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Moss for Terrariums

Not every type of moss works well in an enclosed terrarium. We've made quite a few mistakes building ours and created this guide to what we've found works well. 

Star Moss.jpg

Star Moss (Tortula OR Syntrichia ruralis)

  • Appearance: Star Moss has tight clusters with spiky, star-shaped tips, creating a textured, mat-like appearance.

  • Lighting: Prefers bright, indirect light but can also tolerate direct sunlight for short periods.

  • Moisture: While it can withstand occasional dry spells, it flourishes best in consistently moist conditions.

  • Substrate: Enjoys a well-draining substrate and can grow on a variety of mediums including soil, rocks, and wood.

  • Use: Its unique shape offers an excellent ground cover, giving a contrast of textures when combined with other moss varieties.

Cushion Moss (Leucobryum glaucum)

  • Appearance: As the name suggests, this moss forms tight, rounded mounds or "cushions." The color is a bright green when moist, and it can have a somewhat silvery or silvery hue when dry, giving it a distinctive appearance.

  • Lighting: Pincushion Moss does well in indirect light, but it can also tolerate periods of direct sunlight. However, like most mosses, it's best not to expose it to strong direct sunlight for extended periods.

  • Moisture: This moss prefers consistent moisture and can tolerate slightly damper conditions compared to some other moss types. That being said, good drainage is essential to prevent waterlogging.

  • Substrate: It thrives in well-draining substrates, leaning towards acidic. Pincushion Moss often naturally grows on decaying wood, so a substrate that mimics this environment can be beneficial.

  • Use: The distinctive cushioned appearance of this moss offers a unique aesthetic. Its dense growth can be used to create a carpeted ground or be placed alongside other moss types and small plants for texture and height contrast.

Pincushion Moss.jpg
Haircap Moss.jpg

Haircap Moss (Polytrichum sp.)

  • Appearance: Recognizable by its long, erect stems and glossy, lance-shaped leaves. When mature, they produce long stalks topped with capsules, enhancing their aesthetic appeal.

  • Lighting: Enjoys bright indirect light but can also adapt to shadier conditions.

  • Moisture: Prefers moist environments, but thanks to its robust root-like structures, it can also endure drier conditions for short periods.

  • Substrate: Works best in acidic to neutral substrates, often found naturally on well-draining soils or decaying logs.

  • Use: Given its taller growth, it can add a touch of verticality, mimicking the appearance of miniature trees or shrubs..

Feather Moss (Ptilium crista-castrensis)

  • Appearance: This moss offers a soft texture with its delicate, feathery fronds that layer over one another. It can mimic fern moss with individual fronds that look very similar to ferns. 

  • Lighting: Prefers medium to bright indirect light.

  • Moisture: Requires consistent moisture to maintain its lush, green appearance.

  • Substrate: Prefers slightly acidic substrates, often found naturally on decaying wood or rich soils. It grows well on wood chips and even sticks. 

  • Use: It can serve as a soft carpet or background, providing a serene and delicate aesthetic. We like to place individual "leaves" to recreate a lush, wooded atmosphere. 

Feather Moss.jpg
Club Moss.jpg

Club Moss (Lycopodium sp.)

  • Appearance: Despite being a lycopod and not a true moss, its appearance is fern-like with small, needle-like leaves on creeping stems.

  • Lighting: Enjoys medium indirect light.

  • Moisture: Prefers a consistently moist environment. It will begin to turn brown and then red as it dries. 

  • Substrate: Works best in acidic to neutral well-draining substrates.

  • Use: We like to use it to create height and depth in our terrariums. Club moss, unlike other true mosses, has a stem and roots and can grown as individual plants. This can create some fun opportunities to do things not possible with other mosses. 

Reindeer Lichen (Cladonia rangiferina)

  • Appearance: This lichen is characterized by its bushy, branching structures, somewhat resembling miniature shrubs or corals. The colors can vary from pale greens and grays to whites depending on environmental conditions

  • Lighting: Reindeer Moss can tolerate a wide range of light conditions, from bright indirect light to partial shade. Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight might cause it to bleach or lose its vibrant color.

  • Moisture: One of the fascinating properties of this lichen is its ability to go dormant during dry conditions. When in a dehydrated state, it becomes brittle. However, when exposed to moisture again, it quickly rehydrates, becoming soft and vibrant. For best results, it should be misted regularly but allowed to dry out between waterings.

  • Substrate:Reindeer Moss is often found naturally on rocky or sandy substrates in tundras or boreal forests. In a terrarium, it prefers well-draining substrates and can even grow on rocks or wood. 

  • Use: Its unique, bushy appearance makes it perfect for adding texture and height in terrarium landscapes. It can be used as a focal point or paired with other mosses and plants for a diverse, multi-textured look.

Reindeer Lichen.jpg
Trumpet Lichen.jpg

Trumpet Lichen (Cladonia fimbriata)

  • AppearanceIt has distinct trumpet-shaped structures, which are hollow and often grow in clusters. The color can range from deep green when moist to grayish-green when dry.

  • Lighting: Prefers indirect light

  • Moisture: While lichens are more resilient to drying out compared to mosses, the Trumpet Lichen will appear more vibrant and its growth will be enhanced in a moist environment 

  • Substrate: Trumpet Lichen can adapt to various substrates but often prefers slightly acidic conditions.

  • Use: Its unique shape and texture can be used to add dimension and visual interest to terrarium setups. The trumpet-like structures can serve as focal points and create a captivating miniature landscape when paired with other mosses and lichens.

Thuidium tamariscinum (Tamarisk or Fern Moss

  • Appearance: This moss has a beautiful, intricate, and feathery appearance, somewhat resembling the delicate fronds of ferns. Its colors range from a bright green to yellow-green.

  • Lighting: Thuidium tamariscinum prefers indirect light but can tolerate a range of lighting conditions. However, to maintain its vibrant color and health, it's best to avoid prolonged exposure to strong direct sunlight.

  • Moisture:It appreciates consistent moisture but also requires a well-draining substrate. While it can tolerate some dry spells, regular misting helps it thrive.

  • Substrate: Tamarisk Moss prefers slightly acidic to neutral substrates. It often naturally grows on both soil and decaying wood, so a terrarium environment that replicates these conditions can be beneficial.

  • Use: Thanks to its delicate, fern-like appearance, it's a favorite for adding texture and depth to terrarium landscapes. When paired with other mosses or miniature plants, it creates a lush, layered look.

Thuidium tamariscinum is not only cherished for its aesthetic appeal but also for its adaptability. Its ability to thrive in various conditions combined with its fern-like charm makes it a favorite for terrarium hobbyists and experts alike.

Tamarisk Moss.jpg
Fork Moss.jpg

Greater Fork Moss (Dicranum majus)

  • Appearance: This moss exhibits long, pointed leaves that radiate out from its central stem, creating a forked or feathered appearance. The color is typically a deep, rich green, though it can become yellowish-green under certain conditions

  • Lighting: Prefers indirect light. Direct sunlight can cause it to dry out and lose its vibrant color.

  • Moisture: Greater Fork Moss prefers a consistently moist environment. It's important to maintain regular watering but avoid over-saturation, as this can lead to rot or fungal issues.

  • Substrate: Enjoys a well-draining substrate, often with a slight acidic to neutral pH. It establishes itself well on substrates that mimic its natural woodland and forested habitat.

  • Use: : Due to its visually appealing forked structures and vibrant color, the Greater Fork Moss is an excellent choice for terrariums aiming for a more dense, forest-like appearance. Its texture contrasts beautifully with smoother moss varieties, and its height can add depth to the terrarium landscape.

Tree Moss (Climacium Americanum)

  • Appearance:Resembles miniature tree canopies. Its branching structure gives it a dendritic appearance, similar to the branches of a tree.

  • Lighting: Prefers indirect light. Direct sunlight can cause it to dry out and lose its vibrant color.

  • Moisture: This moss likes consistent moisture. While it can tolerate periods of dryness, extended drought can lead to browning or shedding.

  • Substrate: Climacium Americanum prefers slightly acidic to neutral substrates.

  • Use: Given its unique tree-like appearance, it can be used to create 'forests' or 'tree' elements in miniature terrarium landscapes. When paired with other mosses, it can provide a beautiful contrast in texture and height.


Tree Moss has been one of our favortie elements in many of our most popular terrarium designs and is one of the easiest mosses to work with. It can be seperated into individual "Trees" and planted seperatly. It will grown and reproduce from those filaments and given the right conditions will flourish and produce "forests" of moss to fill the substrate. These can be trimmed back or harvested for use.  Tree Moss can an enchanting woodland feel, especially when combined with other mosses or tiny ferns. Proper care and the right environment will ensure that this moss thrives and continues to resemble a beautiful, miniature forest floor.

Tree Moss.jpg
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