals that eat plants and reproduce easily.

Water Changes

Just like in a simple setup for reptiles and amphibians, water changes need to be done regularly. Water dishes are easy to change but often look unnatural in a terrarium. Instead of using a water dish, you may prefer to create a small pond or reservoir where water naturally collects in a lower part of the enclosure. This works well and looks more attractive than a water dish, but it’s important that this water is still partially replaced on a regular basis.

When there is a large volume of well-oxygenated water, such in a paludarium, it can be best to rely on beneficial bacteria to control harmful waste in a similar way to that of an aquarium. In these setups, partial water changes should be done every two to three weeks. The use of a filter may also be helpful when a large volume of water is being used.

When using small volumes of water, it can be more difficult to maintain stable conditions, and partial water changes may be needed as often as once or twice weekly. The addition of live aquatic and emergent vegetation can help control nitrates, and is a good addition to a pond in a terrarium or vivarium.

Live plants help to control waste as it builds up, but even so regular water changes are important.

Glass

The appearance of a healthy terrarium can be ruined if the glass is difficult to see through. Water spots are a common problem and develop quickly if tap water or spring water is used to mist the terrarium. To help avoid this problem, use distilled or reverse osmosis water for misting.

Condensation is inevitable and will always form on the front of the glass in tropical terrariums unless a large amount of ventilation is provided or the temperature on the inside of the terrarium is the same as out. Unfortunately, providing large vents or screen sections in a terrarium for ventilation or temperature control can also drastically reduce the humidity level, and may not be practical for some terrariums or vivariums.

Algae and cyanobacteria (blue green algae) often wreak havoc on the glass terrariums, and may need to be wiped off regularly. You can use a razor blade to scrape the front glass of a terrarium every couple weeks in order to maintain good visibility. Do not use razor blades on acrylic because they will scratch it. Instead, use a paper towel or acrylic-safe algae pad to wipe the front of an acrylic enclosure.

Condensation on the glass of a tropical terrarium is often unavoidable.

Vivarium Substrate Maintenance

Many people new to terrariums fear that the substrate needs to be changed regularly like it does in a simple setup. Fortunately, most well-planned terrariums do not need to have their substrate entirely replaced. The plants and microorganisms living in the substrate help breakdown waste and do most of the cleaning for you. In areas where large amounts of waste accumulate, such as a feeding area where insects are dropped into the cage or underneath a basking site, it may be helpful to scoop out the substrate and replace it every few months. Soil mixtures based off of coconut husk fiber can last years in a vivarium. Those based off of peat or fir bark may spoil faster. The substrate should never become waterlogged or completely saturated with water, so providing good drainage is key to a long-lasting substrate.

The substrate of a healthy vivarium may never need to be entirely changed, though regular spot cleaning and paying attention to the smell of the enclosure are still important.

Use Your Nose

The smell of a terrarium is a good indication of its health. A healthy terrarium will smell fresh and have a pleasant odor, like the forest floor or a pile of leaves. A terrarium that has a bad odor when opened and smells like muck in a bog is not healthy and should have its substrate partially or entirely replaced.

Not all terrariums can go for long periods of time without a complete substrate change. Those that house large reptiles or amphibians or contain a high density of small ones may accumulate waste too quickly for the beneficial critters to breakdown, and in this case the soil may need to be changed a few times a year to maintain a healthy environment.

To Conclude

Terrariums and vivariums are more attractive than simple herp housing and can be less work to maintain. They are enclosed biological systems, and much of the cleaning that has to be done in more simple hygienic setups is instead performed by beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms. But this isn’t to say that terrariums and vivariums are maintenance free. There is still a fair amount of work that needs to be put into keeping one healthy and clean. Removing large amounts of waste, doing water changes, cleaning the glass, and partially replacing some of the substrate are the regular tasks that need to be completed in order to sustain a living terrarium or vivarium. When these are done on a regular basis, most terrariums and vivariums survive for years with minimal maintenance from the keeper.

Terrariums are a fun and artistic way to create a miniature botanical world. A thriving closed terrarium forms a unique ecosystem that needs little maintenance – but it does require some. Let’s look at what goes into routine closed terrarium care and how to keep your glass garden thriving.

How To Care For A Closed Terrarium: An established, healthy closed terrarium can last almost indefinitely with proper attention. The primary chore is monitoring the system’s moisture and making needed adjustments. Other regular tasks include pruning, transplanting, cleaning the glass, infrequent fertilization, and removing mold and dead material.

What Is A Terrarium?

There are two types of terrariums. A closed system creates a stable humid environment for plants, while open containers are subject to the outside air and dry out more quickly. Our focus is on closed systems.

It can take time to bring a closed terrarium into balance, but once the system is established it needs little water and is easy to care for. It’s not unusual for a healthy terrarium to go without watering for months at a time.

How Do Closed Terrariums Work?

One of the fascinations of a terrarium is seeing how nature creates and sustains a living microcosm. Understanding how a closed system works helps you maintain it properly.

The soil within the terrarium supports healthy microbial processes that nourish living plants. Moisture from evaporation and plant transpiration recirculate as condensed “rain” droplets that keep the soil moist.

Photosynthesis powers a dynamic cycle that keeps the air healthy. The terrarium’s plants use light to produce oxygen which is consumed at night; carbon dioxide is consumed during the day through photosynthesis and produced through the dark hours by plant respiration. It’s quite amazing!

A terrarium’s established ecosystem absorbs small changes to stay in an overall healthy balance. Yet, though nature takes care of most of the issues in a terrarium, its ecology isn’t complete. It needs light and an occasional helping hand.

What Plants Do Well In A Closed Terrarium?

The plants you use in your terrarium make a difference in how easy it will be to maintain.

You don’t need a huge variety of species for an interesting miniature landscape, and it’s important to select plants that like the same general conditions. Key common factors include light requirements and preferences in moisture level and temperature. It’s also best if they share dormancy patterns.

You don’t want a plant that grows too large or too fast. Pruning can only go so far, and it becomes tiresome to continually replant overgrown specimens that take over the space. Even aggressive smaller plants can overpower an environment without frequent intervention.

A closed system makes it possible to keep tender tropical plants that wouldn’t thrive otherwise. Mosses and ferns are especially attractive in a terrarium, and trendy plants like Peperomias, Pilea and Baby Tears can be easier to grow behind glass than on a dry windowsill. Exotic epiphytes and the low-growing nerve plant are excellent choices, too.

Small orchids, mini-African violets, and other flowering exotics love a terrarium environment and add vibrant color to the scene.

Closed Terrarium Light Requirements

Most terrariums require high light, but keep them out of direct sun: You don’t want to create a sauna. Watch out for seasonal changes that can make the light too dim or too intense; move the terrarium as necessary.

Plant legginess indicates the light is too low. Give the terrarium a brighter location or add a grow light.

If the light comes from only one direction, rotate the terrarium occasionally to keep plant growth balanced. Artificial illumination is convenient, but you’ll need to shift an angled source from time to time.

How To Water A Closed Terrarium

Watering a terrarium is usually easier than a keeping potted plant. The trick is knowing what to do … and when.

Use filtered water that has been dechlorinated to avoid burning the roots and upsetting the bacterial balance. Distilled water is good, too, and it also reduces mineral deposits.

Why Is My Terrarium Foggy?

Condensation on the inside of the terrarium – Leave the lid off for a while to allow some water to evaporate.

A closed terrarium recirculates water in a process similar to natural rainfall. Moisture condenses into water drops that continually fall back into the soil. Once your terrarium is balanced, you should see droplets form near the top of the container: the glass will be clear otherwise.

Foggy glass indicates too much water in the system. This is common in new setups, but it can happen any time you overwater. The solution is simply to open the terrarium to let outside air flow reduce the moisture.

Once ventilation has cleared the glass, you can reclose the system—but keep watching. You want some condensation to form, but if fog reappears you’ll need to reopen the terrarium to clear it again. Repeat the process until you see condensed droplets at the top but the terrarium’s glass remains clear.

How Much Should I Water My Closed Terrarium?

A healthy terrarium has soil that is moist but not soggy. It is essential that roots can obtain water and nutrients but also breathe. Sodden soil will lead to deadly root rot.

Watch the leaves for signs of wilting or yellowing. If either occurs, check the soil to see whether it’s dry or wet. Wilting in dry soil means the plant needs a drink, but if they are drooping in wet soil it signals problems with root rot.

The humidity of a closed terrarium makes the plants vulnerable to moisture-related issues, so be vigilant. It’s best to catch problems early because they can ruin the system. If you see a problem developing:

  • Ventilate the terrarium until the soil dries to its proper level.
  • Discard decayed or decomposing vegetation. Double check for puffy stems that signal underlying root rot.
  • Remove mold-covered stones or other fixtures and rinse off before replacing.
  • Don’t re-water the soil until the areas of decay are well dried.
  • Also, remember to water less in the dormant season.

How you water is important, too. If you have a small, thickly planted terrarium, one method is to water the soil surface sparingly and tilt the container so that it spreads throughout the medium. Look at the soil saturation through the glass to make sure the moisture is evenly distributed.

For more sparse plantings or larger terrariums, it’s best to water the plants individually with a syringe, dropper, drinking straw, or a small scoop. A spray bottle with a coarse stream can help avoid overwatering.

After watering, leave the top open until the plants are dry to avoid fungal issues. If you do overwater, tilt the terrarium so that water pools in one area and sponge it up with paper towels.

Closed Terrarium Humidity

Closed terrariums naturally create high ambient air moisture. Avoid light and heat extremes and don’t overwater, and you won’t have an issue with humidity.

Misting is sometimes recommended to keep the plants moist, but it’s not always necessary. It can minimize the need for watering but doesn’t replace it.

If you decide to mist – a light spritz does freshen some plants – don’t overdo it. It can stimulate fungal issues. Ventilate the system afterwards until the leaves are dry.

Cleaning A Closed Terrarium

To keep your terrarium looking great and ensure light shines through, regularly clean the glass. The outside can be wiped with commercial window cleaner, but be sure to use non-toxic products on the interior sides. You don’t want to poison your captive environment.

Mineral deposits form white residue on the glass over time, especially if you use tap water. (If you have a very hard source, distilled water will save you some work.) Clean the deposits with a 50%-50% mix of water and white vinegar; it will take some rubbing. Wet a paper towel with the mixture and wrap it around a chopstick if your hands are too big to reach a tight space.

To give your terrarium a polished finish, take out and rinse any piece of hardscaping covered with grit or slime. Gently wipe or spritz off leaves that have been soiled during your exertions. Let the surface moisture dry before resealing the terrarium.

Temperature Requirements

Terrariums don’t make good greenhouses. Sunlight will definitely heat up the interior, but the space is too small. Temperatures can quickly soar and roast your plants.

Keep your terrarium in indirect light and let room temperature dictate their conditions. Make adjustments if the interior is noticeably different than the local temperature.

Closed Terrarium Ventilation

A closed terrarium recycles its air because the plants produce oxygen in light and consume it in darkness. This forms the main composition of the air your plants need, but this balance isn’t exact. It’s a good idea to open the terrarium for a few hours every two or three weeks to refresh the system.

This is a good time for maintenance. After you close the terrarium again, check that condensation reforms on the glass. If not, add a bit of water until it’s rebalanced.

How To Prune A Closed Terrarium

Terrarium plants are easy to care for because they grow more slowly in the limited conditions, but healthy plants do grow. Pruning is one of the main chores in keeping a terrarium healthy and attractive.

Check your plantings objectively. Subtle changes can accumulate and gradually crowd out your carefully created scene. There are three complications to pay attention to:

  • Plants grow at different speeds. You won’t necessarily be pruning everything together.
  • Plants may interfere with each other. Pay attention to how much light each plant receives. Even a slower-growing plant will put out leaves that can block others.
  • Leaves that grow to touch the glass can attract condensation and are more prone to mold and fungal issues.

Sterilize your tools before cutting, and make sure the blade is sharp. Bruised foliage or stems invite decay.

When removing overgrown leaves, pinch them from a lower node in a place you want new growth to start. Beheading is a valuable technique for limiting the size of your plants, and it also encourages bushier growth beneath the cut.

I pruned these plants prior to planting this closed terrarium to keep the plants in proportion.

Fertilizing A Closed Terrarium

Your terrarium’s soil doesn’t need much fertility – in fact, it can be counterproductive. You want the plants to remain small and contained: it’s easier to maintain the system if the greenery grows at a moderate pace.

Because of this, it’s not necessary to fertilize most terrariums in their first year. It’s best not to put a lot of rich organic matter in the soil, either.

The leaves will tell you when they want a little boost: they grow pale when they need more nutrition. Fertilize using a balanced formula and apply sparingly with a diluted ¼ solution of the regular dose.

Maintenance For Beauty And Health

Some death and decay is inevitable. Remove declining leaves, stems, and flower parts. You don’t want a lot of organic material to build up and encourage rot.

Take out plants that have overgrown the space. You can replace them with similarly sized plants so the landscape isn’t drastically changed.

It’s also very important to remove any plant that starts to look unhealthy. You don’t want it to spread disease or garner mold that can grow to other plants. Dig it out carefully with a spoon or other tool so that other plants aren’t disturbed.

Closed Terrarium Planting Tips

Closed terrarium care should be easy – here are some helpful tricks to keep it that way.

  • Rinse your plants carefully before putting them in the terrarium. You don’t want to introduce bugs, mold, or foreign chemicals.
  • Make sure your soil is sterile to avoid bringing pests and mold spores into a closed system. Commercial mixes are usually fine, but sterilize it by baking if you have any doubts.
  • Allow growing room. The plants will fill up your landscape soon enough. Minimize the need for pruning and grooming by giving the plants a margin for growth.
  • Trim the roots to keep a plant smaller. Most plants are tolerant of having their roots trimmed: it’s something that happens in nature. Don’t cut the large tap roots, just the thread roots that grow from it.
  • A good rule of thumb is to plan on replenishing your plants annually. You may get lucky with a slow-grower that looks good longer than that, but most thriving plants eventually outgrow a typical terrarium. Yearly replacements help you keep a well-tamed landscape.

Stay Alert For Mold

Routinely check the soil, hardscape, and plants for mold. It’s white and fuzzy and can spread like wildfire.

Get rid of it immediately.

Put a tissue over the mold to keep spores from releasing as you take it out. If it’s significantly covering a plant, consider taking it out, too.

Scratch the soil near where the mold was to expose it to air, and ventilate the container. Mold develops in moist conditions, so an outbreak is a sign of too much water. Watch the terrarium closely for new patches.

If you have an out-of-control situation, try leaving the cover off for several days to let it dry thoroughly, but if half or more of the terrarium is infected with mold, it’s probably time to scrap it and start over.

Pest Problems

Humid conditions attract insects, but don’t necessarily panic if you see some tiny critters. There are even a few beneficial animals that help maintain the terrarium ecology. Springtails are commonly used because they eat mold, for example. Pillbugs and millipedes feed on decaying matter.

Incidentally, one sign of bug life is little trails left in the condensation; however, the ones you need to worry about stay mainly on the plants.

Spiders, moths, and beetles, and other insects that don’t eat plants may hitchhike their way in, but there usually isn’t much food for them: they don’t last long.

Plant-sucking pests are a bigger problem. Only use non-toxic insecticides. Remove any plant that shows signs of significant infestation – it’s hard to do battle in a closed system.

Closed Terrarium Care Questions

Can you put succulents in a closed terrarium?

You can, of course, but the humidity factor works against it. Succulents do better in an open terrarium.

Can air plants live in a closed terrarium?

Yes, air plants love the humid conditions of a terrarium. They don’t need to be planted in the soil, so you have more scope to place them on rocks and other hardscape. Just make sure they dry completely after watering. Some growers take them out of the terrarium to more thoroughly water and dry them.

Should I use charcoal in my closed terrarium?

Horticulture charcoal (not briquettes!) is recommended to help neutralize toxins and odors in a closed terrarium. A 1/4 to 1/2 inch layer between the bottom drainage material and moss or topsoil provides a mild buffer in a closed system by absorbing orders, harmful chemicals, and bacteria.

Read my guide to terrarium soil layers to learn how to create the ideal environment for your plants.

Does a glass jug make a good terrarium?

Small enclosed terrariums can be beautiful, but you’ll need patience if using a container with a small opening. To construct and maintain them, you will need special tools including long-handled scissors, scoops, tweezers, and waterers (basters work well).

How long does a closed terrarium last?

Terrariums can be sustained for years. That isn’t to say the same plants will continue to live in a closed system indefinitely, but a healthy terrarium can last for as long as you properly maintain it.

International Carnivorous Plant Society

There are about 280 moss species in the genus Sphagnum. A few of them are good for growing carnivorous plants. There are over 8000 other species of true mosses. Some of these you have probably seen growing with Sphagnum such as feather moss which is benign and hair-cap moss which can be a nuisance. Probably the most insidious and most common moss Ceratodon purpureus is called red roof moss. You do not want it but chances are it is in most of your carnivore pots.

I do not know which species of Sphagnum moss I grow or if it is a combination of species. I have had dried Chilean and New Zealand Sphagnum start growing. I have also received live North American Sphagnum. Over the years they all got mixed together. What I have does not like growing in water but loves growing on top of other media. I use it as a mulch for Heliamphora, a “soil” for Sarracenia purpurea subsp. purpurea and Drosera rotundifolia, and in the soil mix for Nepenthes, Heliamphora, and Darlingtonia. It is easy to grow.

As much as possible you should try to grow your own Sphagnum rather than buy it dried. New Zealand Sphagnum is grown in a sustainable manner and is very expensive. The less expensive Chilean is not and the relatively cheap Wisconsin Sphagnum definitely is not. You are likely to find dried carnivorous plants in the Wisconsin Sphagnum.

To grow your own Sphagnum fill the bottom of a wide, short pot or even a tray with some medium to about the expected water level then put pieces of live Sphagnum on the surface. Put the pots in a water tray with your carnivores or keep the water level in the Sphagnum tray just below the moss. If you have a greenhouse, under the benches is a great place. Sphagnum does not like hot sun. Spray the Sphagnum with foliar fertilizer at least monthly. It should grow like crazy.

If you can not grow enough Sphagnum, it can be purchased by the bale. Buy it in bales from a large-scale reputable dealer. There are dealers who buy the bales and resell the Sphagnum fluffed up by the cubic foot. You pay extra for that “service”.

It does matter what species of dried, dead long fibered Sphagnum you use. Dried Wisconsin Sphagnum is not much better than a high class peat substitute. It breaks apart too easily and does not hold water the way Chilean and New Zealand Sphagnum do. It is good for starting seeds and may be a better all-round medium that peat. But the real thing is the southern hemisphere Sphagnum. Chilean and New Zealand Sphagnum break down very slowly and make a good long-term medium. It is highly recommended as part of a Nepenthes, Heliamphora, or Darlingtonia mix. I also use it for ropey rooted Drosera that I do not want to always be repotting.

An issue with Sphagnum is Sporotrichosis, a disease caused by a soil fungus. It is highly recommended you use gloves when handling North American Sphagnum and it is a good idea when handling any organic-based potting soil. Nitrile single use gloves are inexpensive and readily available in boxes of 100 at hardware stores.

— John Brittnacher

For more information please see:

Schnell, Don (1991) First verified reported case of Sporotrichosis in an ICPS member. Carniv. Pl. Newslett. 20(3):69-70 ( PDF )

Live Sphagnum overgrowing Heliamphora in a terrarium. There is a pot under there somewhere.

Growing
Sphagnum Moss

Sphagnum can be very easy to cultivate if a few simple rules are followed. I’ve been growing several species now for a couple years with some excellent results. Here is a summary of what I have learned from scientific journals and my own personal experiences.
1. Start with fresh, actively growing cuttings taken from the top 10cm of the plant, below this viability drops off proportionally.
2. Chop these cuttings into segments at least 1-3cm in size. Any smaller tends to over stress the cuttings and reduce regeneration.

3. Use a substrate consisting of good quality peat. If building an outside mini-bog, use a minimum depth of 50cm if possible.
4. Sow at a minimum rate of 1:10 (cuttings taken from 1 square foot are used to “seed” 10 square feet). Coverage rates are directly proportional to sow rates. Ideally, a continuous light layer of quality cuttings would be used.
5. Growth rates have been shown to increase with an initial light covering of mulch. It needs to be deep enough to prevent the moss from drying out, but thin enough to permit light to reach the moss. In my small-scale cultures I use the same sphagnum. In larger applications straw has been used successfully. Sphagnum will also benefit from some vascular plants. A commonly cited example is Cotton Grass. All of this improves the microenvironment found at the surface of the peat.
6. Water level is critical for respiration and photosynthesis. Most species of Sphagnum will appreciate an occasional flooding of 3 cm or less. Respiration and photosynthesis levels peak out with a water level of 12cm below the surface. (However, this is for mature cultures in which the sphagnum is over 12cm in height) In new cultures you must maintain the water level at a point that prevents the sphagnum from drying out. Browing of the tips is usually an indication that conditions require a higher water level.
7. Use only rain, distilled or RO water. Sphagnum will not tolerate hard water.
8. Ideal temperature range for most species is 50-70f
9. Sphagnum appreciates a “basin” when getting started; this helps to maintain a more favorable microenvironment. For my cultures I use plastic containers that protrude a few inches above the moss.
10. As a rule of thumb, the more colorful the species, the higher the light level required to maintain that color level. (Almost all species can be found in green when grown under lower light conditions)
Sphagnum occurs naturally in true bogs, fens, swamps…etc.
Truly optimal growing conditions will vary somewhat from species to species, as will color, growth rates, Ph levels and so on.
There are excellent field guides available for Sphagnum. But even with a good guide and a microscope, correct identification can still be difficult at best.
Thanks for visiting and good luck!

04.10.2005

Moss And Terrariums: Tips On Making Moss Terrariums

Moss and terrariums go together perfectly. Requiring little soil, low light, and dampness rather than lots of water, moss is an ideal ingredient in terrarium making. 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 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.

How to Take Care of Moss

Paul Costello

Having a moss garden or terrarium is a simple way to bring a little bit of the wild into your home — especially if you’ve foraged the moss yourself. But the key to keeping your moss thriving is making sure to give it the proper care, which is different in a lot of cases from your typical houseplant. Here, we give you a few foolproof tips and tricks to keeping your moss in tip-top shape, from the moment you bring it indoors to the moment (should you choose to return it to the wild) you take it back.

Picking the Right Soil

While a lot of plants prefer to have their soil super light and fluffy, mosses are the opposite: they like their soil packed and firm. Plus, you’ll want to take acidity into account when it comes to picking the right soil for you moss, since the plant thrives best in acidic environments. There are cases, like when you find moss growing on limestone, that the plant works just fine with alkaline bases, but for the most part, it’s safe to assume that your moss will do better in soil with a lower pH level (usually between 5.0 and 6.0). If you’re unsure about the acidity of your soil, you can buy an easy-to-use pH test to figure out what you’re working with.

SOIL RECIPES: Here’s the Dirt on Them Image zoom Paul Costello

Watering Your Moss

Mosses are fans of damp environments, so it’s important to make sure that keep the soil consistently moist for your plant. That’s not to say, though, that you can’t still overwater a moss. You’ll have to be careful not create a puddle or swamp while watering, in which case you should try to tip out any excess water when possible. This is especially true if you have your moss in a terrarium, where, unlike regular potted houseplants, excess water won’t be able to evaporate. To keep your moss healthy, simply mist the plant regularly and give it a good watering about twice a week. And be sure to use filtered water as opposed to tap, since tap water can contain too much chlorine and might turn your mosses brown.

Image zoom Paul Costello

Giving Your Moss Enough Light

Most moss is known for thriving in shaded areas, which makes sense since these are the areas that are typically the most moist in the wilderness. But there are still a few varieties of mosses that prefer to have a little more sunlight than usual. That’s why the key to deciding where to place your plant in order to make sure it’s getting enough light is to understand the conditions under which your moss naturally thrives in nature. Of course, this is easier if you’ve foraged the moss yourself and can refer to the spot where you found it growing for ideal conditions. No matter how you got your moss, though, you can see what it likes best by doing a bit of homework on your particular variety, or by simply placing it in any spot around the house and keeping a close eye on it to see how well it’s doing. And keep in mind: even the mosses that prefer shade tend to have a sweet spot for artificial light and indirect sunlight.

Image zoom Paul Costello

Pruning Your Moss

Something that mosses do have in common with every other plant is that it’s totally normal for parts of the plant to thrive while others start looking a little shabby. If that’s the case, it might be time to prune. If parts of the plant are getting too long, trim them down a bit in order to promote fuller re-growth. When you’re dealing with a larger piece of moss that isn’t doing too well, you might want to replace that chunk altogether by simply removing the area you need to swap out and putting a newly foraged (or purchased) bit of moss in its place.

Image zoom

Getting Rid of Mold

If you have your mosses growing in a terrarium, it’s especially likely that you might have to deal with mold at some point or other, which often occurs as a result of overwatering. If the time comes and you start seeing white, cotton-like spots on the surface of your plant, try wiping the mold away gently and then letting a bit of water evaporate from your plant before replacing the lid. This will reset the water level in your terrarium and help prevent further mold growths. However, if you try to wipe the mold away and find that it isn’t coming off, you’ll want to use a knife or scissors to carefully remove the parts of the moss with mold growing on them to prevent the moss from spreading. You can then make up for any lost moss by simply replacing missing chunks with fresh new moss.

MOLD CONTROL: Here’s How to Prevent It

Moss creates a stunning visual effect in any indoor space, so it’s no surprise that you want to create an indoor moss garden of your own. Fortunately, this isn’t tough to accomplish! In this guide, I’ll give you the ins and outs of growing moss indoors, including how to care for your moss garden once you have it set up.

Growing moss indoors is a relatively simple project, making it perfect for parents to do with their children. All you need to do is –

  • Gather a little bit of moss from nearly anywhere
  • Create an environment that will allow that moss to grow and flourish.

This is done using a glass or plastic container, like a terrarium or mason jar, and different natural materials to mimic the great outdoors. Mist a bit of water every now and then, ensure your moss has exposure to plenty of sunlight, and avoid the use of fertilizer to help your moss garden grow.

While growing moss indoors is quite simple, there are some details to moss growth and care that you need to keep in mind. You will need specific items and tools to properly gather, transplant and care for your moss. Below, I will go into great detail to teach you how to get the most out of your new indoor moss garden.

A Comprehensive Guide to Growing Moss Indoors

Moss is incredibly easy to grow, but you need to know what moss needs to thrive in order to grow it indoors successfully. Moss flourishes in areas with adequate moisture and plenty of sunlight, so you should focus on re-creating the natural circumstances in which moss grows.

A Shopping List for Your Indoor Moss Garden

First things first, you need to gather the right materials. Unlike planting other forms of flora, you do not need to use fertilizer or nutrient solutions. Here’s what you need to have on-hand, with examples featured from Amazon.

Pincers

These are used to gather and arrange your moss, as well as help you to gently remove any dead material from your indoor moss garden. These basic tweezers are perfect for getting the job done.

A container

Plastic works fine, but glass containers are really the most aesthetically pleasing. There is no particular shape or type of container required here. You can even repurpose an old pickle jar if you want to! I, however, am a fan of the way a geometric terrarium looks, such as this one.

Pebbles

You only need a single layer of pebbles across the bottom of your container to create a base for your indoor moss garden. You can search for pebbles in your own backyard or buy them from a landscaping store or Amazon.

Pine needles, rotting bark or potting soil

Most moss species are best nurtured by either pine needles or rotten tree bark as opposed to potting soil. You may need potting soil if your preferred species of moss requires it. You only need to build up a single layer of these materials on top of the pebbles to help your moss develop.

A spray bottle

You will need to make sure that your moss is adequately hydrated, and the interior of your container sustains a humid atmosphere. Use clean, fresh water to hydrate your moss garden as needed. You can buy a special sprayer like this one (Amazon link).

Now that you have all of the above in your possession, it’s time to get the moss that will serve as the beginning of your indoor moss garden. You can easily get your hands on some moss if you know where you can find it in your area. If you’re going to obtain moss from somewhere other than your own property, make sure to get permission first.

Whole sheets of fresh moss are preferred, but if you can only get the moss in sections, that’s fine too. It will all grow the same.

Constructing Your Indoor Moss Garden

Building your contained moss garden is easy once you have everything you need to get started. After collecting your moss and gathering or buying your materials, follow these simple steps:

  1. Make sure that the container is clean.
  2. Place a layer of pebbles at the bottom of the container.
  3. Lay down your rotting bark, pine needles or potting soil in a thin layer on top of the pebbles.
  4. Gently place your gathered moss on top of the soil/bark/pine layer.
  5. Mist the moss with your spray bottle and seal the container’s lid. Watch your indoor moss garden grow!

Indoor Moss Garden Examples

Are you in need of inspiration to design your own indoor moss garden? You might be amazed at what you can accomplish with moss!

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A post shared by My Plant (@philocaly_plant) on Nov 5, 2016 at 3:17am PDT

This cute, little moss garden can add a pretty distinct touch to any surface. Its small size makes it easy to care for, especially since you can conveniently place it right on your desk!

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A post shared by Curtis Blanton (@shotcowboystyle) on Dec 23, 2013 at 2:30pm PST

Moss can also be used to enhance the appearance of your existing indoor plants.

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A post shared by Uptown Café (@uptown.cafe) on Nov 16, 2018 at 9:27am PST

Do you have a green thumb and a lot of patience? It’s possible to grow moss directly on surfaces like walls. I recommend that you get the hang of growing and nurturing moss in a container first, before pursuing an epic undertaking like this one.

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A post shared by Zoë Mariella (@zoezaar) on Apr 30, 2018 at 9:51am PDT

Container gardens are becoming incredibly popular, especially in urban areas. Moss containers add a luscious and unconventional touch that draws the eye and increases the aesthetic of the container garden overall.

Caring for Your Indoor Moss

One great thing about moss is that it requires very little care in order to thrive, even indoors. In terms of water consumption, however, moss is a fair bit more demanding of water than other types of plants that you may have kept indoors previously. Without adequate hydration and humidity, your moss garden will turn brown and eventually die.

Sunlight

Many people have made the mistake of putting their moss containers in a dark area, in hopes of increasing the humidity within the container. Do not do this! Your moss needs plenty of sunlight, both direct and indirect, to continue developing and growing. If possible in your current setup, consider placing your container on a windowsill that gets at least a couple of hours of direct sunlight each day.

If this isn’t possible for you, make sure to move your container into an area that does have direct sunlight for at least two hours a day. After that, you can move it to a spot with indirect or less sunlight. This should sustain the moss’ needs.

Alternatively, it is possible to use a fluorescent lamp if you plan to grow your moss in a desktop or tabletop container. Here’s an example of such a setup:

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A post shared by Jon Howard (@jonhowardwins) on Aug 25, 2018 at 8:40am PDT

Moss may not need fertilizers or added nutrients, but it does require attentive hydration to continue developing. Moss has no root system with which to take in water, so all of its hydration needs come from the environment surrounding it. How often you need to mist your moss with your handy spray bottle will depend on a lot of environmental factors and the species of moss itself.

As a rule of thumb, you should water your moss whenever it becomes dry to the touch or loses some of its rich, green colors. Examine your moss daily to ensure that it is damp to the touch and has a consistent shade of its characteristic green throughout the surface.

It is possible to over-water your moss. Avoid creating a puddle or swamp-like atmosphere within the container. If you do make this mistake, the excess water won’t evaporate as it should.

Growing Moss Indoors FAQ

If you have any additional questions surrounding the creation or care of an indoor moss garden, continue to read a brief list of frequently asked questions.

How long can moss live for, when indoors?

With diligent watering and attention paid to moss’ needs for sunlight, your own moss creations can live and continue growing for months, even years.

How long does it take for moss to grow?

When you ensure that the moss is adequately hydrated and receives plenty of sunlight, you can expect to see some pretty rapid growth after roughly week six. If you’re creating a small container moss garden, you might notice growth even earlier simply due to the size of the moss garden.

Does moss ever need pruning?

Just like any other type of plant that you may grow, there are going to be some parts of your moss that look great and others that detract from the aesthetic. You should trim down excessively long pieces of moss that develop over time. This helps to encourage a more full-bodied regrowth.

What do I do if I see mold?

If you’re growing moss in a terrarium or other type of container, mold growth is a very real possibility. This usually happens as a result of over-watering the moss. Don’t distress if you see white spots (mold) showing up on the surface of your moss plant. Try to wipe it away first. If it can’t simply be wiped away, you can use scissors to remove the mold.

If mold has taken over a significant portion of your indoor moss garden, however, you might be better off simply replacing that moss with newly acquired moss.

How can I prevent mold growth?

Even if you don’t over-water your moss, mold can still form inside of your enclosed container. To minimize the risk of this happening, remove the lid to let excess moisture escape from the container. Leave the lid off for a couple of hours once a week or so.

Moss is Beautiful, Versatile and Easily Maintained

One of the most appealing aspects of moss, aside from its appearance, is how easily it can be maintained even when indoors. It’s so easy that even children or the busiest of professionals can do it! All it takes is an enclosed container, plenty of sunlight, pebbles and other materials to form a base, and regular misting with a spray bottle to help your moss to thrive.

Moss can be utilized in any number of ways. What you do with it is only limited by your imagination!

Quick & Easy Moss Pots to Boost Your Indoor Plant Game.

Leave it to the Japanese to take something as utilitarian as a pot and make it elegant, simple and beautiful. With 5 minutes and $5 you can make a Kokedama (Japanese moss pot) that’ll give the illusion that you actually know what you’re doing with house plants.

I’d like to go on record as saying that most rooms that feel like they’re missing something, are missing something green, organic and living in them. Unless that green, organic and living thing is a hobo. That’s probably going to be less of a design success in your living room than say – a fern.

I’m always surprised when I buy an indoor plant that a) I actually went out and bought another indoor plant which will die of thirst in approximately 2 weeks and b) it can change the whole feeling of a room. Plants add life to a room. At least until you let them die.

Those plants will give DOUBLE the green, organic living juju if their pot is also green, organic and living. Moss.

Kokedama (苔玉) is the Japanese art of growing plants in moss balls. Balls of soil are formed with peat moss and potting soil, compressed and then split in half to allow the plant’s roots to be tucked into the centre. The ball is then wrapped in living moss.

But you don’t need to do all of that. You can just take one of your regular old house plants, remove it from its pot, press the soil into a ball and cover it with moss. Stand back, admire and watch your room come to life.

How to Make Kokedama

Materials

Sheet moss
Small Plant
Water
Twine, thin wire or fishing line.

Steps

  1. Soak your sheet moss in a bowl of water for around 10 minutes to revive and hydrate it. Squeeze out the excess water.
  2. Remove your plant from its pot and form the soil into a ball with your hands. (soil must be moist but not overwatered in order to form/compact it)

3. Set your plant on a sheet of moss.

4. Pull the edges of the moss up around the ball of soil, pulling or cutting away extra moss.

Save that moss for future projects like building a fairy garden or sanitary pads. The moss sanitary pads will probably only come in handy if you time travel back to medieval days or join Greenpeace but still.

5. Firmly shape the moss around the soil and hold it in place with one hand.

6. With your other hand start wrapping twine, wire or fishing line around the moss to keep it in place and in contact with the soil. When it’s nice and tight, tie the string off.

7. To water your Kokedama when it dries out, sit it in a bowl of water for 10 minutes. The water should come around 1/2 way up the moss ball.

The only thing you have to keep in mind is the fact that you now have 2 living breathing things to keep alive. The moss ball and the plant. But if you can keep one alive, chances are the other will live too.

If you’d rather just plunk a plant down and completely ignore it forever, make some waxed amaryllis bulbs because that’s exactly what happens with those.

These don’t do well in direct sunlight because the moss will dry out quickly, go brown and die. It’ll still be useful it just won’t look as good. And you’ll have killed yet another thing.

Also don’t place these on any surface that can be damaged by moisture or stained by the moss.

KOKEDAMA TIPS
  • Traditional Kokedama are often hung like planters just by tying 3 long pieces of string to the twined moss ball.
  • You can shape the bottom however you like. Perfect spheres are typical but I like mine to be a bit of a teardrop shape.
  • If you plan on keeping this thing alive for years, use waxed string instead of twine. Regular twine will eventually rot away.
  • For a natural look set them on a glazed clay saucer. For something more inspired set them on a cake stand (those mini ceramic cupcake stands would work great for a small Kokedama), a teacup saucer or a disc of wood.
  • If you can remember to do it, misting the plant and moss ball will delay it’s inevitable (in my house anyway) death.

Hairy Green Balls (not be be confused with Big Hairy Balls) could be just the thing you need to add life to your bedroom. If that fails, I guess you could always give that hobo a shot.

Houseplant Potting Compost and Soils

Growing Medium, Compost and Soil

Houseplants are normally grown in a nutrient containing “growing media” or “growing medium” which can be compost or soil, although it’s often a peat or peat-free mix.

You can normally use these products straight from the bag and get great results, so why write an extensive article about the topic? Well a lot of indoor gardeners like to have some control over the “mixes” that they use, especially because not all houseplants like the same thing.

Others take enjoyment from creating their own “blends” from scratch so want to learn about what they can use or you may just want to get to grips with the difference between Perlite and Vermiculite. Either way, your houseplants will only be as healthy as their roots so it’s important to understand and encourage good root health and this starts with understanding the materials that surround and support them.

What makes a good indoor potting mix?

Most houseplants will often be quiet happy in several different growing mediums types, so there is usually not one magic type for every plant.

As a general rule all houseplants need a growing medium that is sufficiently “open” and “loose” enough to allow its roots to grow through quite easily, but not so open that the plant is unable to remain anchored in the pot.

As a general rule all houseplants need a growing medium that is sufficiently “open” and “loose” enough to allow its roots to grow

It needs to be open and loose enough that water can flow through the soil but not so open that water literally just runs out the bottom otherwise your plant will have nothing to drink. It also can’t be too “closed” otherwise the plant will become waterlogged which will cause the roots to rot.

If a growing medium can hold water and also allow air into it, then it can support microorganisms and also hold nutrients which are essential for plant health and growth. A good indoor potting mix will allow the above to happen.

What is the best potting mix for houseplants?

Generally speaking, most people will use 100% Peat, Peat-free or Home Made Compost for their houseplants. However there are other commonly used materials that can also be added to make the ideal potting mix.

Peat

The use of Peat has become increasingly controversial in many countries in recent years. It’s a truly exceptional growing medium for almost all houseplants, providing ideal moisture and nutrient retention and is quite slow to break down. It’s cheap and readily available in the majority of supermarkets and garden center’s, it’s also the most likely soil mix you will find in the pots of your recently brought plants.

Peat is an all rounder and generally excellent for all houseplants. So what’s the problem?

The issue is that Peat comes from naturally forming peatlands which are the most effective carbon sinks in the world. Harvesting these peatlands destroys the surrounding environments and allows more C02 to exist in the atmosphere and ultimately influences climate change. It takes too long to form to be classed as truly renewable, so basically it’s not sustainable because realistically we can’t replace what we use.

However, we still have to consider that Peat is a fantastic growing medium and will aid our houseplant growth, which in turn results in photosynthesis and creates a better natural cycle than those who burn peat as an energy source.

It’s obviously still not brilliant however, which is why our personal view is that it’s a better idea to use Peat free, or at least peat reduced products where possible.

The rest of this article features growing mediums which can be added to 100% peat products to “dilute” and make the peat go further. So rather than only being able to repot 10 houseplants with one bag of peat, if you mix it with other effective ingredients you might be able to repot 20 houseplants and still get equally good results.

How to use it

Usually Peat can be used right out of the bag with nothing extra needed. It often comes with nutrients already added and can feed a slow growing houseplant for several months up to a year (depending on how quickly it grows). If you’ve read the previous section you will know we will recommend thinking about adding other materials to make your peat purchase go further.

Peat-Free

Peat-free potting composts will contain mixtures of organic materials such as coir, green compost, shredded bark and then mixed with inorganic materials such as sharp sand and rock wool. This mix of coarse and fine particles is needed in order to form a compost that can hold water and nutrients but also allow air into the mix. All of this is essential for root growth.

Peat-free products are becoming increasing popular, however as it’s quite a new market there is not one main competitor or perfect “product”. This means some perform better than others and there are lots of different material that could be in your Peat-free bag. If you can, get access to what’s inside the bag and have a feel as for indoor plants you’re looking for something which should be quite fine and smell reasonably pleasant.

If you’ve chosen an unknown Peat-free compost you may want to experiment a little to check its suitability. Some mixes can be very bulky and have large components which make them harder to work with and less helpful to houseplants which may have small roots and pots. All being well however, just like a 100% peat mix, you should be able to use this straight out of the bag.

Combine it with other growing mediums if desired otherwise you should be pretty much good to go as soon as you open the pack.

You should not use Peat-free products with carnivorous house plants such as the Venus FlyTrap because they originate from peat bogs and therefore do best growing in Peat.

Home Made Compost

Home made compost is very easy to make, fantastic for the environment and often free (or low cost).

You’ll need a composter to get started and a space in your garden to put it. It also needs to be sitting on soil so worms and other beneficial organisms can actually gain access to the material inside. Then it’s just a case of adding green and brown waste and turning the “ingredients” every so often. After several months your waste will have been transformed into a compost which is a nectar of nutrient-rich humus.

Well rotted home made compost can often be used to substitute a bag of 100% peat, and can be used in the same way a peat-free mix you buy from a store (in fact sometimes compost is what you’re actually buying when it’s labeled “peat-free” anyway!).

You need to be make sure with home made compost that it’s completely decomposed and has not taken on too much of the nature of the surrounding soil. If your composter is situated on top of clay soil for example the resulting compost will have elements of clay, fantastic for outdoor plants but possibly too heavy for indoor ones.

Topsoil

A lot of people tell us they use “dirt” scooped up from the yard or garden for their indoor plants. In some cases this is wonderful stuff, but often when someone says “dirt” they are talking about the stuff that sits on the surface of their soil. Exposed and weathered to the elements this makes it actually very poor quality, lacking in nutrients and any real ability to hold water.

True topsoil sits just below this surface level and can be 8inches / 20cm deep and in ideal situations it’s the perfect growing area for the roots of outdoor plants. It has the highest concentration of organic matter and microorganisms and is where most of the Earth’s biological soil activity occurs. This stuff is the business.

Topsoil whilst bursting with life, and nutrients is not suitable as a sole ingredient in your growing medium for indoor plants. Not only is it expensive, it’s incredibly heavy when compared to peat or peat-free products which makes it very difficult for plants in containers as their roots struggle to grow through it.

Topsoil is heavy because its components are very small and thus compact easily meaning there is no air for the roots to breathe, this also means it holds water well, but by itself, too well. So to utilise the fantastic elements of topsoil you should mix it with other materials to keep it “open”. It’s common to combine it with peat or peat-free products, the total quantity of topsoil in an indoor potting mix should usually be anywhere between 0% – 30%.

Manure

Well rotten horse or farmyard manure is a fantastic way to improve or add to a chosen growing medium. It holds water well and adds a large number of different nutrients. In most cases a pot containing only manure is too rich for almost all houseplants, the only exceptions being very heavy feeders such as the Banana. So it’s far better to mix it with some other growing mediums mentioned in this article.

No matter how much you decide to use, it’s imperative you use well rotten manure – the fresh stuff is absolutely bursting with biological activity which is basically burning itself out. The heat and strong biological activity will damage or even destroy roots. Plus it stinks.

So how do you know if its “well rotted”? That’s easy to answer, what you’re looking for, or rather smelling for, is a light earthy and perhaps sweet scent. It shouldn’t smell foul or feel like mush. Basically if you’re not comfortable holding it in your bare hands – it’s not ready.

You should not use manure in an overly high quantity when it comes to houseplants as it is often too rich and holds water too well, which in turn will encourage overwatering and rotting.

A mix containing 40% at the absolute most, and even then only for gross feeders, such as The Swiss Cheese Plant. You can use a small amount of manure in the potting mix (10%) for most houseplants excluding those which thrive in nutrient poor soil such as the Venus Fly Trap and most cacti.

Sphagnum Peat / Peat Moss

Sphagnum is often called Peat Moss and although it is linked to dried “Peat” it does not have the associated controversy because it is fairly renewable and Sphagnum is often used in its live form. It may be best for the novice indoor gardener to give it a miss as Sphagnum is alive and thus needs care itself in order to survive and continue supporting the houseplant growing in it.

Both living and dead cells of Sphagnum Moss can hold large quantities of water inside their cells – up to 25 times as much water as their dry weight! This makes it a great soilless material for certain houseplants. You can’t “blend” it with peat or compost if you want to keep it alive, but you can sit it on the top surface of the growing medium to create an attractive appearance and aid in water retention.

It’s commonly used to grow houseplants which have large thick roots that are happy to be exposed to light such as those of the Moth Orchid, although you may also find it supporting various succulents like the House Leek.

Perlite

White Perlite stays white. No matter how long it stays in the muck it keeps that bright appearance, which can add some decorative appeal to your soil mixes. But it also has a much more practical application.

In its natural form it’s quite dense almost like a tiny stone, however once heated it expands and although at first glance you may think it’s heavy it’s actually really lightweight. The closest way to describe it is to think Polystyrene / Styrofoam (which is actually utterly horrible stuff, but that’s another story), perlite, although a non renewable resource is still very much abundant and in terms of gardening only small quantities are ever used.

Perlite is a light weight product that does retain some water and keeps the growing medium “open”. In general you use only small amounts in a soil mix as too much will make it very free draining and nutrient poor. Naturally that type of effect has it’s place, perhaps for young seedlings or house plant cuttings where too much moisture saturation would cause rotting.

You can also use Vermiculite (see below) as a similar comparable product, although Vermiculite as a general rule will hold more water.

Vermiculite

Vermiculite is used in many different ways, from house insulation to fireproofing, and as you might expect it can also be used by indoor gardeners. It’s somewhat free draining, however Vermiculite also holds several times it’s own weight in water which makes it ideal in potting mixes. Just like Perlite it’s very light weight and reasonably cheap, although you should always use freshly brought, rather than trying to utilise the old stuff from your attic!

Vermiculite is very like Perlite in that it will help to keep your growing mediums “open”, it’s more discrete than it’s rival’s bright white appearance, however it tends to hold more water because of its sponge like absorbent nature.

If you have the choice, use Vermiculite over Perlite when you have houseplants which need a lot of watering. You can use 100% Vermiculite (or perlite) for cuttings but it’s normal to reduce this drastically when the plant is up and growing (0% – 20%) because it does not hold nutrients well and without these your plant will suffer.

Gravel and Grit

Gravel and Grit come in many colours, shapes and sizes, although you need to make sure you are using horticultural gravel or grit. Anything else will not be designed for potting mixes and could be contaminated with chemicals or simply have pieces which are too large.

Prices can vary greatly but typically you won’t be using a great deal so a little will go a long way.

Unlike Vermiculite and Perlite, Gravel and Grit will hold no water at all, although it will still keep your potting mix “open” and free draining. It can also add weight to containers for top heavy plants in order to stop them toppling over. Applying a layer to the surface will also aid in water retention and stop the rest of your growing medium from drying out as quickly.

A composition featuring a reasonable amount of grit is great for houseplants which dislike over watering such as cacti, but for typical houseplants it should only make up a small quantity of the actual mix, ideally less than 5%.

If your primary purpose for using it is to add weight, consider adding a layer at the very bottom of the pot or at the soil surface rather than where the roots will be growing.

Sharp Sand / Coir

There are lots of other organic and inorganic materials that can be added to potting mixes to improve drainage or improve the consistency of the end result. If people continue to move away from peat based products, alternatives will likely increase over time. Sharp Sand and Coconut Coir are two somewhat common substances which are used currently, both may already be present in the Peat-free products sold in your local shops, but you can of course actively add these to your own mixes.

Sharp Sand improves drainage as the tiny grains are not capable of holding water and they prevent the other material from clumping together and compacting. Like Topsoil however this is heavy stuff and is not a good material to have in a great quantity, even cacti would struggle to thrive in a high concentration of Sharp Sand.

Coconut Coir is a natural fibre extracted from the husk of coconut which has excellent water retention properties while also maintaining structure and allowing air to circulate. It comes in two forms, roughly shredded or fine.

The shredded version is good for combining with Peat, and compost etc, where as the fine version can sometimes be used as a complete Peat-free alternative by itself. You can of course combine it with many other materials, including those discussed above.

About the Author

Tom Knight

Over the last 20 years Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the Ourhouseplants Team.

Also on Ourhouseplants.com

Photo credit of the Coconut Coir brick to MatiasMiika

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