Posted in category: Moss Gardens.

Buying Moss

A Brief Guide To Buying Moss

When it comes to buying moss, particularly over the Internet, people do not always understand what exactly they are buying. While most moss products are a natural plant-based item, what they can be used for varies. The terminology seems to often be used interchangeably and many folks appear to be getting it wrong. Our best advice when buying moss online is to pay close attention to the description and what other buyers have said about their purchase.

For the most part, there are three types of moss – live moss, preserved moss and dried moss.

Live Moss

live mossThis is the most obvious but also the most common mistake people make when buying moss. Many assume they are buying live moss that simply needs rehydration when in fact the moss is dead.

Live moss is fully hydrated and in a growing phase. It generally has a lush, green color and is not sold in air-tight bags.

The picture to the right is one of my own moss garden experiments a few days after I first collected it from our garden.

If I were looking to buy live moss, I would try one of two sellers on Amazon from the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania. Both sellers have numerous products with 5 star ratings – some simply do not have any score less than 5 stars. They both offer a variety of live mosses, lichen and other forest plants for terrariums, bonsai and vivariums and claim to sustainably harvest all of their live plants. Buyers from both venders frequently report receiving large amounts of product and are extremely happy with their purchase. Appalachian Emporium and Eileen offer only a few products but what they do looks quite nice. Several of their offerings have been on my wish list for a while.

Preserved Moss

Preserved moss is dead, no amount of moisture or tender care is going to bring it back. It is often treated with chemicals and dyed for decorative use.


If the moss you have appears in bright colors i.e. red, blue, purple, orange, it is probably preserved moss. When you see moss packaged in an air-tight bag, it is preserved rather than dried. Many of the people selling reindeer moss are selling dyed and preserved moss. Hinterland Trading Hot Fuschia Pink Soft Reindeer Moss 3 Oz Brilliant Colored Terrarium and Craft Moss is among the prettiest I’ve seen being offered. They also offer it in bright red, black, green, purple, lavender, light blue, natural, and orange.

moss-mixAnother great option for preserved moss is the SuperMoss Preserved Moss Mix. According to the product description, it contains Spanish Moss in Grass Green, Reindeer Moss in Chartreuse, Sheet Moss and Lichen Parmelia with tufts of Fuchsia Reindeer Moss.

Preserved moss, particularly any that has been dyed is a great choice to add color or texture to an open terrarium (it can mold in a closed environment), fairy or moss garden. However, it should be kept dry to maintain it’s color and keep it’s texture and shape. If allowed to become too wet, preserved moss can mold or rot. Additionally, some dyes might run if the moss is gotten too wet – best to use preserved and heavily died reindeer moss only with other non-living components or at least in a way that it will not get wet.

Some preserved moss is used to provide moisture for vivariums. The premise is the moss is used almost like a sponge. It is thoroughly moistened, the water is squeezed out like a sponge, and then the moss is placed in the animal enclosure. Moss used this way will eventually rot and some folks recommend only using it 2 or 3 times before disposing of it.

Dried Moss

Dried moss, generally means that the moss, when rehydrated will return to life. Dried moss is a dormant plant that with tender loving care can begin growing again.

Here’s where things can get really tricky. Much of the moss being sold as dried moss has in fact been preserved and no amount of hydration will bring it back to life. Your best bet when buying moss online is to buy from reputable sellers with good feedback and customer feedback comments that substantiate their claims of selling dried, not preserved moss.

Non-Terrestrial Moss & Stuff That’s Not A Moss

Not all moss can be found growing on land, trees or structures. Some moss is actually aquatic. And then there’s other stuff that isn’t actually a moss at all.

Moss Balls

a-marino-mossIn the past few days I’ve been reading a lot about moss. I have been tempted to buy one of those floating, lives in water moss balls. While not fairy garden material (maybe a mermaid garden would work?), there is something charming about the moss ball and moss ball terrariums I’m seeing over on Amazon. Seems a bit like having a fish without uhm, the poop. But, I recently saw several decidedly non-living items offered for sale on Amazon, also entitled moss balls.

I doubt that anyone visiting Tiny Green Gardens wouldn’t know the difference between a living ball of moss and a styrofoam ball covered in preserved moss. But, after seeing how many people have purchased live miniature plants and were angry because they were actually alive and not silk or plastic…anyway, I’ll just throw this out there. Not all moss balls are created equal.

But, just to keep things interesting, there’s a wonderful tutorial from Clarissa of Creative Green Living on how to make a living moss ball.

And, here’s the link for buying your own living moss balls – 3 Giant Marimo Moss Balls – 2″ to 3″ – Great for fish, shrimp, and snails! by Aquatic Arts

Reindeer Moss

Reindeer moss is actually a lichen. When you see the brightly colored, dyed moss in craft stores, it is often preserved reindeer moss. Buying reindeer moss can be tricky as even some sellers do not appear to understand the difference between living, dried and preserved moss; or in this case lichen.

Irish Moss

Irish moss is actually a species of red algae. It is used in cooking as a thickening agent.

Spanish Moss

Spanish moss, that wonderful stuff the grows in long tendrils from trees is also not a moss. It actually is more closely related to bromeliads. Spanish moss is an air plant that gets its nutrients from the air and rainfall.

Sphagnum Moss

Sphagnum moss is an actual type of moss with over 120 species. It can store water, even when dead, which is why it is often used as a planting medium. For the most part, when you buy sphagnum moss it is dried but cannot truly be rehydrated and made to grow again.

Buying Moss – Best Advice

When it comes to buying moss, our best advice is to do your homework. Check out the seller. Read the reviews. And research the environmental conditions the species you are buying requires. While moss could be a beautiful addition to your fairy garden or terrarium, it might not have the same moisture, sun and temperature requirements as the rest of the plants you are growing. As an alternative, with so many wonderful species of moss to chose from, perhaps building a moss garden might give you the best of both worlds.

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