Zach's writing ranges from matters of gardening, cooking, aquariums, and fish to more niche topics like coin collecting.
Garden for a Small Space: The Moss Terrarium
I'm a firm believer that if you want a garden, you should have a garden! Yet, when I ask people why they don't have one, I'm bombarded with a variety of different reasons. The most common of these tend to be a lack of space, very little available sunlight, or that they just can't seem to keep anything green alive.
While those are valid reasons for most setups, they crumble when faced with the moss garden in a jar. Requiring very little space, sunlight, or even a caring touch from the gardener, moss terrariums are for everyone! Better yet, they're virtually self-sustaining and can be constructed from materials commonly found around your home. Keep reading to find out how to make a terrarium in a jar so that you can finally have the garden you've always wanted!
Why a Small Terrarium?
Moss terrariums are the perfect way to add a little greenery to your tight living quarters! Apartments, dorm rooms, or a spare bedroom will all benefit from the relaxing touch of a tiny terrarium. It doesn't stop there though! Since these micro gardens require very little sunlight, they can be placed just about anywhere, making them fascinating centerpieces at kitchen tables and valuable learning experiences in a child's bedroom. Whether it's just you, or your whole family, everyone is bound to enjoy a homemade moss terrarium!
When it comes to setting up your tabletop terrarium, there are a few crucial supplies that will be required. Luckily, all of the supplies needed can be sourced for little or no cost at all! Here's what you'll need to get started:
- Glass jar with lid: Any glass jar that has a lid can be used. Size doesn't matter, but the opening on the top does. If you wish to move the garden around frequently or wipe down the inside glass, a large opening may be desired. Jars with small openings will be much harder to arrange but are still a viable option. Plastic containers may be used as well, but do not provide the clarity for viewing that glass does.
- Small pebbles: Placed at the bottom of the terrarium, these rocks serve as a drainage area for any excess moisture.
- Dried sphagnum or peat moss: A layer of dried moss is placed on top of the small pebbles to keep the potting soil from falling down into the drainage reservoir. This layer also acts as a small wick to move excess moisture in the pebbles up to the soil. You might not have dried moss around your home, but almost every pet store sells it at a very inexpensive price.
- Potting soil: This is the final layer on which the moss will actually grow. The potting soil does not need to be nutrient-rich.
- Decorations: Although they are not necessary, rocks, small branches, or other decorative pieces can create that special touch you're looking for.
Moss for Terrariums
Although it's possible to purchase different mosses for your terrarium, it's really not necessary! Moss is abundant across the world and thrives in all sorts of climates, so there's a good chance that there's some nearby you right now! In humid climates, moss should be very easy to find and harvest. For those living in arid climates like myself, you just have to look a bit harder. Here's how to easily locate and responsibly harvest wild moss from around your home:
Find and Harvest Your Moss Responsibly
- Where to find moss: This will be a no-brainer for people living in humid climates, as you'll easily be able to find moss just about everywhere! For arid climates, look to the shade and places where liquid water is more likely to be available. I was able to find some moss growing in my apartment's parking lot. This particular clump was situated in a crack of the asphalt and was directly under the shade of a nearby tree.
- Harvest responsibly: Once you have located a suitable clump of moss, harvesting is a breeze. With a butter knife or even your fingers, gently lift up the moss taking a good portion of the medium it is growing on with it. The moss and growing medium can then be placed in a sealed Ziploc bag until you're ready to plant it in your terrarium. When harvesting, take only small pieces from the donor clump. These small pieces will spread quickly in your terrarium and will ensure the full recovery of the original clump!
How to Make and Care for a Terrarium in a Jar
Once you've gathered your supplies and moss, you're ready to set up and care for your terrarium. Here's how to do it:
- Line the bottom of the bottle with small pebbles. You'll want this layer to be 1-2 inches deep to provide proper drainage.
- Add the dried sphagnum or peat moss on top of the pebbles. This layer will only need to be thick enough to completely cover the rocks.
- On top of the dried moss, arrange a layer of damp potting soil. Since mosses do not have traditional roots, the layer of soil does not need to be very thick. A half-inch of soil will be plenty.
- Arrange the small clumps of moss and decorations as desired.
- With a spray bottle, gently mist the terrarium until a thin layer of excess water develops in the pebble reservoir. Finish by loosely placing the lid on the jar.
- Situate the finished terrarium in an area that receives 1-2 hours of sunlight, or under artificial lighting.
- Watering should only be conducted when no condensation forms on the inside of the terrarium. Under normal conditions, a light misting should only be needed once every 1-2 months.
Don't Stop With Moss
I used moss as an example in this guide on how to set up a terrarium in a jar, but there are so many different options you can choose from! To help illustrate the larger picture of what can be grown in a jar, please reference this list of plants:
- Venus Fly Traps
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Read More From Dengarden
Simply put, there are no more excuses as to why you can't have your very own garden! Moss terrariums are by far the easiest of gardens to care for and offer a great deal of room for creativity. Adventure out, find some moss, and then landscape to create the garden you've always desired. It's just that easy.
Thanks for reading this guide on how to make a terrarium in a jar! Please feel free to post any questions or comments you may have.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Emily on January 25, 2020:
How often do you open the lid to give it air? Or do you do that at all? I'm going to make a micro moss terrarium out of a glass starbucks bottle.
mason on October 30, 2018:
Brianna on September 11, 2018:
This provided a very useful way to start using all the fish tank decorations that I had laying around. A nice little castle on the moss looks good!
elisabetta palau on September 07, 2018:
Alyssa on February 11, 2018:
What sort of plants should I use with a tight-fitting lid on my jar?
Raymond Philippe from The Netherlands on March 21, 2014:
Nice. Never thought of having a Terrarium. You did a fine job in proving me (and many others probably too) wrong. Voted up.
Dianna Mendez on March 20, 2014:
I remember making one of these years ago and now that I read your advice, I think I know why it failed to thrive. We overwatered. Your tip makes sense: water when there's no condensation. I think these terrariums are great in a kitchen window -- brings life to the scene.
இڿڰۣ-- кιмвєяℓєу from Niagara Region, Canada on March 19, 2014:
What a wonderful idea. This would make a fun project to do with the kids. Thank you for the idea. The moss looks beautiful - and in the warmer months, I always have a few patches growing - so it looks like I need to try this.
- Choose a glass container. It can be anything from a clean, reused pickle jar to a vintage vase. ...
- Pick your rocks. Put a handful of polished rocks or marbles in the bottom of the container. ...
- Place your next layer. ...
- Add the soil. ...
- Plant your plants. ...
- Give it water.
And dig small holes with their fingers for the plants then gently. Put the plants in the soil.
- A glass or plastic container.
- Rocks, if you choose.
- Moss, if you choose.
- Soil (growing medium)
- Plants that won't overgrow (generally miniature or dwarf plants)
- Spoon for placing soil.
- Long tweezers for putting materials into vessel.
Making a Bottle Terrarium + Closed Terrarium Basics - YouTube
21 Indoor Plants You Can Grow in Jars & Bottles - YouTube
How to Plant a Glass Jar Terrarium - YouTube
How to Make a Terrarium for Free - YouTube
A terrarium is a glass container that contains soil and plants and may be opened to access the plants within for maintenance. However, rather than being sealed, terraria can be open to the atmosphere. Terraria are frequently retained as ornamental or decorative items.
- Fill the bottom of your glass bowl with small pebbles—about 2–3 inches high. ...
- Fill the glass bowl with potting soil about ¾ of the way up.
- Pick an assortment of small indoor plants and plant 2–3 plants in each terrarium. ...
- Let your child fill their terrarium with special objects of their choice.
Step 1: Spread a 1/2- to 1-inch layer of pebbles in the base of the container for drainage. Step 2: Add a 1/2- to 1-inch layer of activated charcoal to filter the air in the closed environment. Step 3: Add a 1- to 2-inch deep layer of potting soil.
Easy way to water your terrarium plants - YouTube
1 A potted plant can survive in a sealed glass container for a long time, but you would not put a mouse in such a sealed container for even a short period of time because it would quickly die.
Can a Terrarium Last Forever? In theory, a perfectly balanced closed terrarium – under the right conditions – should continue to thrive indefinitely. The longest known terrarium lasted on its own for 53 years. They may even outlast us!
Keep in mind, however, that not all containers are suited for being repurposed into terrariums. Ideally, a closed container with a lid will encourage the humidity that helps your plants thrive.
In general, for terrariums with a normal, loose-fitting glass lid, it most likely will need to be watered a small amount every 3 months. For a terrarium with a cork, rubber, or tight glass enclosure, it can stay closed without needing any water at all.
Glass jars work well too. Wash the inside and outside of the bottle and allow it to dry, as this removes any toxic substances that could harm the plants. Dry soil won't stick to the sides of a dry bottle and you can remove any dust from the sides when you water.
As with all plants, roots systems, watering needs, and sunlight levels determine which plants grow well in glass or other containers. For glass jars or bottles ferns, succulents, or cacti all make good options. There are also variations of these that can work just as well.
How to Plant a Glass Jar Terrarium - YouTube
A terrarium can and will function without a charcoal layer.
Cut stem pieces that are five to seven inches long, just below a leaf node where roots will form. Place them in a jar or vase of clean water, changing it every few weeks. Other indoor plants that can be grown in water include wandering jew plant and peas lily.
Herbs like basil, parsley, oregano, chives, dill, cilantro, thyme, mint, and watercress can be grown in mason jars and glass bottles easily.
The best type of plants to grow in a closed terrarium are ones that thrive in high humidity and warm temperatures. For this reason, it's best not to grow succulents or cacti as they need drier conditions. Choose plants that are small and petite and are suitable for the size of the glass jar you plan to use.
For a cheap terrarium, you can use an old glass jar, an old fishbowl, or even a clear coffee pot! Any glass container can work as a terrarium. For a closed terrarium, you'll want to use a container with a sealable lid. An old mason jar is a great container to use if you're making your first terrarium.
How to make an open glass terrarium | Grow at Home - YouTube
Open terrariums do not require a lid. It is perfect for plants that prefer drier conditions and do not require a moist environment. Unlike closed terrariums, open terrariums do not have a water cycle since it is open to the air around us.
Terrarium containers do not have drainage holes, so it is important to create drainage layers to prevent plant roots from rotting. Start by putting a 2-inch layer of coarse gravel, sea glass, or beach stones on the bottom of your container.
Alternatives to Charcoal
Some people use live moss instead of charcoal. Live moss will help absorb odors in a terrarium and has the added benefit of absorbing excess water that leads to root rot and odor. You may find lush, green, growing moss more attractive than a layer of charcoal.
- Add springtails to your terrarium.
- Avoid overwatering your terrarium.
- Apply fungicide to your substrate.
- Remove dead or decaying plant matter promptly from your terrarium.
- Sterilize your substrate before adding it to your terrarium.
- Give your terrarium more light.
Rainforest in a Bottle - YouTube
How to Create a Closed Native Terrarium | Ecosystem in a Jar