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.
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.
- 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 Studios, Appalachian 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.”
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:
- Acrocarpous moss (clumpy moss) grows in upright clumps with little to no branching.
- Pleurocarpous 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.
👉 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.
👉 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.
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.
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.
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 (check out our guide, What Is Moss? if you don’t believe me!).
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.
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.
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 top terrarium plant picks.
Till next time x
6 thoughts on “Buying Live Moss: A Luscious Green Guide to Sourcing & Prep”
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
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.
Just wanted to point out that the terms pleurocarpous and acrocarpous are swapped here as far as definitions go.
Acrocarps stand upright and tend to form clumps.
Pleurocarps are those that have a more creeping habit and branch from the sides freely.
You are correct sir – well spotted! I’ve made the edit.
I currently choose to source wild moss! I’ve found it in as diverse areas as Denny’s parking lots, to the growth under apartment building dumpsters! Of course, this means I have no idea what KIND of moss I have, but it does mean it is hardy and quite attractive, lol. (Before you start: I never remove from parks, forests, etc) Because it is so tiny, my Google lens won’t capture sufficient detail to identify it sigh)
I’m very glad to hear dumpster moss is being put to good use! 😄