How to care for your new terrarium:
Terrariums have been enjoyed by plant enthusiasts for centuries. Their beauty and minimal care requirements make them a popular alternative to traditional potted house plants. Moss terrariums require 3 basic elements to thrive: moisture, light, and temperature.
All About Water
How and when should you water your terrarium? Each terrarium with differ slightly depending on several factors. Jar size, amount of soil, environment (does your home have very dry air?), lighting, etc. All of these factor into a watering schedule. Terrariums with tightly fitting lids will lock moisture in more easily than those with any type of gap or those without any lid at all, resulting in a longer period of time between waterings. These terrariums can be lightly sprayed once every 8+ weeks. However, if you own a terrarium that is not tightly sealed you will want to water more frequently. These can be sprayed every few weeks, and adding an occasional 1/2-1 cup of water to the soil will help raise humidity inside the jar.
Also essential to the health of your terrarium is the use of the correct type of water. But isn't all water the same? Not when it comes to watering moss. Moss is a hardy plant; it can withstand freezing temperatures, minimal to no light, and complete drought for a period of time. But when it comes to the chlorine, chemicals, and heavy metals present in tap water moss will quickly suffer. In fact, using tap water even once or twice can cause moss to begin to yellow and eventually die. To make matters worse there is no where for these substances to go in an enclosed glass case so they accumulate very quickly. So what kind of water should be used? Natural spring water, rain water, or distilled water is best. Some popular and easy to find brands are Aquafina and Ice Mountain, and at around $1.00 - $2.00 per bottle (which will give you at least 6-12 months worth of watering) it's not going to break the bank. (see www.doodlebirdterrariums.com/post/277534182414/doodle-bird-terrariums-care-tips-series)
- A quick note about open terrariums (no lid or those with a non-tight sealing lid): Although most moss species prefer a moist environment, it can also live during very long periods of drought. In terrariums, problems arise when there are frequent fluctuations in the environment within a short period of time. Most of us live in either heated or air conditioned homes and offices. And if you own a open air terrarium that houses moss this can present a challenge as moss under these conditions die very quickly. The best option for these terrariums is the "dry method": let the moss and soil dry out completely. The moss will either darken or lighten in color slightly (depending on the species) but is still alive. The terrarium can be left this way indefinitely. Alternatively, a cloche bell jar can be placed over the container. Clear packing tape can also be used and cut seamlessly to cover the opening of the jar creating an almost "invisible lid".
Although moss prefers a shady location in it's natural environment, it does appreciate bright indirect light. Normal room lighting is usually sufficient but it will thrive in close proximity (3-4 feet) of a lamp or window. A dark corner is not an appropriate place for your terrarium. However, never place the terrarium in direct sunlight as it will quickly cook to death under the magnifying effects of it's glass home. (see www.doodlebirdterrariums.com/post/291760548932/doodle-bird-terrariums-care-tips-series)
The temperature the terrarium is kept at could be the single most important factor in the success of caring for your moss (moisture comes in close second). Moss terrariums fare best when they are kept in a cool location (under 74° F). Deadly mold loves a dark, warm and humid environment and can take over in a matter of hours in some cases. Once mold appears it can be very difficult to get rid of. However, if temperatures are kept low it will reduce the risk of mold growth. (see www.doodlebirdterrariums.com/post/334805811812/terrarium-faq-and-troubleshooting)
- If your moss looks somewhat flattened in appearence after removing the packing material simply fluff it with your fingers and give it a few days to bounce back. Placing it close to a lightsource will speed up the process. Moss grows virtually anywhere including in between slabs of sidewalk concrete where it is stepped on frequently, therefore some flattening should not be a cause for concern. Slight shifting of the contents of your terrarium can also be expected so you may rearrange to your liking.
- Moss that has completely turned brown is dead and should be removed. Do not mistake the various colors of differing species of moss as dead moss. Some varieties will have a greener appearance while others will appear yellow or even bronze. The lower portion, or “rhizoid”, of many varieties is brown naturally and may show through slightly. Rest assured this is normal and your moss is healthy.
- If you spot white mold forming on rocks or decorations use a q-tip dipped in hydrogen peroxide to gently remove it. Likely causes for mold are temperatures that are too high and/or not enough light.
- Sometimes insects will hitch a ride hiding deep within the moss and although it doesn't happen often, may be missed during the cleaning process. These include tiny spiders, moths, fungus gnats, beetles, etc. The good news is that none of these will harm the moss in any way. Most will simply disappear (die) in a week or two, or you can manually remove the offender and place it outside. Some insects are even beneficial to the health of your plants!
Fact: Moss does not have a root system and soil is mainly for decorative purposes and retaining moisture. What little “roots” (called rhizoids) it does have are used solely for the purpose of anchoring itself. Moss derives all of the needed nutrients and moisture from the air/rainfall.