Updated February 26, 2022 by Mark Marino
In European tradition, there is what is known as the “language of flowers”. It is an association between flowers and certain emotions for poetic purposes, usually made manifest through interior decoration and Shakespearean drama. Some flowers have obvious connotations, such as roses being connected to romance.
For others, it is more esoteric. Mimosas mean chastity. Rosemary means remembrance. But despite its iconic look and deep, mysterious texture, no greater meaning has ever been associated with moss. In fact, not much writing has been done about moss at all. So, if you want to know how to keep it alive, this is the place to look.
Growing and keeping moss alive is all about emulating its natural habitat. You will need a terrarium or jar, as well as several stones, potting soil, and some moss to start the process. The stones will act as insulators to keep too much heat or cold from getting in or out of the little ecosystem you make.
Making Your Ecosystem
Once you have all the components of the artificial ecosystem, you will want to begin piecing it together. Start by using the stones to create a one-inch-thick layer of stones at the bottom of the container. Try to keep small stones on the top and big stones on the bottom, otherwise, things might shift around unexpectedly.
Next, place a two-inch layer of your potting soil over these stones. Do not worry about keeping the potting soil even or flat. The stones will make that impossible, and the moss will benefit from a little fashionable imbalance anyways. Now is the time to add your moss, which can be done in a couple of different ways.
The easiest way is by sprinkling the moss into the container, letting it land on the soil, or stick to the walls of your container as it wants. This is also the recommended way of getting the moss into the container. The alternative is spraying down the sides of the container with a spray bottle and sticking the moss to the wall.
The only issue with doing that is that when people begin trying to do that, particularly people who are new to growing moss, they tend to try a little too hard. If you try to stick the moss to a wall and end up patting it against the wall with your hands trying to get every molecule of it to stick, it is totally possible you damage the moss.
However you end up doing it, once the moss is in the container all that is left is to let it grow. Mist the moss with the spray bottle and cover the container. Covering the container can be done with a blanket, aluminum foil, paper towels, anything that limits the amount of light that is trying to get into the container.
You do not need to block the light out completely, however. Place the container in indirect sunlight, and then just let it grow. If you have ever been in a forest, you have probably observed that moss is not a tall, proud plant that grows to reach as much sun as it can. Moss does better with some shade, so keep it dim.
Where Can One Find Moss?
Do not overthink finding moss for whatever project you are doing that involves growing moss. Whether you are decorating a garden, building a terrarium, or just trying to cultivate the stuff for fun, it is all the same. The easiest place to get moss is straight from nature itself, which usually means taking it from your backyard.
Moss is not like other plants. It does not have a seed, at least in the way humans recognize such things. Moss does not grow roots or a long stem, nor does it flower at a certain season. In short, if it seems strange that you can just scrape moss from the side of a tree and use it to grow more moss, then there is a reason for that.
For this reason, it is important to note that moss is probably not something you need to go to the store for. If you find moss at a gardening store, then it probably has all sorts of marketing labels on it about how natural it is, how much it will grow, and so on. Those are lies to sell products. Moss is moss. It cannot be modified.
Why Is Moss So Strange?
There are two easy answers to this, though they tend to lead to more questions if you think about them. The first is that moss reproduces as a spore, similar to mold. It is not a mold, as it does not consume what it grows on. But it reproduces just like mold does. The second reason is that moss is old. Very old. Unbelievably old.
Moss probably came into existence 450 million years ago. That is such a massive number that it is impossible to imagine by itself, and even using reference points is difficult. How long has moss been around? Well, obvious humans were not even close to existing when moss first formed. But that one is obvious.
What is less obvious is that dinosaurs were not even close to existing at that time. Every living animal on the planet was a sea creature, and they were all more like crustaceans than lizards, fish, or dinosaurs.
Moss came about 450 million years ago. 440 million years ago, or 10 million years after moss came to exist, was the very first extinction event in the history of the planet. Even 10 million years is hard to imagine, but think of it like this: Humans, as they are recognized today, are about 100,000 years old.
This means that when the first extinction event happened on earth, moss was 100 times older than humans are right now. And moss has not changed much since then. So, if you are going to make a habitat for moss in your home, remember that you are dealing with something ancient. Show it some respect.