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Monday, February 13, 2012

Q & A: How to quarantine plants and moss (and why)?

Quarantine containers can be as easy as tupperware with air holes
or ziplock bags left partially open.
In a completely enclosed terrarium problems can develop fast and be hard to remedy.  Plants and moss collected from nature or purchased at a nursery can harbor any number of foreign items or organisms that might wreak havoc in a terrarium environment: small insects, mold, mystery plants etc.

It is relatively easy to remove problem items from a large-opening terrarium such as a vase, fishbowl or dish.  But if you aim to plant a terrarium in an enclosed terrarium or a narrow-opening vessel like a wine bottle, test tube etc. it may save you time an energy in the long run if you can be patient enough to "quarantine" your plants and moss to see if any problems surface before you add them to your terrarium.

Stow -aways identified in plants and moss under quarantine.
Additional benefits/uses of a quarantine set-up for plants and moss:
  • Provides a simulation terrarium-environment for your plants and mosses so you can see if they are suited to terrarium-life before they are planted in terrariums.
  • Serves as a storage method for delicate plants or mosses you have collected that require a humid terrarium-like environment prior to planting in a terrarium.
  • Allows any mold or insects or sickliness become apparent on the plants prior to planting in your terrarium.
 Let's take a look at how to quarantine your plants and moss.

Common household items make great containers for quarantining plants.

1. Materials you will need: plants and moss intended for a terrarium arrangement, paper towels, water (preferably distilled, preferably in a spray bottle) and quarantine containers. A quarantine container can be any transparent container that will admit light to your plants with a partially-closed opening to allow for a humid environment but also permit some air flow. This doesn't have to be as fancy as it sounds and you can likely make-do with household items:
  • Translucent tupperware with lid partially open.
  • Glass container with a plate or lid partially covering the opening.
  • Ziplock bag left partially open.
  • Your intended terrarium vessel (if it has a wide opening) with a plate or lid partially covering the opening.
2. Rinse off your plants with tap water and let them air dry.  If your plants are planted in small containers that can be completely enclosed in your quarantine container you can leave them that way.  If the plants are in large containers you can remove the container and any excess soil and either transfer to smaller pots (ie dixy cups etc.) or just wrap the soil/root ball in a damp paper towel to loosely contain it.
3. Prop your plants upright in your chosen quarantine container(s) and place them in indirect light, preferably in an east-facing window if possible.  Don't let your quarantine containers get overheated in sunlight or they really will grow mold! 
  • Moss can be laid on damp paper towels in a ziplock bag.  Partially close the openings to your quarantine containers (or partially seal the ziplock bags).  The goal here is to promote a humid environment for your plants but to allow airflow.

4.  Now watch and wait!  Check on your quarantined plants every day or so to look for signs of mold, insects etc.  You may want to adjust the lid or seal on your quarantine containers to admit more or less air to the plants or mosses if excess moisture becomes apparent or if the plant looks like it's drying out.  If a piece of moss grows mold ditch it fast!

5. Ideally your quarantine containers are pretty stable environments so you can keep your plants this way until you are ready to plant your terrarium!  If you are in a rush I would try to "quarantine" your plants and moss for observation for a minimum of four days before planting your terrarium.
  • If you keep plants or moss in quarantine for longer than five days make sure to periodically spritz them with water (preferably distilled).

29 comments:

  1. I recently moved to Seattle and there is moss everywhere! Specifically, the house I moved into recently had it's roof cleaned off, and there are piles of dirt and moss all over the yard. I would like to clean and quarantine some moss, but I'm not sure when I'll actually get the supplies and nerve to make my first terrarium. Is there a time limit to how long I can keep moss on a damp paper towel? Should I just wait until I'm closer to being ready to use it?
    Thanks! I really love your blog, even though I haven't dove in and started making terrariums yet. :)

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    1. Hi Zoe- thanks for this excellent question! It sounds like in the Seattle climate those chunks of moss will thrive just fine in your yard until you are closer to being ready to make your terrarium. Moss can do alright in a quarantine condition for maybe up to 10 days but ideally you only need about five days to monitor it before you plant it in your terrarium. If you really wanted to store it indoors for long periods of time you'd probably want to set up a quasi-terrarium with soil, charcoal etc. to allow for growth.

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  2. Hello! I recently decided to attempt a trio of open terrariums in my home. I bought a variety of different plants including irish moss, davalia trichomanoides (fern), hypoestes phyllostachya, and what I suspect to be a peperomia scanden (unlabeled), along with 2 other unlabeled plants from a local nursery. I am also buying a small orchid. I want to take the proper steps before beginning the process of planting them all. How do you quarantine medium sized plants? They range in height from about 3" to 10". Should they be separate from one another? Also, it looks like one of the plants has a cob web covering the crown of its soil. Not sure how to deal with that. Can you give me some pointers on how to prepare my plants? Thank you! Your blog is very helpful!

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    Replies
    1. Hi CJ! If your open terrarium vessels are large enough to reach your hand into - I wouldn't worry about keeping them in quarantine prior to planting them. If mold develops you can reach in and cut it out or scoop it out as it develops and a larger vessel isn't as likely to get quickly overrun by bugs or mold.

      As far as the plant with the cob web appearance on the crown of the surface: get rid of that fast. Web-like substances can be developed by an insect or a mold and the only way to ensure removal of either is rinsing all the dirt away from the roots of the plant and planting it again in fresh soil, in a fresh pot or terrarium. If you must use the same pot or terrarium, wash it out with hot water and a drop of bleach. And if the plant is a tropical or orchid - make sure you are using the appropriate type of soil.

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    2. Ok. Great advice. The web disappeared and I think resulted in a stow-away caterpillar, which I just discovered (and removed). So far, my terrariums look alright!

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  3. Thanks for posting this article! I recently made a moss terraarium with live moss bought from Idaho. After a week or two after I placed everything in my glass jar, I noticed very small white mite looking insects crawling on the glass. I researched for hours and couldn't find anything pictures of the insects. They don't jump or fly, and seemed to be in the hundreds crawling on the glass. I tried putting a cottonball soaked in pesticide in the closed terrarium for a week plus. I didn't see the bugs again. I bleached the terrarium, put new substrate in and within 2 weeks the white tiny mite looking bugs were back. I threw everything out in fear the bugs were crawling in my house and not being able to identify them was scary to say the least. I just went back to my homestate of Illinois and went moss hunting so I can try once again. I'm going to go through all your steps and quarantine the pieces to see if anything happens. Have you had this problem before? Do you have any advice on how to treat them if I do have another problem? Thanks so much!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Robin! Your experience sounds frustrating and I believe that washing your moss and observing it under quarantine should prevent the insect infestation from taking place again. I would recommend observing the moss for two weeks in quarantine just in case the insects are taking that long to hatch or something.

      If the insects are not native to your moss - I can imagine two other potential problems:

      Your soil may be contaminated if you are not using fresh, bagged potting soil. There are methods to "sterilize" soil by baking it on a cookie sheet in an oven at low temps. It may be something to consider trying - see http://tipnut.com/sterilize-soil/.

      If you fear that the insects may enter your terrarium from elsewhere in your house (another houseplant perhaps)? You may want to lid your terrarium for 80% of the time or consider rubber banding a piece of gauze or cheesecloth over the opening of your terrarium to prevent insect colonization.

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    2. It sounds like you might have been seeing the one of the stages of fungus gnats. Definitely find a way to sanitize your soil and ri se your moss. Sometimes you can get a bad bag of potting soil that is infested with the larva. Your lucky you caught it early ( I was u fortunate - I reported over half of all my houseplants and did not have a clue until gnats were flying around everywhere). Their life cycle from egg to adult is somewhere arou d 28 days and they are hard to get rid of without throwing everything out. I did not want to do that so ce I have had some of my house plants for as long as 30 - 40 years ( and some were starts from plants my grandmother had). So i have been fighting them with home made insecticidal soap in a spray bottle, watering with diluted hydrogen peroxide, using jars of vinegar w a few drops of dish soap and fly ribbons or fly sticks near my plants to catch as many of the adult gnats as possible before they lay more eggs. I`'ve also started using diluted alcohol to spray the soil. This is working and I have gotten rid of most of them, it just doesn't work very fast.

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  4. The F&M: What a fantastic blog! I am in the process of making most & other plant terrarium and all your suggestions would be very helpful. Like Zoe, I live in Washington State & moss & moss everywhere. I harvested some moss clinging on very old apple trees. I also found dead branches with grey lichen. They looked so pretty by itself or possibly incorporating with the beautiful yellow-green moss. Would this cause some problem due to the fact that the lichen seems drier & might not require a lot of moisture compared to the moss? Rosemalyn

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for this great question about adding lichen to your terrarium. I've tried this in the past and the lichen would get moldy and need to be removed. If you could easily remove the lichen from your terrarium if it begins to cause trouble- you could try it for a while. But if you intend to put it in a bottle or a hard-to-reach terrarium- I suggest not attempting it. Best!

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  5. Great article! I've quarantined my moss for a couple of weeks, it looks great but there's still bugs in there. Any suggestions? Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Good question. You may want to start over again with some fresh moss. One other idea is to try treating your moss with a hydrogen peroxide dilution: http://www.thefernandmossery.com/2012/12/can-you-combat-terrarium-mold-with.html

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  6. well, seeing as this is an older post, I hope my comment is seen. You mention charcoal for the terrarium - I've got high moisture low light plants but I recently made several succulent terrariums just as every article suggested; with a thin layer of charcoal between the pebbles and soil. Very quickly plants that had thrived for weeks in containers began to shrivel and dry. After every plant in one terrarium died, I redid the rest without the charcoal and several months later everyone is quite happy. I've tried to find info regarding but to no avail. Have you encountered this issue? Is charcoal necessary? Can even a thin layer suck out so much moisture that even drought tolerant plants die? Thank you.

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    Replies
    1. Hello, I have not had that experience. Perhaps some other factor impacted.

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    2. Bummer, I was really hoping to get some kind of confirmation as it was 7 different containers all with different plants and various sizes. The one that I took the charcoal layer out of did fine after that. The reason I have been trying desperately to see if this has happened (to no avail) is that I have an aquarium all set up with plants & moss but am afraid to construct is because my instinct based on the previous experience with drought resistant plants will only be further compounded with plants that are moisture loving. I thought surely someone else would have had the same experience since the only thing altered which allowed the remaining plants to thrive was the removal of the charcoal layer.

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    3. I know this is an older post but just curious how things worked for you & what you decided to do? I'm wondering if you were using the right charcoal? Just curious to your outcome. I myself am wanting to use an aquarium as well to help maintain over wintering some plants and save on space in my house as well. How did your terrarium and aquarium work? Ty!

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  10. توفر الشركة مجموعة من أقوي المنظفات التي يمكن توفيرها فجميع المنظفات التي توفرها الشركة منظفات آمنة على كافه الأفراد المستخدمين للمكان كما توفر الشركة مجموعة كبيرة مدربة من العمال المدربين على التعامل مع كافة أنواع البقع الموجودة بالمكان بالكامل كما تقوم الشركة بتعقيم المكان بالكامل وذلك حرصا علي نظافة المكان كما توفر الشركة مجموعة من أجهزة البخار المختلفة التي تستخدم بشكل مستمر لتنظيف المكان وخاصة أن البخار من أكثر عناصر التنظيف أمان علي صحة الأفراد كما توفر مجموعة من المحترفين في التعامل مع تلك الأجهزة المتطورة وخاصة أن البخار ينقسم إلى أنواع متعددة مثل الساخن والبارد والجاف وجميعها مجهز لتفتيت جميع البقع الصعبة العالقة بالمكان وتعقيمة تماما.
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  11. تهتم الشركة بتوفير كافة أنواع الأجهزة والمواد المختلفة والمتطورة التي تستخدم في عملية تنظيف المجاري وشفط البيارات وإزالة جميع العوالق والفضلات التي تتراكم وتسبب الانسداد التام علي المدى البعيد لذلك توفر الشركة مجموعة كبيرة من الأجهزة المتطورة التي تستخدم في سحب كافة أنواع الفضلات والعوالق من الداخل كما توفر سيارات كبيرة خاصة بضخ المياة تقوم بضخ المياة بقوة للتأكد من سلامة الصرف وجريان الماء بالشكل الطبيعي كما توفر الشركة مجموعة كبيرة من المنظفات الخاصة والقوية جدا والفعالة بشكل يجعلها تفتت أصعب الدهون الموجودة داخل البيارات بكل سهولة ويسر كما تنصح الشركة بالاهتمام بشكل مستمر بتسليك وتنظيف البيارات لمنع الانسداد وتجنب مشاكله المختلفة والتي لا حصر لها والتي تكمن بشكل أساسي في أضرار صحية متعددة.
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  12. شركة تنظيف مكيفات بالمدينة المنورة
    تلطيف درجات الحرة من العوامل الأساسية حتى لا يصاب الإنسان بالإرهاق بسبب الحرارة المرتفعة أو الرطوبة فتعمل المكيفات على جعل الحرارة مناسبة تبعاً لاستخدام كل شخص ولكن المكيفات تكون أكثر عرضة لإشياء كثيرة تؤثر على عمل المكيفات بالطريقة الصحيحة وهذا يكون ناتج عن تراكم الكثير من الشوائب التي تكون عالقة بالأجزاء الداخلية للمكيفات ولابد من فني مكيفات متخصص لتنظيف المكيف بالطريقة الصحيحة، شركة تنظيف مكيفات بالمدينة المنورة متخصصون في تنظيف المكيفات دون الحاجه للفك تعمل بمعدات مخصصة لإزالة جميع الشوائب والغبار داخل المكيفات وبأفضل أسعار.

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