How to Grow Lichen in a Terrarium (Beginners Guide)

Lichen in a Terrarium

Lichens are colorful and beautiful. They also are pretty natural pieces of art that are easy to find, and you can collect them to grow in your terrarium. But, how to grow Lichen in a terrarium?

To grow a Lichen in a Terrarium, you need to set up a terrarium for this purpose. Collect the Lichen, spray with water, place them in a paper bag & fold it, so the Lichen doesn’t dry out during the journey back home. When home, put the Lichen on a small piece of wood or rock in your terrarium. Gently respray with water, then seal the glass container – terrarium – with plastic wrap or a tight lid. Keep the Lichen moist and watch it grow!

How to Grow Lichen in a Terrarium

Before you can set the Lichen in your terrarium, you need to collect lichens from their natural habitat and take them home.

A. Collecting the Lichen

It is easier to collect lichens when they are wet. You will not damage them, too, when they are wet. Mist the Lichen using a spray bottle or pour directly onto the Lichen a small amount of water.

Lichens are slow-growing, so get just what you need for your terrarium and leave some lichen in their natural environment to allow them to reproduce.

Place the Lichen inside a paper bag. Fold the top of the bag so the Lichen will not dry. If you are going to take a long drive home, mist the Lichen often so they will remain healthy and moist.

When collecting lichens, make sure to abide by state and federal rules and regulations. Some states fine people who illegally collect plants.

B. Setting up your Terrarium

Choose your glass vessel. You can get suitable containers for terrariums at pet stores and garden centers. You can also use a fishbowl, glass bottle, or jar. It is best to choose a container/ vessel with a wide opening to plant more.

Cover or seal the container’s bottom with gravel (about 1″ to 2″) for drainage. Smooth and level the gravel using the palm of your hand.

Prepare a growing medium that contains med-high organic matter; the growing medium should, ideally, consist of 1-part sand, 1-part loam, and two parts humus. You can opt to mix your growth medium purchased with a commercial medium (pre-packaged) at garden centers.

Add some small rocks and a few twigs to the terrarium. Place the Lichen in the terrarium with the rocks and twigs. Move the elements until you find the best arrangement.

Attach the Lichen to a small piece of wood, moist rock, or the terrarium’s surface. Secure the Lichen into place using chopsticks.

Lightly spray the Lichen with water. Wipe the interior of the glass with a soft cloth or tissue to get rid of condensation.

Seal the glass vessel with plastic wrap or a tight-fitting lid.

Place your terrarium in a well-lit area. Make sure it will not be hit by direct sunlight. Your terrarium will function adequately at a room temperature of 70°

Once you are done assembling your terrarium, make sure to keep the Lichen moist. Lichens need moisture to grow and reproduce.

Your terrarium is now all set with your Lichen. Your journey to see your Lichen grown in the terrarium has just begun.

Make sure to spray or mist your terrarium with water regularly so that it doesn’t dry out. Your Lichen will become brittle and dry if it is locking in moisture.

People also ask

Is Lichen a plant or fungus?

Lichens are neither fungi nor plants – they are both! The outer skin and internal structure of a lichen is made of strands of fungal hyphae. Interspersed among the strands inside the Lichen are individual cells of algae. This kind of interaction between two different organisms is called symbiosis or mutualism.

Lichens can give your garden a mysterious beauty; thus, many gardeners encourage lichens’ growth in their gardens. Lichens take several years to grow and develop.

However, with the right environment, you can create a mini-ecosystem in your garden to encourage lichens’ growth. You can also create a mini-ecosystem in a terrarium so that you can grow your Lichen indoors.

What is a Lichen?

Lichens are beautiful yet mysterious.

A lichen is two organisms that function as one. It consists of algae and a fungus. They are often mistaken to be plants because they look like mosses. However, they are not plants because they do not come with a root system used to absorb water and nutrients, but they produce their own nutrients through photosynthesis.

Lichens are a complex life form that is a symbiotic partnership of two separate organisms, a fungus and an alga. … The alga can be either a green alga or a blue-green alga, otherwise known as cyanobacteria. Many lichens will have both types of algae.

Lichens are referred to as:

Epiphytes because they have the ability to grow on other plants.

Terrestrial because they can grow on soil.

Lithophytes because they can grow on rocks.

Lichens are classified based on their body forms:

Fruticose types. They may be hanging or erect and gave a branched form.

Foliose types. Looks similar to a leaf.

Crustose types. It looks identical to a crust that has formed on a surface.

Lichens also tend to grow on non-moving objects such as walls, roofs, and down logs. They are slow-growing – often less than a millimeter a year.

Lichens grow in almost all parts of the terrestrial ecosystem, including the tropics, ice-free polar areas, the tundra, seashores, tropical rainforests, mountains, and desert areas without moving sand dunes.

While generally classified as terrestrial, there are a few known aquatic lichens.

Lichens can grow on these surfaces:

Natural Surfaces. Rock, soil, bone, wood, bark, shells of living animals, fellow lichens.

Man-made Surfaces. Canvas, glass, bitumen, metal, concrete, plastic, leather, cloth, etc.

Lichens have been in the ecosystem for millions of years. Too much pollution can destroy them, but otherwise, these fascinating organisms can still be around for the next millions of years.

There are over two thousand species of lichens in North America. You should be able to find some when you are out exploring. They usually thrive on rocks, and when you scrape them off, they can leave their dissolved imprint on the rock.

What do Lichens Look Like?

Cladonia Fimbriata Lichen
Cladonia Fimbriata Lichen

A lichen forms when a fungus combines itself with blue or green algae. The fungus obtains minerals and water for the Lichen and protects the cells of the algae from desiccation.

The algae’s contribution to the relationship is that it provides energy to the Lichen through photosynthesis since it is a green plant.

Lichens have many forms, shapes, sizes, and possible colors. They can be grey, black, white, blue-grey, green, orange, yellow, brown, and red.

Lichens have these characteristics:

Plant-like bodies but minus the leaves, stems, or roots.

Lichens can be small or can cover large areas.

Lichens take on the color of the fungus when they are dry. They can also be gray and drab. They become transparent, and the color of the algae shines through when they are wet. Green algae, for example, give lichens a bright green color.

You can find elaborate-looking lichens or brightly colored ones. You can also find lichens that are plain and drab.

Uses for Lichens

Lichens have numerous uses. Lichens are essential and also beneficial to nature.

  • They can provide shelter for other organisms.
  • They can provide food for other animals.
  • They can provide materials for homes or nests of other animals.
  • They release chemicals that slow down the process of soil formation and rick breakdown (when they grow on rocks).
  • They can be used in making soil.
  • They are used for dyes.
  • They are used as ingredients for perfume scents.
  • They can be used as food after undergoing proper preparation.
  • They can be used as medicine and food.
  • The absence or presence of lichens can determine the level of pollutants in an area.

What Lichens Need to Grow

Lichens are low in maintenance, and when correctly laid out and cared for, they can be successfully grown indoors, such as in terrariums.

The Habitat Of Lichens Needs Specific Components In The Right Amounts:


Lichens shy away from wet environments. They want to get just the right amount of water.

Lichens start to photosynthesize and grow when they are wet. They become dormant and brittle when dry. Lichens are growing when they are pliable, wet, and are bright green or darker brown.

Lichens are dormant when they look dry, brittle, and pale.


Lichens need light to photosynthesize. The algae part of the Lichen produces carbohydrates. The fungi component uses these carbohydrates to reproduce and grow.


Lichens need fresh and clean air to survive. The cortex of lichens absorbs just about everything, including nutrients, toxins, and water in the air. The presence or absence of lichens in an area shows its level of pollution.


Lichens, similar to all living things, need nutrients to grow and survive, including oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen.

Surface or Substrates

All lichens live on any surface or substrate. A lichen can live on anything as long as it is not moving to attach to it. Soil rocks and trees are the most common natural surfaces or substrates of lichens.

Lichens growing on trees, rocks, and the ground in your property means you are breathing fresh, clean, and healthy air. Lichens can damage human-made structures, but it is a prolonged process that does not cause any imminent danger.

Potting Up

Most lichens should never be potted up because they are not terrestrial. The best thing to do is to create something that mimics its natural environment, such as a terrarium.

If you got your Lichen from a downed log, it is best to mount the bark on a tree fern slab and add a hook to make a hanging mount. If you can find a downed branch with an attached lichen, drill a hole on the branch, attach a hook, and hung it.

Suppose the Lichen is growing on a rock. Leave it on the rock. Terrestrial lichens are ideally placed on terrariums. Learn how to grow Lichen in a terrarium.

What is a Terrarium?

A terrarium is any glass container that contains soil and plants aimed at simulating a miniature ecosystem. These indoor gardens are a beautiful way to display plants in your home or office.

Terrariums replicate the natural world and the processes that occur. Terrariums thrive because of the natural flow of water that progresses because of evaporation, rainfall, and plants’ transpiration.

This is what transpires in a glass terrarium:

Moisture evaporates from the soil and leaves of plants as a result of heat from the sun.

Moisture is then collected to condense on the walls or roof of the display.

Condensation bounces back to the soil to mimic rainfall’s natural cycle that supplies moisture to all living creatures on earth.

There are two types of terrariums:

Open Terrariums. The glass vessel has an opening allowing the release of moisture. This allows the system to maintain low humidity. This type of terrarium is ideal for cacti or succulents. This type of terrarium needs frequent watering.

Enclosed Terrariums. The glass vessel has a lid to seal it completely. This type of terrarium has a high humidity inside the environment. Humidity recycles on its own to continuously provide plants with the water they need to grow. Some enclosed terrariums can survive months without water.

How to Build a Terrarium?

It is more exciting to build a terrarium than to purchase a ready-made one. When you build your own terrarium, you can customize it based on your taste, needs, and preferences.

Here are some tips when building your own terrarium:

Choose a clear glass vessel. Colored glass vessels may look beautiful, but they will block light coming from plants.

Choose a wide-mouth glass vessel. They are easier to work with, especially when you need to get your hand inside the glass vessel.

Plants that go inside your terrarium should have similar sunlight and humidity

Pick slow-growing plants and the ones that remain short even when they are already mature.

Collect all the materials needed for your terrarium.

  • Start from the bottom of the terrarium. There is a required order to follow when assembling your terrarium.
  • Place a thin layer of stone, sand, small gravel, or bark chips for drainage collection.
  • Place the charcoal layer.
  • Add a barrier (moss, screen, or paper in various colors) over the charcoal layer to not set the soil.
  • Place a layer of potting soil or other growing substrates depending on the plant (sand, coconut coir). This is important to retain moisture and embed the roots.
  • Arrange your plants inside the terrarium. Be careful not to disturb the growing substrate.
  • Add some moss, bark chips, or tiny gravel to cover visible soil. This layer also adds to the visual appeal of your terrarium, it also aids in the moisture retention of the soil.
  • With your terrarium ready, the question now is, how to grow Lichen in a terrarium?

Final Thoughts on How to Grow Lichen in a Terrarium

A terrarium is one of the best indoor gardens you can have. You can make it mimic the look of your favorite natural environment. Knowing how to grow Lichen in a terrarium will make it look more appealing.

The fantastic spin-off is that it has the most calming effect on the person creating it and working on it. That’s something money can’t buy!

Patricia Godwin

Patricia has many years of experience as a content writer on various subjects, but her first love is gardening. She’s never met a plant she didn’t like and, consequently, she writes about every type of plant you can think of. Once an avid gardener with a herb garden, a succulent rockery, and a rose garden – to mention a few. Nowadays, she’s constantly on the move searching for interesting plants to bring to your attention; and explain to you all the details you need to grow, care and maintain these plants.

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