Moss Terrarium? Vivarium? Mossarium? Something-ium.

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Have you been out in the woods lately? If so, have you noticed all the amazing mosses and lichens? In Fall and Winter, these guys really shine, since most other foliage is done-zo for the year. 

Jonah and I had a weekend away to Waynesville, NC for a belated anniversary celebration, and while there, we hiked the Great Smoky Mountains National Park trail at Clingman’s Dome. The weather was crappy – it rained and was freezing cold, but thanks to the fact that we had some waterproof gear with us, we decided to take part of the Appalachian Trail back down from the Dome, rather than the paved path to the parking lot. 

And you know what? It was such a rewarding hike! We’ve hiked a lot over the years, never anything super long or fancy, but I’ve never hiked through a river of water like this. We had about 2 inches of water along the path on the way down… it was like hiking through a river. The conifers around us smelled like the most fragrant Christmas tree lot you can imagine with furry, soft mosses all around. There were also down draughts of rain and fog that we could actually see. Plus, we were the ONLY ones on the trail. It was so serene and quiet! Calgon, take me away!

Here are a few photos from the trail:


When we got back home, I got inspired to make a moss terrarium. And as usual, YouTube had tutorials out the wazoo. But it turns out it’s so easy, a caveman (or cave Jubliant Gardener!) could do it. And YOU CAN, TOO! Here’s how.

Step 1: Get a clear vessel. Like an applesauce jar or old candy dish. Whatever you have lying around is fine as long as it has a closeable top.

Step 2: Fill the vessel with a base layer of something that 1) won’t rot and 2) will allow water to drain into it. I chose perlite because that’s what I had on hand, but you could also use rocks, coarse sand, broken pottery, marbles, etc. You’re creating a reservoir since the glass vessel doesn’t have drainage holes – it prevents the moss from sitting in water and rotting.

Step 3: Add some potting medium. I had some compost on hand, so that’s what I used. Potting mix is fine, too.

Step 4: Add mosses! Procure them from a forested area, your back yard, or wherever mosses are carried ;). Don’t be greedy, and don’t decimate a patch… take just a little bit. You can clean these in distilled water or rain water to get rid of bugs and debris. It rained the other day and I rinsed mine in the bird bath (and then dumped the bird bath because it was gross). Optional: you can add hardscape, like larger rocks or wood that has been cured or boiled to remove pathogens and mold).

Step 5: Water/mist your terrarium and put on the lid.

Voila! You are now the proud owner of a Mossarium!

Keep it out of direct sunlight, unless you like cooked moss, and enjoy! Monitor for a few weeks as it all settles in. You should not have to water this system since it’s sealed (condensation and evaoporation will all occur inside the jar). If you notice mold growth, consider adding springtails (a small insect that occurs in the wild and loves to eat fungi and mold), or removing moldy bits with tongs. You can also add other plants that like a humid environment – many houseplants and tropical plants will fit the bill.

I’m excited to have these as new, living centerpieces on our dining room table to remind me of our trip. If these succeed, I might be making more to spread around the house (sorry Jonah!). Have you made a terrarium before? If so, what are your lessons learned? I’d love to hear from you – share your insights in the comments be

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