Buying Live Moss: A Luscious Green Guide to Sourcing & Prep

Live moss is the vital beating heart of the terrarium, the defining element that makes your piece look truly, vibrantly, alive.

Unfortunately, buying moss isn’t always as easy as the effortless look it creates. Knowing where to buy it (and what to do with it once you have it) is where the challenge lies. 

Whether you’ve used it before or are excitedly awaiting your first time, this post will help you take your next terrarium or vivarium project to new heights.

I’ll take you through where to buy live moss, what to watch out for in a seller, what the best terrarium moss choices are, and how to prepare it for your terrarium.

Let’s get growing.

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Where to Buy Live Moss Online 

The terrarium hobby boom is in full swing, and with it, live moss has gone from a niche find to a readily available product.

Sourcing your terrarium moss is now easier than it ever has been. Hurrah!

The two main options are online marketplaces and specialist stores.

We get our moss from everyone’s beloved marketplace – Etsy. You’d be surprised how many types of moss are available. There is something for everyone, from common mosses you’d expect to see to some more unusual picks.

We found this interesting Hart’s-tongue Thyme-moss (try saying that ten times) that we used in a tiny jarrarium build. 

Though some stores exist in some major cities (I know of one in London), it’s unfortunately still rare to find moss in physical stores. 

We live near a huge specialist garden store that has a thorough terrarium section, and I was surprised to see even they didn’t have live moss for sale.

So, by all means, check out if there’s anything available in your local area. But don’t worry if you haven’t hit the geographical jackpot – you can get your mitts on some mossy goodness online without a hassle.

What to Look Out For in an Online Moss Vendor

  • Sustainable sources – Sustainability is arguably the most challenging thing when buying moss online. Unfortunately, some absolute pillocks have been swiping moss from national parks illegally, destroying environments, and selling it online for a profit. Look for companies that source sustainably or from private land. 
  • Good ratings – In the age of TripAdvisor, who isn’t taking a peek at the reviews before they click “add to cart”? I once bought moss from a poorly reviewed store (because it was cheap), and it arrived brown and unusable. 
Leucobryum glaucum (Cushion Moss / Bun Moss)
Nothing beats a good quality cushion moss delivery. Get a load of that green color! 
  • Pesticide free – Because terrariums are closed, delicately balanced ecosystems, it’s good to opt for an organic moss with no unwanted nasties. If the moss is for a vivarium build with animals, it’s even more vital.

A good reliable vendor for moss and, honestly, just about anything else terrarium-related is EZ Botanicals. Their moss range is limited, but they tick all of the boxes for me.

Reign of Terra StudiosAppalachian Emporium, and Rainforest World all harvest from private land too.

Oh, and one more thing… Preserved moss, used in projects that can’t maintain humidity, can unhelpfully look exactly like living moss. So while it might seem obvious, remember to check that your pick includes the all-important buzzword we’re looking for: “live.” 

This preserved moss wall by Joe Rees is so vibrant; it looks positively alive. When browsing your moss options, stay alert and watch out for preserved imposters!

Buying the Best Live Moss For Terrariums

With an estimated twelve THOUSAND moss species on our green planet, knowing what type of moss to choose is a real challenge.

And not all moss was created equal in the world of terrarium design… Different mosses will be more appropriate for specific designs and uses, so it pays to know what you’re looking for.

Broadly, terrarium moss can be categorized into two types based on the growth patterns:

  • Pleurocarpous moss (clumpy moss) grows in upright clumps with little to no branching.
  • Acrocarpous moss (sheet/carpet moss) grows horizontally in thick sheets and is typically heavily branched.

Clumpy mosses are best used to add juicy green tufts to your terrarium. A great pick (and my all-time personal favorite moss ever) would be Dicranum scoparium, more affectionately and commonly known as Mood Moss.

Just look at how gorgeous those Mood Moss tufts are!

👉 Shop live Mood Moss on Etsy.

On the other hand, sheet mosses are perfect for creating wild grassy coverage. Fern Moss (Thuidium delicatulum) is a good choice.

With frond-like branched growth, it’s easy to see why this moss has earned the name ‘Fern Moss.’

👉 Shop live Fern Moss on Etsy.

We’re hardly scratching the surface with these two, so for more, visit our terrarium moss article and the Terrarium Plant Index. It even has a “moss” filter. You’re welcome.

Most of the time, different types of moss work compatibly in a terrarium environment, and there really is no end to the creative uses, so experiment till your heart is content. 

To elevate your terrarium game, you can give 3D planting a go. Attach moss directly to the hardscape and allow it to grow across to create a truly wild aesthetic. We go through this technique in depth in the Essential Guide to Tropical Terrariums.

Here, I’ve used java moss to fill the natural crevices of the rock. 

Once Your Moss Has Been Delivered

How to Revive (and Clean) Live Moss

To help your moss bounce back after being in transit (even if it’s looking well), it’s best to rehydrate it.

This technique has been known to bring back neglected moss from the depths of despair too – but it doesn’t work every time.

Grab a bowl that you don’t mind getting dirty, fill it with room temperature water, submerge your moss, and leave it for around an hour. 

Cushion Moss soaking
This Cushion Moss haul had been sat on my shelf a little too long.

After, squeeze out the excess water so you don’t drench your new terrarium build, and use it as soon as you can or store it properly – more on that in a moment. 

squeezing Cushion Moss
Don’t squeeze out every last drop – leave some moisture in there!

How to Prepare Live Moss

As you’ve probably noticed, many mosses have a brown underside, which doesn’t exactly look dazzling in a terrarium. But this unsightly problem has a simple solution – you can snip it off. 

Because moss has no root system, you can shape it and trim it as you like, and it won’t feel a thing.

Frustratingly, the more you trim, the less likely the moss will hold together. To get around this, I cut with one hand and pinch the clump together with the other.

Trimming Cushion Moss
Trimming moss is fiddly work, but it’s worth it.
 jewel orchid terrarium
From crusty old moss to a sexy jewel orchid terrarium.

How to Store Live Moss

If you can’t build your terrarium right away, or you’ve bought moss for several projects in bulk, you can store it until you need it in a closed, transparent environment (…sound familiar?).

Cover the bottom of a container with a shallow substrate layer, and then place your moss on top. Place it in a spot that gets bright, indirect light and check the moisture every week or so, giving it a top-up with a few sprays of water when needed.

Moss propagation boxes
Moss quickly dries out outside of a humid environment, so some Tupperware with a lid is ideal for keeping that much-needed moisture inside.

That’s it For Today

Hurrah! You’ve made it. Hopefully, you have found the moss for you and are well on your way to creating a mossy masterpiece you love. Which moss have you chosen to work with? Let me know in the comments. 

For more inspiration, check out our Moss Art Guide.

Or, if you need more help with picking compatible plants, check out our extensive Terrarium Plants Guide.

Till next time x

2 thoughts on “Buying Live Moss: A Luscious Green Guide to Sourcing & Prep”

  1. I got some beautiful moss from Etsy and found an article on cleaning and quarantining it. One suggestion on Facebook was to put it in the fridge until Iʻm ready to use it (itʻs been in there since Monday, today is Wednesday). The replies have been mixed so now Iʻm not sure if Iʻm killing it. My zone is 12b

    1. Hi Dawn, a temperate moss might be able to handle those low temperatures but a tropical moss won’t. Personally, I don’t really see any advantage to keeping it in the fridge.

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