If you are anything like me you have probably seen moss growing on walls, rocks or trees and wondered if you can grow it indoors. Happily, the answer is yes. Learning how to grow moss indoors is an easy and enjoyable project for both adults and children.
A low maintenance plant, specimens growing indoors don’t need lots of water or fertilizer to thrive. You don’t even need any special equipment to grow moss indoors. All you need is some substrate material and a large covered jar or terrarium. Just pop the plants somewhere warm and light and watch them grow.
This guide to growing moss indoors is designed to take you through every step of the process, from sourcing your specimens to planting and aftercare. Packed with color, texture and interest, learning how to grow moss indoors is a great way to create a decorative, miniature forest landscape in your home.
This soft green plant happily grows indoors.
What is Moss?
One of the oldest plants on earth, moss originally evolved from algae.
Not your regular plant, this velvety green cushion is actually a bryophyte. This means that it doesn’t have a root system like larger plants and flowers. Instead of harvesting nutrients and moisture through their roots, these plants gather all that it needs to survive from the air through its leaves. They also don’t bear flowers or set seed.
This resilient plant can pop up almost anywhere
This is a resilient and versatile plant. Described as an extremophile, mosses can survive in extremes of both temperature and humidity. Tolerant of both acidic and alkaline soils you can even find the plants growing on the frozen glaciers of Antarctica.
A cryogenic plant, when the temperatures get too cold the plant dies back. However the spores live on, enabling the plant to return once the weather warms up.
Happy to grow both indoors and outside, the plants are a great choice for controlling soil erosion in the garden. They can also be used in a water filtration system.
When cultivated indoors the plants help to purify the air and lower stress levels. Best grown in a moist environment, increasing moisture levels in the air not only benefits your plants. It can also help to ease issues such as dry skin.
Different Types of Moss
There are a number of different types of moss. With the right container you can grow any type indoors. Some varieties are low growing carpet or spreading types, others are climbing or trailing plants.
Carpet types, also known as Pleurocarpous or sheet moss, typically establish themselves and set out new growth in 6 weeks to 3 months. Within 6 months, with the right care, the plant can double in size. Commonly cultivated varieties include:
- Spoon Leaves,
- Baby Tooth.
Carpet varieties coat the floor as they spread out.
Acrocarpus or climbing varieties grow on a single stem, setting out branching offshoots as they develop. In the wild Acrocarpus varieties grow on the bark of trees, river stones and rocks.
Climbing plants tend to be slower to develop than Pleurocarpous types. It can take up to 6 months for the plants to anchor themselves into their new growing position. Once anchored it can take a further 6 months to 2 years for the plants to grow and mature.
Depending on their growing position Acrocarpus varieties can either be used as climbing or trailing plants.
Commonly cultivated types include:
- Wooly Fringe.
Not as dense, climbing varieties can scale upwards or drape down to the ground.
Some plants that bear the name are not true moss plants. These include:
Where to Find Moss
You can source the plants from a range of different sources. If it is growing in your garden or on nearby tree stumps, logs, soil or rocks, simply lift it up and replant.
If you are collecting moss that is growing on someone else’s land be sure to get the landowners permission before you start.
To remove the plant gently peel it from the base and store in a clean container. Wear gloves when harvesting your selected plants to protect your hands.
Small twigs and pebbles covered in moss can be added directly to your container.
Large sheets are convenient and quickly cover your growing areas. Small or crumbled pieces may not look as impressive to start with, but once established they quickly grow.
How much you need depends on how large your container is. If it is easy to handle, take your container with you. This helps you to get a good idea of how much material you need.
Wash the harvested plants before taking indoors and planting to remove any hiding bugs or insects.
You can, with permission, harvest the plants directly from nature.
If you want a certain variety or a climbing type you can also purchase the plants from plant nurseries, online stores, marketplaces and some arts and craft stores.
If you are purchasing your plants make sure that they are living plants. Many stores sell preserved moss plants. These have often been treated with chemicals and may have even been dyed green. Preserved types are more difficult to establish and start growing than living plants.
What Do You Need to Grow Moss Indoors?
Once you have your plants you are almost ready to start learning how to grow moss indoors.
You will also need a clear glass or plastic container with a lid. This can be a terrarium or simply a large jar.
Terrariums are a great way to showcase small, indoors gardens.
The ideal container should be wide and shallow. This means that you can easily reach the bottom to carry out planting and maintenance. A jar from a craft or home improvement store is ideal. Just make sure it has a lid. You can also use a glass cloche.
You will also need:
- Stones or pebbles,
- Saturated sand,
- Granulated charcoal,
- Pine needles,
- Rotten bark,
- Acidic potting soil.
If you are using plants harvested from a forest do not use soil in the base. Other types grow quickly indoors in acidic soils. If you are using soil it should have a pH of 5.0 to 5.5.
The stones or pebbles can either be ones you have gathered yourself or purchased from a home improvement store. If you decide to gather your own materials make sure to wash them before bringing indoors and using.
The pebbles and stones do not need to be uniform. Using a mix of different shapes, sizes and colors adds aesthetic interest to your indoors gardens.
Instead of using stones or pebbles you can use saturated sand. This is available at most hardware stores. Peat moss, if you have some, can also be used.
Pebbles add color and texture as well as providing an anchor point.
Granulated charcoal can be found in most fish supply stores.
How to Grow Moss Indoors
Once you have gathered all your materials it is time to start learning how to grow moss indoors. If you do not have a potting bench, lay some old sheets of newspaper over a table. This helps to make clearing up afterwards a lot easier.
Step One The Base Layer
Begin by placing a layer of pebbles on the bottom of your jar or terrarium. The layer should roughly be 1 inch or 2.5 cm thick. If you have a mix of different sized pebbles, place the larger ones at the back of the container and the smaller ones at the front.
Top the pebbles with a 1 inch thick layer of granulated charcoal.
Add 2 inches of potting soil, if it is appropriate. You can also use saturated sand. Another alternative to soil is to add a layer of pine needles and rotten bark to the base. Spread this layer as evenly as possible over the moist materials. Many varieties prefer these natural materials to potting soil and tend to grow more quickly.
This base layer should resemble a miniature version of a forest floor. It should completely cover the bottom of the container.
Mist the materials with clear, distilled water.
Step Two Laying the Moss
Cover the bottom layer with large sheets. Any small, uncovered spaces can be filed with crumbled up moss flakes.
Press the plants firmly down onto the base layer. If necessary you can tie the plants in place with some fishing line or use toothpicks to keep the large sheets in place.
Space the toothpicks 5 inches apart all along the edges of the indoors garden. These do not harm the plant. Over time the plants grow and hide the anchor points.
Anchoring the plants in place also helps to prevent it from being accidentally disturbed when the small roots are forming.
Layer the plants so that the entire base is covered. When viewed from above, you should not be able to see any of the base layer.
Mist again with distilled or purified water and cover the container.
Once established the plants quickly spread. Source: Moss terrarium in a glass sphere by Gergely Hideg / CC 2.0
Why Do I Need to Close the Lid?
Covering the container is a vital part of successfully learning how to grow moss indoors. Moisture evaporates at the slightly higher temperatures that is created by closing the lid.
Sealed inside, the water vapor condenses onto the walls of the container and falls back down onto the plants. This creates a constant moisture cycle which keeps your plants damp and healthy.
If plants growing indoors are allowed to dry out they turn brown and die.
At least once a month open the lid for 10 to 20 minutes. This enables stale air to escape and fresh air to enter the container. Regularly airing the plants also helps to prevent issues such as mold from developing.
Where to Grow Moss Indoors
After planting your indoors garden you need to find a favorable position for it.
One of the most important care aspects is getting the light levels right. When you grow moss indoors, place the container close to a window that enjoys around 2 hours of morning light.
Alternatively, place the jar in the sun for a few hours in the morning before moving it to a bright spot, away from direct sunlight. If you grow moss indoors in a large container or jar, a Culberta Metal Plant Caddy can be used to easily and safely move it around your home.
While light is important, do not place your jar in direct sunlight. Too much sunlight can dry up the plants, causing significant harm. A well lit room or a spot close to a sunny window is ideal.
Place in a light position close to a window. Source: DIY Terrarium by Kitty Terwolbeck / CC 2.0
Do not place your jar anywhere too dark. Like all other plants, moss needs light to photosynthesize.
In darker homes grow lights or a fluorescent lamp positioned around 12 inches above the container can be used. Artificial light sources are just as beneficial to your plants as natural lights.
Humidity levels should be at least 70%. Allowing humidity levels to fall below this mark for an extended period can cause significant harm to your plants.
Aim to keep the temperature around your plants between 60 and 90 ℉.
How to Care for Moss Indoors
A key part of learning how to grow moss indoors is knowing how to care for the plant.
Caring for the plants is a low maintenance process. The plants do not require lots of moisture or sunlight. They also do not require any fertilizer. Additionally the plants are highly resistant to disease, pests and bugs. This is because moss is derived from algae.
With the exception of nematodes, insects are unable to derive any nutrient value from the plants.
Watering and Misting
Indoors, these plants thrive in damp environments. Water once or twice a week with a watering can to create a consistently moist environment. Be careful not to overwater the plant. If puddles form try to tip out any excess water. Allow the puddles to evaporate before watering again.
Do not use tap water to water or mist your growing plant. Tap water can contain elements such as chlorine which may stunt or damage weak and young growth. Using tap water can also prevent nutrient uptake, causing your plant to turn brown. Instead use distilled water or harvest your rainwater. When watering or misting your plants.
Regularly check your plants to ensure that they are not drying out. If the plants feel dry or start to fade in color, mist or water.
The plants thrive in damp, humid conditions.
Lightly mist the surface a few times a week with a driew Plant Mister Spray Bottle. This helps to keep it moist. After misting, replace the cover. Leaving a small gap encourages air to circulate. However this can also cause humidity levels to fall.
Do I Need to Fertilize?
You do not need to use fertilizer to successfully grow moss indoors.
If growth is slow a diluted skimmed milk solution can be applied. This acidifies the soil and safely encourages growth. To make the solution mix 1 part dried or powdered skimmed milk with 7 parts water and apply.
As in the wild, the plants can quickly grow and spread without the need for fertilizer.
Pruning the Plants
A small plant, carpet or spreading varieties rarely over an inch in height. However, you may still need to prune this or vining varieties to keep the plant looking its best.
Use sharp scissors to trim the plant. You can also tear away any excess pieces if the plant starts to outgrow its growing position.
Be careful when tearing the plant not to lift it from the soil. These plants have shallow roots or rhizoids. It doesn’t take much force to lift the plant from the soil. Place one hand firmly on the plant to anchor it in place and carefully tear away the excess with your other hand.
Common Problems and How to Solve Them
In a moss or fairy garden, this is a largely pest resistant plant. If you grow moss indoors in a terrarium or with other plants insects can be a problem, particularly if the other plants produce nectar or humidity levels are high.
Whitefly, fungus gnats and mite infestations can all affect your plants. However, because it contains no nutritional value, the pests are unlikely to harm the moss.
Healthy plants are green and lush in color while stressed plants lose their color.
Stressed plants can lose their color. They quickly bounce back once the problem is corrected.
A plant turning brown is in need of water.
Yellowing plants require more light.
A more concerning issue is fuzzy mold growing around the plants. To grow moss indoors you need high temperatures and high humidity. Unfortunately these are also the best conditions for mold to germinate and grow.
If you are cultivating the plants in a sealed container, beneficial bugs such as springtails can be added. These are a popular way to treat fuzzy mold because they keep down the amounts of decaying matter in your container. The more that the springtails eat the less decaying matter there is for fuzzy mold to form on.
Opening the lid and airing the containers for 20 minutes once or twice a month also helps to prevent mold spores from forming.
Similar to fuzzy mold, algae growth tends to climb up the sides of the container. Again, introducing beneficial bugs such as springtails, arthropods, isopods or pill bugs help to keep the issue under control.
Nature’s carpet, these plants are easy to grow both inside or outside.
Known as nature’s carpet, moss is one of the oldest plants on earth. Pleasingly easy to cultivate, all it needs is light, water and warmth. A great way to introduce children to the joys of growing plants, learning how to grow moss indoors is a rewarding and relaxing process however old you are.