The keys to a luscious closed terrarium - Moss & neem oil
While making terrariums can be a fun and therapeutic activity, either as a form of nature-connected self-care or a gift for a loved one, it's important we consider the long-term health of our beautiful botanical creations. In this post we focus on the role of mosses in your terrarium creations, and break down some of the main types with their descriptions and some of the benefits to your terrarium. However, a closed terrarium and particularly one that includes mosses, is very high in humidity, which can sometimes create perfect conditions for mould and fungus which is not ideal! We have therefore included some advice about how to prevent this using neem oil.
There are lots of different species of mosses that all have different characteristics.
Mosses thrive in damp, shady areas and are really hardy. In fact, moss has been around, as far as we can tell, for 470 million years! It absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere - imagine a city painted by living mounds of luscious green mosses? In a terrarium, in addition to adding a beautiful mystical aesthetic, moss helps to maintain the humid conditions that tropical and terrarium plants so love. (This is also why we don't recommend adding mosses to succulent and cacti terrariums, unless the moss is preserved). Because they don't have roots, and grow through spores, they don't need soil to grow, and can be placed on top of rocks and other substrates.
Cushion and carpet moss
Carpet moss is not a particular species, but describes a low-lying moss that can be laid out flat and spreads out as it grows.
Cushion moss (also known as bun or pillow moss) describes a type of moss that forms cushion-like mounds of moss that grows in clumps and can add some height, texture and interest to your terrarium.
Sphagnum moss is a genus of moss that can help to maintain the health of your terrarium by absorbing excess moisture from the soil that gets captured when watering. It can also help to retain the moisture and nutrients within the terrarium which helps closed terrariums thrive. Its main role is as a protective barrier between the soil and the bottom drainage layers (the pebbles and activated carbon). It has a neutral pH level and can be used to plant and grow orchids and succulents either on its own or mixed in with soil. Sphagnum moss has some pretty spectacular benefits and can sometimes even be used to hydrate and rejuvenate skin!
Sphagnum moss is included in all of our kits as step three of the process of building a terrarium. If you're looking for sphagnum moss for your terrarium, this bag has the perfect amount for one small terrarium if you're using a container of about 2-3 L.
Reindeer mosses are not actually mosses but lichens. They are often preserved and dyed in different colours to add interest to your terrarium. They do not live or grow and do not need any maintenance as they have been treated. These do not play any role in the terrarium besides being decorative and making it look pretty. You can switch these out so you can have different aesthetics depending on the season or changing tastes - for example, you can use greens and reds during the Christmas period, or pinks and yellows during the Spring season. For a more natural look, you can use the greens and natural colours.
We have five colours of reindeer moss available - dark green, light green, natural (a beige/cream colour), red, warm yellow and dusky pink. Select any combination of reindeer moss for us to include in your bag, or buy one bag of each right here.
Neem oil comes from the neem tree native to India. It is quite potent and has a strong smell that people either love or hate and should be mixed with water and soap before spraying on your plants or into your terrariums. Typically the ratio is one teaspoon of neem oil to 1 litre of water, and a drop of soap to emulsify the formula so that it can be used. While it can be used for skin and hair health as part of an Ayurvedic treatment (for dandruff and acne, for example) it is often used as a natural pesticide. It prevents the invasion of certain flies and insects that could be harmful to the terrarium environment. However, it can also repel insects that might be helpful to your terrarium, such as nematodes and springtails. There is some evidence to suggest that neem oil is also helpful in preventing or killing microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi which can lead to mould forming. Springtails are an excellent addition to maintaining the health of your terrarium, so make sure you do not try using both!