Preserved Moss: Best Types and Creative Applications

The lushness of moss, its vibrancy, and its ability to deliver an organic quality to any design make it an infinitely popular medium.

But live moss can come with problems.

It can decay if improperly cared for and is difficult to maintain if exposed to open air.

Enter preserved moss, a chemically stabilized version of live moss that allows one to capture the bounties of bryophytes without the risks.

In this article, I’ll be diving deeper to help you understand preserved moss, how to use it creatively and some insider tips on how to get the most from your designs.

Let’s begin.

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What is Preserved Moss?

So, what does it mean for something to be chemically preserved? Is preserved moss alive?

The short answer is no, but it is designed to look like it is.

Preserved moss was once alive but has had its water content removed in place of glycerol or another chemical agent (you can read this guide on how to preserve moss).

Glycerol is a non-toxic polyol compound that maintains the plushness and texture of the moss.

preserving moss with gloves
A dye is usually used in this process to give the moss the desired color.

The moss, therefore, retains this state indefinitely, never growing nor decaying.

Is Preserved Moss the Same as Dried Moss?

It is not.

Dried moss refers to a live moss that has been air-dried to remove its moisture content. This moss is considered ‘dormant,’ and it will revive when hydrated.

(The live moss on the Terrarium Tribe Shop is in this dried state – this way, it’s easier to store until you’re ready to build your terrarium).

rehydrating dried hypnum moss
You just need to give it a soak, and it’ll bounce back to life.

Preserved moss is no longer living, so they’re practically very different things.

Types of Preserved Moss

Although pretty much any kind of moss could be preserved, there are typically three types more commonly found than any other.

Each has a significantly different appearance and, when combined, creates a natural atmosphere in which different colors and shapes weave through one another.

It’s worth noting that preserved mosses are more typically referred to by common names rather than Latin ones.

Let’s look at the most common types of preserved moss.

1 | Reindeer Moss

colored preserved reindeer moss
Preserved Reindeer Moss comes in a variety of colors.

Reindeer Moss is by far one of the most abundant preserved mosses available on the market.

However, it is NOT moss.


Alright, it’s not that dramatic.

But, yes, what is commonly referred to as Reindeer Moss is a type of lichen native to the arctic landscapes of Iceland and Norway, among others.

Known scientifically as Cladonia rangiferina, the ample natural supply of reindeer moss makes it one of the most widely available options on the market.

👉 Shop Preserved Reindeer Moss on Etsy.

2 | Cushion Moss

preserved cushion moss
Preserved cushion moss holds its typical fluffy texture really well.

Slightly less copious but certainly more sought after, Cushion Moss is another of the big three preserved mosses.

Also known as Bun(n) moss, Pillow Moss, and Pole moss, the preserved Cushion Mosses look as they sound: fluffy, round, and bouncy.

There’s a natural depth to their tuftiness that can transform a flat design into one that plays more with light and shadow, giving the illusion of a deeper world.

👉 Shop Preserved Cushion Moss on Etsy.

3 | Sheet Moss

preserved sheet moss
Preserved Sheet Moss is a super versatile material.

Sheet moss, Forest Moss, Flat Moss, Carpet Moss.

As the names suggest, this moss can cover a large area with ease.

Generally, these preserved mosses are widely available at a good price and quite versatile in their application.

Where I often use Cushion Moss to create texture and reindeer moss as a highlight and to fill gaps, Sheet Moss is often the backbone that allows your other elements to flourish.

Although not quite as striking as the other types, it still looks natural.

👉 Shop Preserved Sheet Moss on Etsy.

Should I Use Preserved Moss?

In the right situation, yes!

Preserved moss is ideal when you know your work will be exposed to the open air and won’t have the humidity levels to sustain live moss.

I wouldn’t recommend, however, using preserved moss in an environment that will receive continued exposure to bright, direct sunlight, or one in which it shall be gushed with water (that’s what live terrarium moss is for).

hypnum moss and mood moss
Don’t put preserved moss in a live terrarium – live moss only, please!

If water passes through preserved moss, the dyed color will begin to leak – not only costing you lustrous moss, but coating your hands and floor with green dye.

Not the kind of green wall you want…

So, let’s talk about these creative applications. I’ll give you a guide on how to get the most from your preserved moss designs and artwork.

How to Use Preserved Moss: Creative Ideas and Design Tips

Now, I’ve given you a little bit of technical information and the ‘why’ you may choose preserved moss, let’s now look at the ‘what’ and the ‘how’.

Let’s start by examining one of the most admired versions of these living artworks.

1 | Moss Wall Décor

There’s something about the 3-dimensional, natural feel of preserved moss that lends itself perfectly to vertical gardens.

It’s increasingly common for businesses across the world to decorate their interiors and offices with moss art installations, some spanning entire corridors or across ceilings.

But if you’re interested in making a moss wall yourself, there’s no need to start so grandly.

See my step-by-step guide on how to make a moss wall for more.

preserved moss wall
You can use a combination of preserved mosses, but Cushion Moss by itself looks magnificent, too.

Design Tips:

  • Use dynamic terrarium rocks and terrarium wood/branches to add another layer of natural beauty to your artwork. You could even add preserved or artificial plants if you want to be a little extra.
  • Place your types of moss in clusters so as to replicate the process of nature, whereby the same species of moss would have grown outwards from a point.

👉 If you’re looking for an easy solution/project, check out these vibrant moss wall kits.

2 | Preserved Terrariums

Another of my favorites. The preserved mossarium (moss terrarium) is one that substitutes living organisms in place of the preserved, to create something particularly intricate and everlasting.

It’s often the perfect choice for the black-thumbed among us who struggle to sustain even the most self-sufficient premade terrariums.

preserved moss terrariums - prism
Preserved moss terrariums offer a timeless slice of nature. (👉 Shop this Prism by ome).

Preserved moss terrariums are often housed within geometric glassware, in which they can produce a sense that you’re witnessing a veritable Garden of Eden.

These types of terrariums are an excellent option if your abode or workplace lacks the proper conditions for a living specimen or if you are particularly…ahem…unlucky when it comes to taking care of plants.

Design Tips:

  • Use your Cushion Moss to create shadows that enhance the depth of your design and reduce flatness.
  • Be careful when using glue; make sure that it doesn’t spill onto your exposed glass or on top of the moss.

3 | Get Creative!

There are, truly, an endless number of ways you can apply and make the most out of your preserved moss.

Resin art, for example, is particularly popular at the moment, and I’m always seeing incredibly talented artists use it in tandem with preserved moss to create items as small as jewelry to those as big as dining room tables.

Alternatively, with preserved moss, you can create open-top planters that live mosses usually cannot withstand. With no need for water or mist, you can arrange a combination of cushion mosses alongside pebbles and sand to make a little zen garden.

Perhaps use a concrete dish or coconut for a stunning moss bowl?

moss bowl
Moss bowls are quickly gaining popularity, and for good reason – they’re stunning.

There’s a versatility afforded that allows for endless experimentation. As I’m writing, I keep getting new ideas.

What about preserved moss kokedama that hang from ceilings? You could create massive hanging balls, like little planets!

Ok, you get the idea. I love moss.

I’m betting if you’ve come this far, you probably love moss too.

You will now have a better understanding of exactly what preserved moss is, why you would want to use it, and exactly how you can get creative and make some pieces of your own.

If you’re looking for some more specific advice or have any general questions about preserved moss or pieces I’ve made, please let me know down below!

6 thoughts on “Preserved Moss: Best Types and Creative Applications”

  1. I was wondering if the preserved moss will fade and shed with sunlight? We have this experience but are not certain if it is a dried live moss or preserved. Within 1 year it is crumbling and fading.

  2. Hello,
    I’d like to create a moss wall / space but it’s near windows and will definitely have sunlight.
    Shall I use dried moss or preserved please?
    Thank you

  3. Hi,
    First of all thank you for all your tips. What a great article. My question is if I use preserved moss in a terrarium may I still use terrarium plants and water them? Or can I mix preserved moss with succulents plants?
    Thank you in advance.

    1. Preserved moss and live moss/plants generally don’t mix well because they dyes in preserved moss can run when wet – which makes watering the live plants kinda difficult!

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