A quick guide to propagating moss at home

A quick and easy guide to propagating your own moss for prolonged use in the comforts of your home and from local sources.

Looking to propagate your own moss for prolonged use in the comforts of your home and from local sources? Maybe you are looking to add moss to a terrarium or vivarium. The amazing thing about moss is that it's easy to propagate and very handy if you have multiple projects going. However, even if you are not working on many projects propagating your own moss is very convenient, it’s safer and you’re prone to have more success doing it yourself. 


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Moss species are normally found in base conditions, despite that, they are a very flexible plant and most can adjust and flourish in moist environments like your terrariums and vivariums, with over 10,000 variations of the moss species in existence. 

Here are some of the tools you’ll need to propagate your own moss:

  • Moss

  • Container 

  • Purified water

  • Gravel

  • Mesh

  • Carbon fibre mesh

  • Activated carbon

  • Soil

Before you begin the process one thing to remember is that moss will grow very dense and thick when given the right amount of water, if not, the plant will in most cases dry up and die. Keeping this bit of knowledge in mind, you’ll become a green thumb in a jiffy. 


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The first material you’ll need to begin of course is your moss, now there are a few options to obtain moss, one you can order it from an online source or if you’re looking for an inexpensive way of sourcing, you can find it in your environment if you pay close attention. If there’s a forest near you, you can gather some there or even in the cracks of a sidewalk you’ll see some type of moss growing. 

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If you are looking to propagate your own moss periodically, then try not to leave your source depleted by completely removing all of the moss, this will help you to create a sustainable source.  The best way to do this is to remove some moss from the middle of the patch and then using your hand to fluff the moss to cover the area where you removed some, or you can remove some from the very edge of the plant.

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Once you have your moss the next thing you need to have is a container and some purified water where you’ll place the moss. You can use tap water if it’s treated or use reverse osmosis water like rain water or distilled water. Pour a good amount of water in your container and add your moss, ensure that your moss is deeply immersed in this water for soaking. This will allow all the debris and insects caught in the plant to float away and also rehydrate the plant. 

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The container you’ll be using to house your moss will need to have a transparent tight seal that’s able to hold and trap humidity. Tupperwares can be used in these instances, they are reusable, cheap and easy to obtain online or at your local stores, you may even have a few laying around in the kitchen.

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Your next step would be for you to set up your drainage layer or false bottom. You can do this by using gravel or any other suitable material, you do not need a lot of this material about half an inch of it on the bottom of your container should be sufficient. Having a false bottom will help to maintain the water cycle and keep your substrate from getting too mushy after being submerged in the water. 

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After adding your false bottom you will also need something to divide your false bottom from the substrate. There are a few materials that can be used to separate both, such as carbon fibre window glass mesh. Whatever medium you decide to use for the barrier, try to cut it slightly bigger than the base of your container. The additional length of the material will be used to stop any of the substrate from slipping down the sides of the container once you place the mesh in the container. 

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To keep the water in your container clean when it goes down to the false bottom, you’ll need to have a purification outlet. Activated carbon or lumpwood charcoal are two options that you can use to create your outlet. If you’re looking for something that's relatively cheap your lumpwood charcoal would be the best option as you can get that in large quantities, if you only need a small amount then you can purchase the activated charcoal. Your container will be vulnerable to mold build up because it’s an enclosed moist space, you want to ensure that the environment is fresh, so place a thick layer of your charcoal on top of your mesh to create this purification outlet.

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Once you’ve added your purification outlet you’ll need your substrate layer. Your substrate layer can be a tropical substrate mix, generic potting soil or dirt found in your backyard. As a caution if your substrate layer is the soil from outside ensure that it is sterilized before using. One simple method to do this is by placing the soil in the oven to bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, additionally if you’re using the moss for indoor animal homes, do not use the soil from outside. Place a thin layer of your substrate on top of your charcoal and sprinkle lightly with water to help even out the surface and to prevent it from adhering to the moss.  

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At this point you can turn your attention back to the moss you have submerged in the purified water. Upon observation you should see a lot of particles floating around in a very murky looking water. You will need to repeat this process to clean the moss completely, so grab another container and transfer the moss to that clean container with water and do so until there are no more debris left.

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The aim is to remove all or most of the foreign materials that may be trapped in the moss. While this method is effective at getting rid of pests it’s not very good at removing microbes, so if your intent is to use this as a housing for animals you may want to be very cautious as there is the potential of it harming your animals. 

To help combat this, keep your moss for a few months before using it to house animals, also add moss to a new setup before introducing animals rather than adding it later to an established vivarium with animals. This will help to reduce the risk of your animals getting ill, there is still a potential, however taking any necessary precautions is still a good idea, unless the moss is only being used in a terrarium.

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When your moss is ready you can now place it in the container with all your systems. The moss does not need to be buried under the substrate, you can keep your mosses in patches depending on the type, or you can make smaller groupings of moss to increase growth. Once you’ve added all your moss, give your container a misty coating. You can also add other microfauna if you choose to. 

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Your moss is not a very dainty plant and can flourish in bright light or low light. You can use LED bulbs  as they work really well with minimal heat and are energy efficient. This light can be placed directly on the top of your container or as recommended you can have it raised a little above the container for cycles of 10 hours on and 14 off lights cycle. Slight adjustments to this system should not make a massive difference, if you chose to adjust.

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In terms of water, you should only need to add water to the moss once monthly as the container used should be great at keeping moisture trapped. However, you’ll need to monitor your moss periodically and if it appears a little too dry just simply add some water to it. The only time a lot of water needs to be added is in the initial stage, after that all you need to do is to spray it lightly. 

Now depending on the species of moss like pillow moss which can be a little tricky as it relates to acclimatizing to the environment, most moss species are able to adjust and flourish in these environments and are suitable for your terrariums and vivariums.

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