How To Make A Moss Terrarium

It has been a long, long while since I wrote a “how to”. I suppose I figure just about everyone knows how to do it better than me.

But lately, I have had an obsession that was inspired by a completely accidental click on a listing on Etsy.  That obsession is moss terrariums.

Terrariums have a long and proud history reaching back over several centuries to when Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward first accidentally discovered that some hard to grow plants could be more easily grown in a glass enclosure. Thus a fad akin to pet rocks, jelly bracelets and origami boulders was born.   The use of terrariums has waxed and waned ever since.

These days, terrariums are in full swing again, though sometimes with a modern (technological) twist. But, one current version of the terrarium that has caught my attention (and the attention of light deprived office and apartment dwellers) is the moss terrarium.

The indoor climate in most homes and offices is hostile to moss. Moss likes humidity and moisture  and lots of it. The humans who live in homes and offices like to avoid mold and saunas, which is created by humidity and moisture. The two worlds don’t match well.   Enter the terrarium.

Moss lives happily in terrariums, and even better, lives happily in low light. Perfect for a office desk top application or a home coffee table addition no matter what your light conditions happen to be.

Making a moss terrarium is as easy as 1… 2… 3… um, 4…  You can handle 4 steps, right?

Step 1 — Supplies

1 glass jar with lid — I have been picking up rather elegant glass jars at the thrift store lately and can usually score one for between $1 and $3.   I have also used interesting jars from my kitchen, like honey jars.   What style you choose is not important. It just needs to be a jar with a lid. Oh, and the lid does not need to fit tightly.

Soil — Um, duh. It is a plant and this is not hydroponics.

Moss — The moss pictured here was harvested at my parents, who own an acre of wooded property. But, you can find moss in a wide variety of places. I have seen it on sidewalk and at the foundations of building. Just keep your eyes open. While there is only one variety of moss in this picture, I have made moss terrariums with up to 5 different kinds of moss harvested from my parent’s property. Different moss have different texture and can add visual appeal  to the terrarium.

Decorations — Moss terrariums without kitsch of some kind are still visually appealing, but a bit of whimsy can add a little extra umph.   Get those miniature craft supplies out. We are gonna have ourselves a pizzazz party.

Step 2 — Place soil in jar

Refer to the last Um statement. It is a plant. It needs soil.

Fill the jar to a visually appealing height. While moss needs some soil, is does not need much.   A half inch is the least amount you need, but you can use more if it looks good.

Step 3 — Place the moss

Place the moss on the soil.   Make sure the sheet of moss sits firmly on the soil. Press down the moss to make sure it is making contact with the soil below.  

Then use a spoon to push the edges of the moss down around the soil, like you are tucking in a bed. Water the moss until the soil is moist.

Step 4 — Add kitsch

You can leave your moss terrarium bare of decor and have your own little jar of Zen. But, if you want to add a little something-something, get creative. Little decorations add visual interest.  Â  In my case, I found a miniature cross on sale at the local craft store.   So, harkening back to my gothic teen years, I created a little graveyard on a hill. Using the tiny cross and a few Swarovski crystal beads to imitate flowers, I have a scene worth dying for.

You might want to do something a bit more light, like a fairy garden or a toadstool. To each their own. Whatever you find cute will do.

In 2 – 3 weeks you will see signs that your moss is adjusting to an enclosed life. You will see some growth and greening. Water the moss terrarium as the soil dries, which in my experience is about once a month.

11 thoughts on “How To Make A Moss Terrarium
  1. Alexa on

    Was it by any chance the Etsy email with the lawnmower in the moss terrarium? I had the exact same reaction – too cute for words, I want one!


    Hanna Reply:

    It was actually at Christmas. They had a section on “gardening gifts” and I accidentally clicked in the wrong place and *bam* found these.

    But a lawn mower does sound very cute and I am going to keepmy eyes open for one of those to put in a terrarium!


  2. Awesome! I love those moss terrariums on Etsy too, but being a fellow cheap-Scot I just can bring myself to fork over that much $$ for moss, dirt and a bowl. I’m totally going to try this out. Thanks for the super tutorial!


  3. Awesome idea! I didn’t think plant life was possible in my windowless office so I can’t wait to try this out. Don’t you love it when serendipity hits you!


  4. Alexa on

    I’m told a good place to find miniatures is from a model train craft shop.

    I think I might be stopping by the op shop sometime soon to look for a good glass bottle for this…


  5. I’ve been dying to try a terrarium (again–we did these in the seventies). I bought the container and then looked in vain for small houseplants to grow inside. Then I abandoned it, because spring arrived. I think I’ll give it a shot again with some moss. Those were great instructions.


  6. What a fun idea! I did terraria back in the 70’s (it was kind of a fad) but never a moss one. Parts of our woods are ankle deep in the stuff right now, so all I need is the jar and the kitsch. Thanks for the great tip.


  7. Laura on

    Thanks for that! I thought it would be more complicated for some reason. Going to keep my eye open for some pretty jars. How much light does it need?


  8. Hey! Nice tutorial. I have made in the past a Terrarium but it looked a little bit different if you compare it with yours. Maybe as you say there are different kinds and that’s why it wasn’t the same.


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