Moss Propagation: Learn About Transplanting And Propagating Moss
By: Anne Baley
If you’re frustrated at trying to grow grass in the shady moist parts of your yard, why not stop fighting nature and turn these areas into moss gardens? Mosses thrive in areas where other plants struggle, and will cover the ground with a soft and gentle layer of color. Moss doesn’t actually have a root system or seeds like most garden plants do, so propagating moss is a matter of art more than one of science. Let’s learn more about moss propagation.
Transplanting and Propagating Moss
Learning how to propagate moss is actually quite easy. Prepare the area for a moss bed by removing everything that’s growing there now. Dig up grass, weeds and any plants that may be struggling to grow in the meager light. Rake the soil to remove any stray roots, and then water the ground until it is muddy.
You can spread moss to parts in your yard using two different methods: transplanting moss and moss spreading. One or the other method may work best for your area, or a combination of both.
Transplanting moss – To transplant moss, pick bunches or sheets of moss growing in your yard or in a similar environment. If you don’t have any native moss, look near ditches, in parks under trees and around fallen logs or in shady areas behind schools and other buildings. Press chunks of the moss into the soil and push a stick through each piece to hold it in place. Keep the area moist and the moss will begin to establish itself and spread within a few weeks.
Spreading moss – If you have a rock garden or other place where transplanting won’t work, try spreading moss slurry on the proposed garden spot. Put a handful of moss in a blender along with a cup of buttermilk and a cup (453.5 gr.) of water. Blend the ingredients into a slurry. Pour or paint this slurry over the rocks or in between chunks of transplanted moss to fill in the empty spaces. The spores in the slurry will form moss as long as you keep the area moist to allow it to grow.
Growing Moss Plants as Outdoor Art
Turn moss into a piece of outdoor art by using the moss and buttermilk slurry. Draw the outline of a shape, perhaps your initials or a favorite saying, on a wall with a piece of chalk. Brick, stone and wood walls work the best. Paint the slurry heavily within this outline. Mist the area daily with clear water from a spray bottle. Within a month, you’ll have a decorative design growing on your wall in soft green moss.
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How To Grow Moss: A Simple and Fun Project
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While some people are looking for ways to get rid of moss, others are trying to find ways to grow it. Learning how to grow moss is a fun and easy project that can involve the whole family.
Why grow moss?
There are many reasons you might want to grow moss:
♦ Moss is always green. Sometimes there are different shades, but it never turns brown unless it’s dead. And it’s tough to kill.
♦ Looking for excuses to mow less? Moss never has to be mowed.
♦ Have lots of shade where nothing else will grow? Moss grows in shade.
♦ Moss grows in ground that’s always wet or damp.
♦ Moss grows in compacted areas.
♦ Looking for a fun gift to give? It makes a great addition to DIY terrariums or fairy gardens.
♦ It is very easy to propagate. Here’s how:
How to Grow Moss
Ingredients & Supplies
- starter moss (see suggestions below or find it here)
- potato masher or other tool for mashing
- old paintbrush
- Find some “starter” moss. Look around your yard, ask a friend, check local garden centers, or even the parking lot where you buy groceries. I found a nice clump where I buy my food. I asked the store manager if I could take it and he looked at me like I was nuts. He told me I could take all I wanted! So I gathered some up and took it home.
- Place moss in a bowl (I used one that I use for mixing soil) and then added some buttermilk. It doesn’t matter what kind of buttermilk you use. I think it’s the acidity and ability to adhere that makes a difference. Then I took an old potato masher and mashed it all up.
- When it looks like mud, use an old paintbrush to apply the moss onto any surface you want to grow moss. I painted mine on an old bucket, some rocks, and a dish I used to put succulents in.
- In a few weeks you’ll have moss growing all over the surfaces.
Alternatively, if you want more moss nearby some moss that is already growing, you can paint buttermilk on whatever surface you want to have moss on, and the spores should find it. (Sometimes this method works well, and sometimes it needs some help.)
Whatever your reason for growing moss, you’ll never have to mow it!
About Debra Maslowski
Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon! Connect with Debra Maslowski on G+.
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Moss Types To Use
There are two categories of moss: Acrocarpous (e.g., fork moss, cushion moss) and Pleurocarpous (e.g., fern moss, sheet moss).
The former grows more slowly, is more upright and is a drier moss, making it more easily damaged if walked on. But it is also the tighter variety which works well to prevent weed growth.
Pleurocarpous is a flatter moss that grows faster, and you can walk all over it without worry. And it’s excellent for erosion control. So, besides the look, you will also want to base your moss choices on how you plan to use it.
Ideally, you want an area that is mostly shaded but does get some sun. You can purchase moss at some garden centers, but if you’re like me, you probably already have moss growing somewhere on your property. So grab a spatula and harvest it yourself to replant.
Prepare the ground (rake it, remove any weeds, etc.) and moisten it before laying down your moss. it’s a good idea to pin it to the ground and lay some rocks on top to help it gain traction to the soil below.
Make sure to keep it moist for the next few weeks. As the moss thickens and establishes itself over a few months, you will want to pull out any weeds that push through.
Once it’s attached, your work is mostly done. Moss doesn’t have a root structure, so it doesn’t get its nutrients from the soil, taking instead from its leaves via rain and sun.
Do you get a lot of snow where you live? Not a problem. Moss loves the snow cover and the moisture it provides – coming back even stronger after it melts.
While those are the basics, how you use it, and what you create, is up to you. You can go simple and cover a little shaded area of your garden where nothing else is growing anyway, or make the moss a focal point throughout the garden (over and around rocks can create a beautiful, multi-dimensional visual).
Don’t forget about your lawn. Moss as a lawn replacement is a very cool idea for low-traffic areas.
Side Note: While some people will tell you to check the pH of the soil before you plant your moss (you want it under 6), just as many will say that moss is such a resilient and low-maintenance plant, that in most cases, the pH doesn’t matter.
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How to Grow Moss on Rocks, Bricks, or Pots
To grow moss on objects in your garden, such as dry stones on a retaining wall or a collection of clay pots, you need to take a different, slightly trickier approach. First, combine plain yogurt or buttermilk (two cups) and chopped moss (one and a half cups) in a bucket. Mix until the concoction becomes easily spreadable add water if it’s too thick, additional moss if it’s too thin. Now spread the mixture wherever you would like the moss to grow. Over the next few weeks, make sure to keep the burgeoning moss moist. Within six weeks, so long as it’s been properly cared for, the moss should begin to grow rather vigorously.
To learn more about Spanish moss, check out this related information:
- Balcony Web writes about Spanish Moss and how to care for it.
- Parade Magazine explores gardening Spanish moss indoors and outdoors.
- SFGate indicates in detail how to prepare Spanish moss for indoor use.
- Video by Brad’s Greenhouse and Gardening on YouTube
K Dubash. says
I notice pictures of Spanish Moss over branches of trees. Can I just drape them over tree branches and leave them? Will they thrive if I don’t water them?
That’s what we do and we are way up north.
We have some palm trees that we protect in winter and just hang the Spanish Moss over one of the lower branches, out of direct sun.
We spray them when they are dry. We do have a dual charcoal filters on our outdoor hose connection to get rid of chlorine.
Sometimes, we make a “tea” from what is at the bottom door of the composter.
I’m not really sure if that’s necessary, but we do.
This year, we brought some into the house. We have that just hanging off of a plant that is again, in bright light, but not direct sun.
We only spray it with water when its dry.
So far, so good.
cal adkinson says
I have noticed that Moss only lives on trees near a body of water. For instance trees on one side of a block beside a canal will have Moss but none on the other side.
The limit seems to be about 600 feet.