How-To Grow Moss

This page pulls together many posts from this blog as a convenient way to cover the basics of moss gardening. To gain a deeper understanding you can filter the blog post by choosing the category of Moss Education which will contain the information below but also include all of the posts that focus on cultivation techniques.

Our main mission at Moss and Stone Gardens‘ blog, is to educate those desiring to learn more about mosses.  Our goal is to make it easy for you to understand mosses; to take the mystery out of moss – not the mystic.

As a landscape design group specializing in moss and stone gardens, we work with homeowners and design professionals designing with moss.

Particularly today, in what appears to be a movement towards moss, as designers and gardeners are looking for sustainable, shade loving options, either as a lawn replacement or as a sculptural backdrop to accent the grounds of commercial or residential properties, we feel it is even more important to help with this education.


Knowing your Acrocarp from your Pleurocarp

All mosses can be classified as 2 types:  Acrocarpous and Pleurocarpous

Recently, I asked David Spain, our moss expert, to describe the two types of mosses we are so often writing about.  I hope you learn as much about Acrocarps and Pleurocarps as I did.  If you have further questions, please leave a comment and David will get back with you.

Acrocarpous mosses have an upright growth habit.

As defined by,  Acrocarpous Moss – A type of moss in which the archegonia (i.e. female sex organs), and hence the capsules are borne at the tips of stems or branches.  Acrocarpous mosses may branch extensively; once they have fruited, branches take over the erect growth.

Acrocarps are usually unbranched and erect, forming a mounded colony. Acrocarps are slower growing than Pleurocarps. The sporophytes of the Acrocarps emerge from the tips of the plant. Acrocarps do not regenerate from fragments as quickly as Pleurocarps. Weeds are less likely to invade Acrocarps due to the thickness and tight packed stems.

Common Acrocarps for moss gardens are: Polytrichum commune, Dicranum scopariumCampylopus introflexus, and Luecobryum glaucum.

Pleurocapous mosses have a prostrate growth habit.

As defined by, Pleurocarpous – A type of moss in which the female sex organs (archegonia) and capsules are borne on short, lateral branches, and not at the tips of branches. Pleurocarpous mosses tend to form spreading carpets rather than erect tufts.

Pleurocarps are freely branching in a chaotic fashion. Pleurocarps spread out branches from the colony in a creeping fashion. The sporophytes of the Pleurocarps emerge mid stem. Most Pleurocarps grow faster than Acrocarps. Pleurocarps quickly regenerate from broken fragments. Pleurocarps quick attachment to stone and growth rate makes them better for colonizing hard substrates. Maintenance of Pleurocarps is easier due to their matting tendencies and low even profile, blowing debris off of them is easier. Pleurocarps can be used as a nursery for Acrocarps, once an area is colonized by these pioneer mosses, the slower growing Acrocarps can more easily colonize.

Common Pleurocarps for moss garden are: Thuidium delecatulumPlagiomnium cuspidatumClimacium americanumBryandersonia illecebraEntodon seductrixHypnum cupressiforme, and Hypnum imponens.


Preparing soils for moss–a clean slate


At Moss and Stone Gardens we are often asked how to start a moss lawn where there is nothing but dirt covered with leaves and other debris.  Below, David Spain, provides a clear understanding on what is needed to begin creating your emerald carpet of moss.

To develop an area of moss, you will need to start from the ground up. First remove any existing plants that you do not want, especially grasses and weeds. A pre-emergent like Preen Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer can be applied to discourage germination of any existing seeds.

Mosses are not particular about the type of soil they grow on in terms of soil composition. Loam, clay or richly amended soils will all work fine. The exception would be soils with a high sand content preventing a stable surface; ever-shifting loose sandy soils make attachment difficult, but not impossible. The more important aspect to encouraging mosses to establish is texture and particle size. If you imagine yourself to be less than an inch tall and had to move across the soils surface, you would understand the importance of smoothness.

Grade and contour the area if needed, remember that moss will follow the small undulations that are normally not noticeable until a smooth carpet of green is hugging the ground. Watch also for small depressions that will end up collecting debris and water. This includes depressions up to three feet in diameter.

Be aware of any water run-off paths that you may create or that already exist.  Mosses are great soil stabilizers and will filter water run off, but first they need to be established to withstand flowing water. If you have these areas, pre-filter run off from sediment and debris that may deposit onto newly installed areas. One way to do this is by placing stones and gravel as a barrier upstream or temporarily diverting the run-off. Mosses laid in the path of run-off can be pinned or netted in place until established.

Smoothing the surface will also aid in rhizome attachment which will speed up establishment and then growth. Keep in mind that mosses will first need some rhizome attachment at their growing edge before they will send out new branching. Mosses do not like being unattached nor do they like being exposed to air without some surface below them. Preparing really smooth soil speeds up rhizome attachment and encourages faster branching. Even though mosses may overcome almost any obstacle in their path such as a fallen tree, they don’t do this quickly nor do they simply just run up the side and over. Pebbles, leaves, or any loose material will need removing and also ensure that the soil leading up to any trees, roots, or hardscaping is slightly ramped up to meet the obstruction. This will prevent a debris zone or dead zone where mosses resist meeting vertical surfaces and attaching to them.

With regards to soil pH, moss will grow in most pH conditions.  Adjusting the pH is usually not needed. If you suspect your soils are alkaline (greater than 7 on the logarithmic scale,) you should get the soil tested . And if it is above 7.0, you may consider adding aluminum sulfate or elemental sulphur to bring it down somewhat. Alkaline  conditions like this may have been created by years of lime applications in an attempt to sustain grasses in the shade. In our experience, mosses will grow on soils of a wide range of pH. The common practice has been to adjust soil pH to 5.0 or 5.5 for the benefit of the moss, but since mosses don’t have roots that feed from the soil, pH is not a major criterial.

Plant any companion plants before introducing mosses. If you want to add any foundation plants, perennials, or hardscaping, it is best to do that first and add the mosses last. Prepare the soils to suit the vascular plants and then smooth the surface for the mosses to create a living mulch around them.

Even though you have smoothed the soils before introducing the mosses, you may need to very lightly scratch the surface to create some loosened soil to aid in making good contact.

This is helpful when transplanting mosses that have been collected by scraping or raking. After the mosses have been placed on top of this loosened soil, they will be watered deeply and then walked on. This will re-compress the fluffed soil and act as an temporary mortar to hold the moss down. If transplanting scooped moss colonies, scratching can be done to create a slight depression to keep the soils level. All areas under and around the transplants will need to be tamped down by hand or by walking on them after installation.


Understanding the growth rate of pleurocarps versus acrocarps

Pleurocarp habit


Anyone who has tried to start a moss lawn knows mosses are slow growing. Most people understand this, but many don’t understand why or just how slow is slow.

Mosses are very primitive plants without a higher evolved vascular system. They are limited to energy production by three factors: moisture, sunlight, and temperatures above 20 degrees Fahrenheit. If these three conditions are met, photosynthesis will produce the energy needed for growth. The energy produced is consumed but not stored for future growth. The only reserves that mosses have is a protein that allows for the repair of any cellular damage that may occur during desiccation. Upon hydration, the stored protein can repair the cell wall so that photosynthesis is again possible.

Mosses differ from vascular plants in that vascular ones may produce or consume energy under any number of different conditions–beyond the three factors limiting moss growth. Unlike mosses, vascular plants can store energy in their tissues, and continue to extract moisture and nutrients through their roots at night. You can water your wilted tomato plants after the sun has set and still have the benefit of that water perking her up. Mosses do not have this benefit; instead they have a simple on/off switch that allows their metabolism to produce and consume energy. If they are not producing or consuming energy, they become dormant.

While having the ability to be dormant or active within such a short period of time is an advantage, the disadvantage is not being able to extend your active period beyond the three strict factors. (We can, of course, provide the moisture if the other two factors are present and allow for growth. Learn about this in the next post.)

To obtain maximum growth from your moss, it should be moist as long as the sun is shining and the temperature is close to or above freezing, but, as always, we mustn’t generalize too much about such a large group of plants.

Now that we understand what it takes for mosses to grow, it is important to know about the different potential growth rates between the two types of mosses: pleurocarpous and acrocarpous. In general, pleurocarps can tolerate constant moisture, some even submerged, while most acrocarps must periodically dry out to prevent rotting.

Many carpeting pleurocarp mosses can be watered several times a day year-round, promoting growth that is on par with most evergreens. Their ever-branching and creeping horizontal habit will keep them expanding over new territory indefinitely. Under ideal conditions it is possible for the pleurocarps to double their size in 6 months.

Acrocarp habit

Acrocarps, however, cannot be accelerated past a certain point.  They are limited by their need to periodically dry out and their upright growth habit. You are more likely to have acrocarps spread over an area by their spores or fragments before the colony enlarges enough to double in size. Spores and broken leaf tips usually take 2 years under ideal circumstances to mature enough to be considered as “a carpet of moss.”

So there you have it, mosses take their sweet ole time to fill in. We can however give them a helping hand and significantly increase their growth rate and our goal of creating a moss garden by ensuring that the combination of their needs are met.


Watering mosses


Transplanted mosses in a new location need a period of time for the moss to acclimate and become established. Acclimation is the process of the moss adjusting to the new location’s elements such as altitude, sunlight, water, wind, as well as the substrate the moss will be growing on.

Each of these will effect different mosses to greater or lesser degrees depending on the species, their growth rate and habit, which may increase or decrease depending on those changes. Establishment occurs after acclimation to environmental differences and when new rhizomes have re-attached the colony to it’s new substrate.

To help with the establishment, the wisdom is to provide water frequently after the transplant, but how often and for how long is the question. This will be different depending on the the type of moss being transplanted. An acrocarp has different requirements than a pleurocarp.


Acrocarpous mosses are slower growing and will not tolerate constant moisture for periods longer than 2 or 3 months, if moisture persists they will begin to rot and eventually fail. They can benefit from a rainy season or regular irrigation once a year, but after that they will need regular dry spells.

If you are unsure whether your moss is an acrocarp, monitor its condition carefully. Look for signs of the moss turning dark and if there is a reduction in height. These signs will indicate that it’s getting too much water, and a break from frequent moisture is needed.


Below is a helpful watering chart for establishing acrocarps.

Months 1 and 2–-water daily for up to two months to promote growth.

Month 3–-water every three days for one month.

Month 4–-water once a week for one month.

Month 5–-water twice a month then until the area is fully covered in moss.

After that, water only when rain has been absent for three weeks or more.


Pleurocarpous mosses can be watered daily, and even up to 6 times a day in small volumes. This consistent moisture will keep pleurocarps growing year round, if the conditions are right.

The caveat for a frequent watering schedule is to be careful and not create the conditions for problems to form. Too much volume can create soggy conditions that may cause root rot for other plants. Be sure the delivery and timing of the water moistens the moss but does not soak the soil.

Molds, mildews and fungus can also cause problems for Pleurocarps.  When temperatures rise above 75 degrees, constant moisture can cause the development of molds, mildews or fungus. These may grow on the bare soils surrounding the mosses or directly on the moss itself. If any of these problems occur, allow the area to dry out completely and resume with a lower volume application of water.

After pleurocarpous mosses have filled in, and have become a thick and lush growth, watering can be reduced over time and allow rain to provide for the moss’s watering needs. If you are in an area with low rainfall levels, you may need to supplement during drought. Avoid creating a wet then dry cycle multiple times a day. The effect of drying out several times a day can produce a net loss in energy production.


Watering using a hose and fine spray head is the most economical and accurate method for irrigation. Irrigation systems can also be used if they have the proper fine spray heads and are allowed to be scheduled. This usually requires a dedicated zone and programming. Hose end sprinklers are another possibility and can even be operated by a battery powered programable timer that attaches directly to the spigot.

If your water supply is from a well or a municipal system, you may want to have your water tested for chloramine or sulfur. High levels of each can have a negative impact on moss growth. You can also just water over a two month period to see if there is any negative effects. Using collected rain water will provide the best results over any other water source.

Since mosses must have sunlight in order to metabolize, the best time of day to water is early in the morning. Avoid watering your mosses close to dusk, so that they have time to accumulate net gains in their energy production.


When is the best time to plant mosses?

Mosses are evergreen plants. They will grow year round as long as moisture and sunlight are available at the same time. Photosynthesis is possible even below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Mosses do not have a seasonal growth habit,  instead their dormancy comes anytime they are dry. They return to active growth as soon as moisture fills their tissue.

Mosses can be successfully transplanted anytime of the year. The requirements for their survival are the same no matter the zone or season. The difference in care however will vary depending on what Mother Nature is doing. In general the differences in the time of year come down to moisture. If temperatures are mild then moisture retention is higher than it would be if you were experiencing 100 degree days when evaporative effects are increased. The more rainfall, the less irrigation you will have to provide.

Other seasonal considerations come from other plants. If mosses are newly transplanted in the early fall, removal of leaf litter will be challenging if the moss wasn’t pinned or netted to the substrate. Using a blower to remove leaves from the moss may disturb unanchored or weakly attached colonies. Using artificial attachment like moss pins or netting is an effective way to deal with this issue. Regular blowing before leaf litter becomes deep and heavy with water will also make removal easier. Loose netting laid down over an area and then lifted once leaves have fallen is another low impact option. Transplanting in late winter or early spring usually means rainfall and temperatures are  advantageous but annual weeds may be fighting for the same territory you have cleared for the moss. Mature and thick moss growth is naturally weed resistant but newly formed moss areas may still have exposed soils and minimal moss density. Controlling weeds are a necessary part of developing a moss garden, removal by hand is the best method and least harmful to the mosses. Pre-emergents are an effective control for annual weeds and can be used with moss gardens.


Dividing and Fragmenting Mosses

The best way to propagate moss is by taking a larger piece and dividing it into smaller pieces, then transplanting them apart from one another and encouraging them to grow together. Once moss has covered a surface it will begin adding new growth in the form of thickness, essentially growing on top of itself. While this mature thick growth is ultimately the goal and offers the best weed suppression, it does not maximize their spreading. If you are trying to increase coverage then dividing will speed the process.

To ensure the highest level of survival, larger divisions offer stability and control. These divisions could be as small as the center of your palm. Even smaller divisions are called fragments and offer the greatest expansion but the loose pieces are more difficult to confine. The size of the fragments are best if kept larger than 1/4 inch, the smaller the fragments the longer it will take to establish and fill in. Pinching and pulling to tease apart sections is preferable to using scissors or other instruments. One square foot of moss can be effectively spread to cover up to 20 square feet. Mind you this degree of fragmentation is extreme and may take several years to fill in.

The tearing and shredding to divide or fragment signals the moss to begin new growth. The first order of business for the divisions or fragments is to re-anchor themselves to the substrate. Until new rhizoids have formed, leafy growth will not resume. In order for a rhizoid to develop, the fragment or stem of the moss must be in contact with something. Rhizoids do not reach out to attach themselves by first growing into thin air and then happen upon a surface to connect with. Instead, they form on the stem when in contact with something.

Pleurocarpous mosses will respond to fragmentation techniques much faster than acrocarpous mosses will. By nature of their growth habit and response to moisture, pleurocarps will respond with new growth within 3 months if moisture is sufficient. Their stems will continually branch and lengthen making them superior for carpeting.

Any part of a pleuro is viable for regeneration. The larger the fragment the more quickly it will recover. Very small fragments (less than 1/4 inch) are likely to revert to a younger state of maturity called protonema. This fragile state is where the moss acts like an alga, and grows more like a film on the surface. Protonemal mosses are more likely to perish if they become dry and may take many weeks before developing into a mature gametophyte (fully developed moss with leaves).

Acrocarpous mosses that have been fragmented may need 6 months or more to anchor themselves and another 12 months to multiply. Since acrocarps spread by the growth of new individual upright stems, the pace of their spreading is slower. Since most acrocarpous mosses require periodic dry periods, they cannot stay in a growth mode everyday like pleurocarps.

The growing tips or outer layers of Acrocarps are more readily regenerated than the older lower parts of the stem. When fragmenting acro’s, be sure to crumble or cut the growing tips with scissors. Simply separating the stems will leave them less able to orient themselves upright and create new rhizoids.

Fragmentation should be done when the moss is dry. In their desiccated state, they have prepared themselves for possible damage, storing a small amount of protein that can be used to repair any cellular damage once moisture returns.

Spread the fragments onto a prepared and lightly scratched soil, water enough to wet the top inch of soil and then press them firmly, re-compacting the soils surface. This will provide good contact with as much surface area of the fragments and promote rhizoid formation. Compacting also acts to trap the fragments between soil particles keeping them from blowing away. Water the fragments 1 to 4 times a day depending on the conditions and occasionally walk on them to keep their contact with the soil.

Divisions can be held in place by netting, toothpicks or greening pins. Toothpicks can be inserted at opposite angles to work in unison with one another. Acrocarps are better held in place with netting. Securing moss divisions in place is useful for areas with water run-off or gusty winds. Securing also prevents unnecessary disturbance which can disrupt rhizome development.


Creating a Moss Lawn

The most common question I receive about moss gardening is from people who have decided to give up on their grass lawn in shady areas where naturally occurring mosses have crept in. They ask, “How do I eliminate the remaining grass?”

After attempting to grow a lawn in shade, only to fail in producing a satisfying amount of coverage to fulfill the ideal, frustration leads to an alternative–moss. Converting a grass lawn to moss where traditional attempts of growing turf were used; annual seeding, adding lime, selective herbicides, and watering are one of the most difficult scenarios to work with.

The mosses move in forming verdant green islands and showcasing their evergreen appeal. The homeowner begins to realize Mother Nature may be revealing a better plant for this location. At this point, the homeowner is typically pleased. Even if they can’t grow the grass they hoped for, the fascination that moss wants to grow offers them salvation.

Soon the moss is anointed and all the efforts to coax the grass is removed from the homeowners list of chores. The moss however proves stubborn and seems unwilling to hold up to the occupation of its newly bequeathed territory.

Then the question comes, “How do I remove the existing grass and get the moss to take over?” My standard answer underwhelms as I explain that it’s best to remove the grass by hand and water regularly. This is then followed by a plea, “Isn’t there some kind of chemical that I can apply?”

Many of us have become accustomed to gardening and cultivating our landscapes with the help of sprays and chemical controls. It’s a hard habit to break, potions line up like soldiers at the local stores to do the job once held by our sweaty hands. We want and expect to have an easy remedy in the form of a spray to rid dandelions, crabgrass, nut sedge, broad leaf weeds, and even moss (ouch). Pulling grasses and digging with a weeding tool seems like an impossible task for large areas, but tackled systematically it is manageable, and the least disturbing method that capitalizes on any gains the mosses have made.

Here are a few suggestions to create a moss lawn and to deal with a grass to moss conversion.

1.   Where there is nothing–a clean slate

If you have an area where there is no vegetation, you are beginning with a clean slate. This is usually due to leaves and debris that have been allowed to cover the ground and prevent any plants from accessing the soil. The leaf litter can be removed and the area prepared soils for mosses.

You can also create a clean slate by applying a thick layer of leaf litter and allowing it to do the work of clearing any vegetation for you over several months. For a quicker approach, vegetation can be removed manually using a flat shovel.

Beginning with a clean slate is often the best way to promote a self-sustaining and weed resistant moss lawn.

After the area is prepared for moss,  locate and transplant from your surrounding area placing patches of colonies directly on the prepared soil. Fragmenting the colonies will increase the coverage but also the time needed for establishment. After installation be sure to water deeply and step on the mosses to ensure direct contact between the mosses and the soil.

Begin a structured watering regiment  and keep the area debris free. A pre-emergent such as Preen Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer can be used to prohibit weeds from geminating.

Alternatively you can follow these steps but not introduce mosses and allow airborne spores to develop into a selection of mosses that suit the conditions. In about 3 months you will begin to see what looks like a green coloring on the surface of the compacted soil. This is the early stage of moss growth and it will develop into a moss lawn in 12 to 24 months.

2.  Where there are equal amounts of weeds and moss–join Team Moss

Join team moss and say goodbye to team grass. Every advantage given your new team will help turn the tide from grass (and weeds) to moss.

Capitalize on established patches of moss, encouraging their domination by removing competition (grass, weeds and debris) and using appropriate  watering techniquesCarefully hand pull grasses and weeds, ensuring to get the roots.

If your weeds overwhelmingly outnumber the moss, place leaf litter or black plastic over the area. This will block sunlight and starve the vascular grasses and weeds. The mosses will tolerate this for a longer period of time than the grass and weeds, thus killing the unwanted growth while maintaining most of the moss.  Check the progress every couple of weeks until the vascular plants have died.

3.  Temporarily remove and store the moss–divide and conquer

Create a clean slate by temporarily removing the mosses. Think of it as taking your new moss buddies for a vacation while you do some spring cleaning. Collect all the mosses and store them off to the side for a couple of weeks.

Larger patches can be collected as a whole and sparsely covered areas raked out. Set the mosses aside in a shady location, laying out the patches and piling up the loose bits that were raked in a shady location. You should water the stored mosses daily and they will keep this way for a couple of weeks, if needed.

4.  Apply herbicides—give in to temptation

If your volunteering mosses are  pleurocarps, applying herbicides has fair odds of working.  If they are acrocarps it is not advisable. On a dry warm sunny day, lightly mist the mosses with water, do this slowly on one area then another and repeat. Give the mosses time to absorb as much water as possible. Then allow the leaves of the grasses and weeds to air dry. The mosses will retain the moisture but the waxy leaves of the weeds and grasses will not. Apply a rainproof glyphosate, carefully aiming for the intended targets but avoiding a heavy application. A half strength mixture may even be enough to kill most invaders and reduce moss damage.

After the required drying time for the glyphosate, water the mosses again. After any damage to the mosses has healed, you can repeat the application. By watering the mosses and fully hydrating their cells before applying the glyphosate, the absorption rate is minimized. Watering afterwards will help further dilute any remaining chemicals.

Even though the herbicides may be easier, don’t try to accomplish this too quickly or in one application. It is also wise to test this technique on a small area first to check for success.

Let’s hope more of us change our perspective and go from saying, “There’s moss growing in my grass” to “There’s grass growing in my moss!”


How to Collect Mosses

Mosses can be collected by scooping, scraping, or raking. The technique for collection depends on the type of moss–acrocarp or pleurocarp


Acrocarps are best collected by scooping after a rainfall. First, clean any loose debris and weed the moss as much as possible before collecting. Once the moss is disturbed and removed from it’s original location, it’s more difficult to remove debris and vascular plants. Slide a mason’s trowel, BBQ spatula, or any flat-bladed hand tool underneath a moss colony to collect a thin layer of soil along with a patch of moss, preserving the rhizomes and the integrity of the colony.

Work in sections about the size of the palm of your hand or as large as you can transport without damage. These moss colonies can then be re-located intact or divided and nestled back into the soil to re-establish in a new location.

Frequent watering will speed up the re-establishment process. For acrocarps, begin with a greater frequency of watering then decreasing over time:

  • Months 1 and 2–water daily for up to two months to promote growth.
  • Month 3–water every three days for one month.
  • Month 4–water once a week for one month.
  • Month 5–water twice a month then until the area is fully covered in moss.
  • After that, water only when rain has been absent for three weeks or more.


Pleurocarps can be collected by scooping, scraping, or raking.

To scoop, collect pleurocarps like you would acrocarps, cutting the soil just under the colony and transplanting the colony whole (with soil) to a new location.

To scrape or pull the mosses from the soil, cut at the top of the soil level or work the moss away from the soil with your hands. A lateral pushing and pulling motion will loosen or break the rhizomes and allow the mosses to be removed from the soil.  This technique is similar to giving someone a back massage where the palms of your hands are flat on top of the moss and you are pressing down.  Slowly push and pull, keeping the contact between your hands and the moss to loosen and break the rhizomes that are holding the moss in place. With your fingertips, work your way around the area until it is loose, tearing an edge to allow you to gently peel it up. Scraping should also be done when the moss is wet.

This will also allow you to collect the moss without any soil, lessening the weight for transport, thus increasing your chances of keeping the colony section whole. The moss section can then be transplanted to the new substrate for establishment. Collecting mosses in this fashion is also helpful when moving them from a fallen tree and then onto soil or other substrate when you intend to fragment into smaller pieces.

Raking the mosses can also be used to remove moss from areas where they are mixed with weeds and grasses. By raking the mosses, you can leave the root-anchored plants behind and collect the mosses in fragments. This technique is best done when the moss is dry. It may also be helpful to agitate the moss with your finger tips until the fragments are free.

Spread the moss fragments into a prepared area and water frequently to establish new rhizome anchors. Pleurocarpous mosses can be watered daily to encourage establishment and spreading. It is not necessary to reduce the frequency as you would with acrocarps.



Moss and metals – the ins and outs of moss

At Moss and Stone Gardens, we are often asked about the type of containers best used for growing moss.  As you consider the container or substrate selection for your moss dish, please keep the following in mind.

In – plastics, ceramics, seasoned concrete, stone, wood, soil, fabric or glass.

Out – galvanized or zinc plated metals, copper, pressure treated lumber, chemically unstable materials.

The low down from moss expert, David Spain:

Even though mosses don’t have a root system to draw nutrients or liquids from substrates they are growing on, they are still capable of conduction.  This means that direct contact with moisture, which is also in contact with a substrate or material, can transmit dissolved particles to the moss. One of the things mosses are sensitive to is heavy metals and some chemicals.

I have observed a healthy and spreading carpet of moss, stop in its tracks, as it approaches the drip line of a deck constructed with pressure treated wood. When water comes into contact with the pressure treated wood, some of the chromated copper arsenic will leach into the water and be dispersed. This will have negative effects on any moss that is in contact with this contaminated water.

The same effect can be observed with other materials like zinc, which is attached in strips on roofs to retard moss growth. Having said that, I have also observed moss grow on top of, or over pressure treated wood.  Admittedly it was always decades old pressure treated wood and not new. However, there is a difference, in terms of the moss being “upstream” from the contamination source, growing on top of pressure treated wood, is a little different than growing beneath it.

To investigate further, mosses living on top of soil that is in a pressure treated planter will fair better than ones planted at the foot of the same container. They are buffered by the soil and basically, upstream from the water that contacts the  pressure treated wood.

It is also possible to have soil in a zinc coated container with mosses growing on the soil, but there will certainly be a zone of peril where soil stops and zinc begins.

In a container using an inappropriate material for mosses, good draining soil and drainage holes would be essential to keep the mosses downstream of contaminants.

Damage to mosses from zinc or pressure treated wood may not be visible for weeks or more depending on the species, water volume and contamination levels, the metabolism rates of mosses are very slow and so visual evidence of damage takes time.

In summary, it’s best to stay on the save side and use what’s in for moss — plastics, ceramics, seasoned concrete, stone, wood, soil, fabric, or glass.

Editor: Helen  Yoest


Mosses for sun

Dear David,

Can you advise me which moss prefers sunlight? I have a path and the 10 foot stitch of it that gets about 4 hrs of direct noon sunshine keeps dying out while the rest of the shaded path looks lush and green with moss. Which variety I have I am not sure. I live in northern Illinois. Thanks much. Love your pictures. Roxanne.

Dear Roxanne,

Giving you the names of sun tolerant mosses is easy, the hard part is identifying them. Entodon seductrix is the top of the list.  Entodon seductrix is a pleurocarp that grows on soil, wood, and stone. Other sun tolerant mosses include Climacium americanum, Leucobryum glaucum, Aloina aloides, Ceratodon purpureus and Bryum argentium. These are listed in order of usefulness for your application.

One way to find a good fit is to look for mosses growing in the same conditions you have.

Good luck Roxanne and please follow our blog for more useful tips!


Moss – squirrels, birds, and other moss meddling critters

Dear David,

The squirrels have been digging up my attempts to grow a moss lawn.  What do you suggest?  I have so many unpleasant thought about ways to eat the squirrel.


Dear Vance,

I feel your pain. squirrels can be a troublesome animal in a garden.

There are several approaches to deter squirrels and you may need to incorporate one or more, to be effective. Once the problem is under control, the squirrel population seems to remember the areas they are unwelcome.

The first line of defense is with netting. This technique is effective and is left in place permanently.

Using 3/8″ grid netting, (see above) sold as pond netting, you cut to size and cover the area being disturbed, pin down using landscape staples. I recommend cutting the staples and modifying the cut end into a hook. This is easier to install and it gives you twice the number of pins for the same price.

Start by pinning the edges, then pin the netting in the middle, especially where the terrain is lower and the netting is lifting above the surface. Contour the netting to the moss, making as much contact as possible. The netting will practically disappear after installation and the moss will grow through, and incorporate the netting into, the colony. This technique is also used to hold down newly transplanted mosses and in particular where water run-off or a slope is present.

I have also used a material called tulle which is used for wedding veils and such. It can be purchased at any fabric store. There are several weaves and the best is a 1/8″ size double threaded in matt black. Although not as strong as the pond netting, it’s more effective against birds. The installation technique, and it’s being left in place, is the same as with the pond netting.

The third option is again using the pond netting, but the netting is suspended 4 to 5 inches above the moss. This height range makes it difficult for the squirrel to get under or climb on top and push it down to gain access to the ground. I make stakes from non-pressure treated wood about 8 to 10 inches in length to stretch the netting from and allow the ends of the netting to drape down at the edges. Obviously this is an eyesore and temporary, but some squirrels are attracted to a specific area and will chew through anything even metal to access  their favorite spots. I have seen squirrels return to an area over and over, tearing up the moss and digging for their bounty. This method seems to be enough of an agitation to deal with persistent visitors.

I have also had success using animal repellent products, such as i must garden either by itself, or in conjunction, with the above methods.


Growing Moss Between Flagstones 

Dear Moss Rock,

Your blog is the funniest and most creative thing I have seen in a while!  I loved the peep picnic photos -ingenious!

I have a very shady area that stays too moist for grass and I want to use flagstone with moss growing between the stone to create a natural patio. How long will it take to get moss growing ?  The spaces are planned to be about one to two inches wide.


Dear Beth,

Thanks very much for compliments, I’ll pass them along to Helen  and the Peeps!

Growing moss between dry-set flagstone, in a shady area, is a natural combination. In a few years, some moisture, and  you’ll be good to go.

As with any mosscaping, our desire is to speed up the very slow process. Transplanting mosses into the spaces between the stones and following a regular watering schedule can establish healthy colonies in a few months.

Be sure to use pleurocarps and a soil substrate between the stones, especially if the stones were set in sand or stone dust. Even though mosses can eventually colonize a sandy substrate, it is usually after many years of detritus collecting and compaction before the mosses can overcome the shifting of the loose sandy substrate.

Mosses often colonize in harsh conditions where other plants find it difficult, which is why they have survived on this earth for so long. A small strip of soil in a sea of stone or concrete has become the expected home for mosses and where most of us recognize them. However, This natural combination usually occurs over many years or decades while we aren’t watching. Achieving this feat successfully can be as challenging as creating a moss lawn. The little micro-climate created between stones can provide shelter, but also rapidly changing moisture conditions, so pay close attention to a frequent watering schedule to insure the best chances of establishment.

As always with moss, patience is a necessity and even if it looks like some of the moss has gone south, continue to treat it as though it hasn’t. It only takes a few spores or living cells for mosses to regenerate as long as there is moisture to allow for growth.

Best of luck, Beth! – David Spain, a.k.a. Moss Rock.


Moss Myths

Moss misconceptions abound.   Is it true a rolling stone gathers no moss? To better understand moss, I asked David Spain with Moss and Stone Gardens, Raleigh, NC, to enlighten us with the truth about mosses, dispelling many common moss myths.


Moss prefers acidic or nutrient poor soils. True or False?

False –Most mosses are not particular about the pH or nutrients of the substrates on which they grow.


It would be more accurate to understand that mosses thrive where there is little or no competition, which often occurs in acidic and poor, compacted soils, or for that matter, on stone.

Moss only grows in the shade. True or False?

False –Mosses have the greatest range of light exposure than any other land plant.

This doesn’t mean that all mosses can tolerate sun, only certain species can. Mosses are found growing in all climates and exposures, from full blazing desert sun, to almost undetectable amounts of light found in caves. Mosses can also be found on all 7 continents.


Moss only grows on the north side of trees. True and False?

False – Moss does grow on the north side of trees, and it also grows on the south, east, and west sides of trees, as well.

Moss may grow only on a north side of a tree if that’s the shadiest location as the sun tracks the sky. If there is something else providing shade (or moisture), the moss will grow in those places just as well.


Moss will invade my garden if I am growing moss on my property. True or False?

False – Moss spores are everywhere, even if there aren’t any mosses on your property. The spores travel on the wind to extreme distances, therefore proximity doesn’t mean density.

Moss will grow anywhere the conditions are appropriate for successful germination and can develop into a mature plant.

You can convert your moss-infested lawn into a moss lawn by letting nature take it’s course. True or False?

False – This is very unlikely to happen satisfactorily without intervention.

In most regions, the conditions necessary for moss to dominate vascular plants isn’t adequate. For example, in rain forests or areas like the Pacific Northwest, moss can over grow the under brush of existing plants; the abundant moisture gives the moss enough growing potential that it can blanket everything.

For other regions, something else needs to tip the scale in favor of the mosses, like abundant moisture, in this case I am referring to irrigation by man. To be more specific, one would have to water the moss lightly throughout the day in order to give it maximum growth potential, but not enough to give the existing plants (grasses, weeds) enough to sustain themselves.

Moss needs to be kept moist. True or False?

False – Despite this common impression, moss is actually one of the most drought tolerant plants. Also, there are a number of species that need regular periods of dryness to survive.

Mosses need moisture to reproduce sexually, but not asexually. Water is needed for photosynthesis, but not for survival. Moist areas allow for faster growth, but isn’t necessary for existence.Acrocarps mosses tend to be more drought tolerant than Pleurocarps.


Spreading or spraying diluted yogurt, buttermilk, beer, or manure tea will promote moss to grow. True or False?

False –The key here is not what substance will create moss in an area, but what allows moss to develop. The most important things to allow mosses to develop are moisture and lack of competition. Competition can be other plants, debris, or loose and irregular surfaces. Moisture is always needed to begin moss establishment. When mosses are beginning to colonize in an area, moisture is what allows the young mosses to perform photosynthesis, which in turn allows for growth.

Leaf litter, pine straw, twigs, loose stones, and such, make it harder for moss to find a stable substrate on which to attach. Moss prefers to have direct contact with whatever it is spreading onto; therefore, a smooth substrate will allow the mosses easier contact.

Mosses do not draw nutrients or sustenance from the substrates they are attached too; therefore, anything you apply to the substrate is not utilized by the moss since it does not have the root structure necessary to benefit from such applications.

Blending moss and buttermilk into a slurry is the best way to grow moss. True or False?

False –Although widely reported to work effectively, this technique is usually met with failure and a moldy mess.

The best way to grow moss is by division of a colony or fragmentation, buttermilk is not needed.




Moss spores will add to my seasonal allergies. True or False?

False –Moss spores may be as common as mold spores or pollen at times, but they are generally non-allergenic.

You can be allergic to anything, but the likelihood that moss or it’s spores will give you allergies, is extremely low.

If you walk on moss, it will die.  True or False?

False – Most mosses tolerate foot traffic, but it’s a question of how much foot traffic?

As a non vascular system, mosses don’t need protection from being compressed. With some foot traffic, their cellulose remains flexible, allowing mosses to be compressed without the kind of damage that occurs when vascular plants are trod on. The key difference is that their flexible structure and small scale are susceptible to breaking, if stretched. As such, walking flat-footed is greatly tolerated, while running or shuffling isn’t.

Moss is a parasitic plant. True or False?

False – When moss grows on trees, wood, or shingles, moss does not feed on the material it attaches too.

Mosses may keep substrates they are growing on damp for longer periods of time, and thus, this moisture retention is capable of deteriorating some non-living materials.

If you have moss growing on your property it means you also have molds. True or False?

False – The misconception that moss and molds are related isn’t true. Moss and molds are rarely found together, except when molds are attacking the moss as they might anything organic. With molds present, moss dies or decays, as does most anything else it attacks. If you have heathy moss, you do not have mold.

Spanish moss, Reindeer moss, club moss, sea moss, Irish moss and Scotch moss belong to the Phylum of Bryophyta. True or False?

False – Including moss in the common name, does not mean it’s a true moss.

Spanish moss is an epiphyte, Reindeer moss is a lichen,club moss is a lycophyte, sea moss is an algae, Irish and Scotch mosses are vascular plants that look similar to mosses.

Growing moss is beneficial to my garden.  True or False?

True – Moss is a beneficial addition to the garden in many ways: it retains moisture content, similar to mulching, it is superior to mulches in that it is a living layer that processes nutrients and contributes organic material, it does not become compacted, and doesn’t need replacing annually, and it provides a healthy habitat for beneficial insects and promotes the evolutionary symbiosis of 
 and plant roots.

Moss attracts ticks, fleas, and mosquitos. True or False?

False – Ticks prefer tall plants, where they can perch to better position themselves to catch a ride on their next meal. Fleas don’t dwell in moss, and mosquitos need plants to provide shelter from wind and sun. Mosses are too short and dense to support resting mosquitos.



And finally, I needed to know —

A rolling stone gathers no moss. True or False?

True – A rolling stone gathers no moss. If the stone is rolling, moss grows too slowly to get started on it and the friction of rolling would abrade or wear off any mosses that were on it.


There you have it! If you want to learn a truth about moss missed here, let us know!

As we move you toward mosses, we hope you visit with us again and feel free to visit our website at Moss and Stone Gardens to send us an email.

The Moss Farm at Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks! is a cultivation nursery for native moss species from the Piedmont area.

We believe that responsible and sustainable cultivation of mosses is the next step for their continued use in the landscape and the preservation of our natural resources.

By cultivating mosses at an elevation of 250 feet above sea level, they are well prepared to be relocated to other regions without transplant shock. Mosses will adapt easily to higher elevations but may have trouble if their elevation is lowered quickly by more than 250 feet.

Moss and Stone Gardens has three varieties of moss currently available from our online store as well as our now famous Moss Rocks!



119 thoughts on “How-To Grow Moss

  1. bonnie countryman

    Hey…saw you on Martha 🙂 My question is how to deal with weeds and grass in the mossy area under pine trees. Too big of an area to hand weed. Any suggestions?

    1. alice ann

      I have the problem with weeds in a moss area that is too large to hand weed. Is there a weed killer that won’t damage the moss? Your help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks Alice

    2. Pattie Dawson

      Two years ago I lost my house after an eighty year old huge oak tree fell on it. I am living in a new location. I had this new front yard sodded in St. Augustine grass; however, underneath an oak tree the grass will not grow. I would love to have moss growing around the base of the tree. Any suggestions will help. Oh, I am unable to do the work myself (80+ years old). I do have access to a yard man who mows, trims, rakes, etc. I think I can direct him. Also, this lot slopes down a small hill in the backyard. Moss is growing where rainfall remains for several days after a rain. Can this moss be used for planting around the oak tree?

      Thank you for any help and information you can send.

      Pattie Dawson

  2. Ana de Papel

    I’ve been reading up on moss everywhere, and I’m happy to have found a site as informative as this.
    I’m about to try my hand at creating a moss terrarium…
    Thank you for a fantastic site!

  3. Michelle Maye

    Ant hills are taking over my moss lawn…is there a safe way to remedy this problem. It seems to be breaking up the moss and leaving spotty areas of sand. It’s taken several years to fill and I hate to see it destroyed with ant hills.

    So glad to find your website!,

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  5. Joseph Baldwin

    What a great site. I had never thought of moss as a subsitute for a lawn cover. I am orginally from southeastern NC and know how well moss grows under thick tall pines, but how does it grow on red Virginia clay soil? I have been trying to establish a lawn under several large oak trees in my back yard for 8 years. The yard is sloped, rocky, poor and mostly shaded. Hostas and other shade lovers do well but grass does not. Do you have any suggestions? I have seen some areas of my yard that moss has already started to grow. Can I help this along or should I transplant more?

    1. David Spain

      Hey Joseph, your clay soil is an appropriate substrate for mosses. Just follow the advice from the How-To Grow Moss link that your commenting on if your wanting the moss to grow under your oak trees. Transplanting is a good way to help moss spread or order some pleurocarps from our online store to ensure you are working with appropriate species. Most importantly provide extra moisture to keep the mosses in a growth state.

    2. AnnieQuill

      As a Virginian, let me assure you, growing grass is a futile endeavor. A way to collect moss is to take walks and pick up small, transportable bits of moss,then plant them when you get home

  6. Katie

    One of my friend linked me to your blog, and it’s the best compilation of information on how to grow moss I have ever seen! I have tried without success to grow small indoor moss gardens in my apartment, and this information has renewed my hope that I may yet pull it off. Someday when I have a house and a yard to work with, I plan on using this information to create a moss lawn. Thank you so very much!

  7. Leah

    How would I grow moss on surfaces such as plastic or paper? I was planning to do the buttermilk method, but you advise against it… How would I adhere the moss?

  8. Patrick Hagan

    Thank you for putting together such an informative site. I am about four months into planning my moss garden and have searched and read a fair amount. Your site covered everything I was curious about from transplanting to the use of buttermilk and of course you answer the rolling stone question. Your information was presented in a way that an armature like me can understand the proper propagation of moss.

    Thank you,

    Patrick Hagan

  9. Victoria Packard

    Hello David,
    I live in South Texas and hate what they call grass. I have very sunny areas and some very shady areas of my lawn. I have 10 water turtles and they have destroyed much of the lawn by walking on it. Is there any moss that will grow and survive the “guys”.

    I’m tired of living in a dust bowl.

    Thank you,

    1. David Spain

      Victoria, if the “guys” are active enough to wear down grass, moss is unlikely to stand up to their traffic. Are turtles trainable to use stepping stones ;-0

  10. Danielle Murry

    I was wondering about growing genetically engineered moss in a laboratory setting. It is an Acrocarpous Moss. I need to be able to grow at least 1 kg which I am aware will take time. However, with limited space I was wondering what might be the best possible way to do this. It is being started in flasks with a water solution, on agar plates, and other various ways. I need to be able to take these bits of moss and get it to successfully grow. Any ideas would be appreciated.

  11. Marabeth

    HELP! I just found this informative site, unfortunately a bit too late. I have had 4 large new concrete urns covered with a buttermilk, moss, corn syrup and yeast slurry and wrapped in large lawn bags. I also have some terra cotta pots in there which are covered in a white fur, I thought maybe that was good sign, but now i fear its all just a moldy mess. I have smaller nice moss covered wooded areas around my home, should I remove the pots from the bags and place them near the mossy areas and mist everyday? Or start over? I love moss, always have and was hoping to have a bunch of containers for my plants… Thanks for your help.
    Love your Tarzan pictures!!!

  12. Bruno

    Thank you so much for your fully detailed and funny site. There is absolutely nothing in France about moss gardening!
    I plan to grow a moss garden next spring in the northeastern part of my garden using moss that is naturally growing there.
    I just found answers to all my questions on your site so thank you and keep going.

  13. jay

    hi there, i really enjoyed your site….it as very informative and i learned a few new things…..i have slowly becoming more and more obsessed with growing moss, but i live in an apartment so its kind of limiting……i have tons of moss jars and a few terrariums filled with moss……i seem to have a problem with my moss growing tall and thin rather than a thick carpet. it grows to be about 2″ tall sometimes, even though there is still bare soil to cover. i was wondering if you have any suggestions?

    1. David Spain

      Mosses don’t do very well in terrariums unless they are managed carefully by removing the cover regularly and allowing for a dry period. If the mosses survive in the closed containers long enough, their growth will be unnatural and showing signs of atrophy. The lack of natural forces causing resistance allows for the weak and leggy growth. Good air circulation and rainfall make the mosses more compact and durable. Regularly open the containers and place them outdoors as much as possible to maintain the best health. ~David

  14. Quin Kaufmann

    Hello! I really like your website! I am not exactly searching for answers on how to grow moss, but I was wondering if you knew what type of moss is at very top of your page. I guess it sort of looks like little ferns…? I’m working on an identification project and I couldn’t find that type anywhere.

  15. Norman Förster

    Hi David,

    just wanted to thank you for your great website and for all your suggestions and info about moss growing… I live in Asunción, the capital city of Paraguay (that’s the heart of South America) and your site encouraged me to take care of the moss I have on some stones in my garden. From now I promise I won’t scratch them away anymore, since your info and images showed me how beautiful this kind of “living thing” is. I never thought that there are so many “types” of moss around. Will take a closer look everytime I see some moss at the places I usually visit around the country and will try to collect the different types I find in this sub-tropical region. Best regards and thanks again. Norman

  16. mario alegria

    Hello, my question is how difficult and how long I can make grow moss on a wall desing, is much better take moss from a surface and put them on a wall? Thank you for your information, i have learn a lot

    1. David Spain

      Pleurocarpous mosses are better suited for vertical surfaces. Train pieces of moss onto the surface by trapping them with netting or using small amounts of glue from a low temp hot glue gun. The water frequently to promote attachment and growth. ~David

  17. Theresa Walsh

    I am growing moss in between the gaps in my sandstone patio. How can I keep out the weeds? How can I remove the moss from the stones without hurting or killing the moss in between the gaps? I am concerned about people slipping on the stones if moss or algae is on them as well.

    1. David Spain

      Theresa, you will have to maintain the moss from growing on the masonry. One method is to seal the masonry with a water repelling sealer. This will keep the masonry dry and retard the spread of moss. Weeding is best done by hand. Use a pre-emergent like preen to stop germination of new weeds. ~David

  18. Caleb

    Wow… I am a 23 year old male, who JUST started to venture into gardening, and moss is the most attractive thing for me to grow. I assumed (since it is found so universally abundant, at least here in the midwest.) that it would be the easiest thing to grow. Thanks for all the pro-tips on how to grow (and of course all the jokes. The Moss Tarzan was pretty damn hilarious.)

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  20. bucky seiden

    David this is the greatest website….the myth section was awesome …i have been known to believe some of those myths!!! I am planning to grow moss in all my shady walkways…i am a huge gardener and just discovering the wonder of mosses….thank you for all the info…i have bookmarked your site for frequent referral as i endeavor down my mossy path in life….sincerely bucky..(.ps just fyi…I am a female my name always comes with the assumption that i am male!)

  21. Angie N

    I live in the PNW and have a partially shady front yard. I discovered a layer of moss growing under our grass, so I hand clipped the grass with large shears (manual hedge trimmers) down to the top of the moss, and even down to the top of the soil in some places. I sprayed weed and grass killer all over and am watering occasionally. I’ll have to do this at least one more time. Next spring I plan to introduce an additional ground cover that will hopefully take over the lawn and live in harmony with the moss. I love your website. Thanks for the good info and entertaining pictures.

    1. David Spain

      Angie, your location will allow you to do what many others can’t. Spraying herbicides on moss will often damage the moss, but if you live in the Pacific Northwest, the conditions in your area will grow new moss back rapidly and you should have success! Lucky you, us southerners have to work a little harder for our moss lawns 🙂 ~David


    after a very hot dry spell, my moss that is touching my flagstones, is brown and brittle. I have removed the obviously dead stuff with a knife, now the other brown spots, do I just gently rake through it,,,is it just dormant…will it come back ?? Any suggestions would be appreciated. I live in Pennsylvania, zone 6, and other that this time of year, my moss creates a showplace in my garden path.

  23. marilyn valentine

    I live in Augusta Georgia and would like to grow moss around the base of the steps coming off my deck. Although we have had lots of rain this year, it is generally very hot and sunny. What moss would you suggest that I could use sucessfully?

  24. William Garnett

    We live in Northern Virginia, and would like to buy Irish Moss turf for a garden path, I don’t know if turf is the correct term, but, I mean mature plants that I can divide and place around my rock path, any suggestions? also, how do I best size the amount of moss?
    Thank you.

    1. David Spain

      Irish Moss from a local garden center isn’t a real moss despite having moss in the name. It doesn’t share any of the properties of real moss and needs strong sun ti thrive. ~David

  25. toni

    I have preserved moss can I use it in my outdoors miss garden to cover a couple of bare spots. Will it grow?

  26. Anthony

    HI i have moss that i want to grow in a decorative pot and create a mini stonehenge garden with , i live in a country town in the Riverina of NSW in Australia (dry semi-arid climate, and characterised by hot summers and cool winters), along side my side alley there is beautiful lush green “mounds” of moss growing , and from what ive read so far im going to assume they are Acrocarpous as they are growing upright and very tight together , i know now from your site not to smoosh them up into some weird milkshake as i have read on other pages , my question is , how should i repot a carpet of this gorgeous stuff properly , so many websites say different things im getting confused, and my local nursery which is 120km away has no idea about growing moss

    thank you for any assistance you can give me

    Anthony in Australia

    1. David Spain

      Anthony, collect the soil or similar as the moss mounds are growing and use that in a well draining container, place the container in a location similar to the location the moss was originally found. ~David

      1. Anthony

        thank you for your info David , i did exactly what you suggested but i have used a terracotta flan tray , almost a month and a bit now and so far so good , the moss is looking really green and nice and tight

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  28. Zach

    Hi folks,
    When we get around to converting from a grass lawn to a moss lawn.
    What form of border do you suggest to prevent invasions of, or from, our Grass-lawn neighbors?
    Good fenses make good neighbors, eh.

    1. David Spain

      Established moss lawns are weed resistant but some weeds will find a way. Hand pulling before they flower is recommended and don’t walk through a lawn and then directly onto your moss, weed seeds will travel on your shoes. Preen pre-emergent can help prevent germination of weeds. ~David

  29. Clinton

    Hi David,
    So, I was walking into work the other day and Ameren has a bunch of brick laced around its parking lot. Its fairly new2-5 years and saw a very nice pretty strip of moss growing in between the cobble stone! So, I did some googling around and found what I can do with it. I went to the cemetery and scraped off some Moss see what I can do with that… Its the flaky kinds and doubt it will do anything. I then went down to the creek behind the cemetery found some dark green moss growing on a rock that looked like the Pleurocarp moss but didnt take any of it as it wasnt the type I was looking for. The stuff between the bricks was very thick and smooth, very tight together too. Almost like velvet. Do you know what kind that might be? A pleu or acro moss??? I then want to make me a moss stress garden or terrarium for my desk at work. I drove around in some common places to see if there was any moss but no luck finding anything as of yet. I have not walked in the woods yet but plan to soon. Is it best to just find a decent retailer online and buy my own and start from there? When I get into something I go with both feet…. I have many hobbies by this method…. The fiance’ hates it when I find something “Interesting”

    1. David Spain

      Clinton, you are probably working with bryum (sidewalk moss). The flaky moss from the cemetery could be paramecia lichen. Bryums are acrocarpous. Online retailers are an option for sourcing mosses, buyer beware though as many retailers do not collect, store or handle their mosses correctly and they are very likely to perish. Good luck and keep on mossin’ ~ David

  30. Sandra Seldon

    Really enjoy the site-but am frustrated with growing moss indoors. I know I overwatered the first time-so tried a second time-doing better with mist but the moss has lost the deep green color. grow under plantlights. Help. I bought the moss rocks and am not certain when to mist. They seem to be turning yellowish.
    Advice would be appreciated. S. Seldon

  31. simon

    I have to correct the comment about the fleas. Im no expert but I have a small area of hanging moss on the shelf in my fish tank. Ive been watching the tiny colony of water fleas in there and they actively farm it.

    They seem to plant spores or seed it and travel back and forth. When they have a busy day the condensation under the lid goes green 🙂 they are pretty cool. The moss is green and has little red stalks on it like flowers. What is it?

  32. ptiJo

    You website is great! You’ve persuaded me to use it in my planted stuff.
    I’ve already grabbed some moss from the nearest forest and use it around my pound. So far, it works great ! Some other testings are in progress 😉

  33. Jody Fine

    I stumbled upon your website while looking at pictures of dish gardens. Your work is absolutely enchanting. Thanks for taking the time to post these gorgeous pictures and sharing such detailed information. I have been a huge fan of anything “moss” for many decades.

  34. Denzyl


    I bought a bag off dried out moss that i am told should revive when placed in the right conditions and i was also suggested the butter milk or yogurt mixture. but you say it serves no benefits so what would be the best way to use this dried moss.

    I am also interested in trying the moss graffiti idea applying it to surfaces to grow on can you suggest the best way to go about this??

    I also want to use it in places that struggle to grow grass and for bonsais
    moss is amazing!

  35. Denzyl Basterfield

    Hello! Awesome Site 😀

    I just want to know if i can start growing moss from the Dried moss you get from the Nursery? I think its normally sphagnum moss, I could be wrong.?

    Thank you.

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    1. David Spain

      Sadly there are very few species of moss adapted to living under water and their conditions are fairly specific and not likely to recreate in an artificial system, believe me, I’ve tried! ~ David

  37. EvasHage

    Thanks for a very informative and inspirational website! I am exited to “get my moss on” in Norway this spring 🙂 Perfect for the therapeutic garden I’m planning as well I hope 🙂

  38. Tom


    Do you think it would be possible to grow moss on geotextile on walls as they do with most living walls/vertical gardens?

  39. Sandra R. Brady

    As a new Master Gardener Volunteer I am fascinated by the potential of mosses as my primary subject for presentations at club meetings. I have much to learn so this website will be on my permanent favorites list. Thank you for all that you do to promote and educate the wonderful world of mosses.

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  43. Jamie Gemme

    Upon researching the growing of a moss wall, I found your wonderful site. I am interested in creating a moss wall in my massage room next to a fountain and a log bench for the effect of being outside. It looks like the moss can be grown on tulle or mesh and I thought I would like the wall with pond liner to waterproof it.

    I am wondering what the best type of moss to use would be and if you had any tips for this project.
    Thank you!

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  46. Pamela

    I have an area of my yard that now has a pond, stepping stones, and a beautiful carpet of moss. Last year, earthworms started to invade a large section of the carpet that was near the edge. Is there any way of preveting that from happening?

  47. Jeff Naramor


    I’m considering planting a verticle moss garden as well as colorful plants on back of an unattractive wood fence viewed from the house.

    I’m thinking I would staple either landscape fabric or burlap cloth taut across the frame of fence and then cover the fabric with chicken wire attached on the same frame. I would then use moss pushed into the holes of chicken wire and secure the front of the moss with heavy duty green thead tied on each end to small nails inserted into frame.

    here are a few questions:
    Would moss grow better in front of burlap or woven synthetic landscape fabric?
    Are there any means to speed up the grow of moss in this situation?
    Are there any growth problems you can see with the above methodology if the moss is kept consistently moist in a shady area?

    Best regards,
    Jeff Naramor

  48. Jennifer

    I stumbled on your site and love it! I live in Austin, TX and have been searching everywhere to see if I can grow a moss lawn in my backyard. It is entirely shaded, mostly by live oaks that have nice grass under them, but there is one ash tree with bare dirt under it. The previous owners of the house tried planting grass under there, but it didn’t take and we haven’t done anything to it for three years now, so it’s pretty much a clean slate situation. With our hot summers, could we put moss under there? I’ve always loved moss and would LOVE to have it as part of our lawn. Thanks!

  49. Jen

    I live in A condo in Seattle. We’re thinking we’d like to plant moss in the parking strip next to the sidewalk. I have a few questions:
    1) Can moss tolerate dog pee? There are tons of dogs in my neighborhood.
    2) Will the moss grow onto the curb and sidewalk. If yes, is there something we can do to prevent that?
    3) Is this a horrible idea?
    Thanks! Great website. Very helpful.

  50. ja

    Dear David,
    I have a moss already dry. I mean, I found and took them from forest almost 3 years ago. Can I rescue them and what kind of substrate that i need to cultivate them.

    Please advice and thanks a lot David 😀

  51. Denise

    Has there been any success stories for moss as a lawn in Colorado springs? would love to have my lawn this nice

  52. SteveB

    Great site. Sooo much helpful information. I actually stumbled upon it while researching this new trend of “moss graffiti”. Have you seen this? Is it really possible to grow moss on a wall after mixing it in a blender after removing all of the dirt, and adding sugars and yogurt/buttermilk? I did see your myth on buttermilk and yogurt, but was wondering if it would be any different in this application…? Thanks

  53. Lauren

    I am building a large 75 gallon terrarium, within the terrarium I have both Acrocarps and Pleurocarps. I believe I anchored them correctly, however I assume I did something incorrectly. Both types of mosses show signs of browning and being brittle.
    – Are my mosses dying?
    – How can I promote hydration without over-watering?
    – What is the best course of action I should take to help my plants?

    Thank you David

  54. Tara

    Good evening, love the blog and website. I have a few questions. I have inherited a very shady yard in which moss seems to love. I’d love to get it to spread threw out the whole yard but need to do something with the grass tufts that is speckled threw out. Is there a way to kill the grass but protect the moss? And if there is an area you would want grass but no moss how do you take care of that? I’ve read somewhere that it’s an acidity/alcaline thing. ?

    Thanks for your time.


    1. David Spain

      Tara, congrats on a developing moss yard and to have found the right place for a moss education, just a little further information and you’ll be omn your way. Follow the link on our Blog or Website to How To Grow Moss and your specific questions will be answered by this compilation of previous Blog posts. Best of Luck ~ David

  55. MTT

    Thank you so much for the site. It was informative and interactive as well!
    I’m living in the tropical region and the average annual temperature of 30 plus minus 3. I have been wondering if I would have to use a different watering schedule, because I am having some Acrocarpous just planted. Thank you and best wishes !

  56. MTT

    I’d also like to ask if it’s okay to water the moss by tap water of pH 8.5. I have read that alkaline condition will kill the moss, so if it’s true what should I do to decrease the pH ? Thank you !

    1. David Spain

      You should use rainwater as a preferred water source. If not possible, then the water may be acidified with a acid-up aquarium water treatment which raises the acidity of your water. You should strive for (7.0) which is neutral or down to (5.0) ~ David

  57. Brenda

    Can I transplant moss that is growing on my shady roof? I plan to rake it off the shingles. I love my “green roof” but have been told moss will will rot the roof. Have both types growing in large mats.

    1. David Spain

      Brenda, the mosses that are most commonly found on roofs are usually better suited to non-soil substrates and do’nt Brenda, the mosses that are most commonly found on roofs are usually better suited to non-soil substrates and don’t always transplant to the ground very well. But if your roof is in shade, there are both acro and pleuro mosses present in large mats, then you have a good chance to relocate those mature colonies if you don’t change their exposure too dramatically. Besides, if your going to remove them from the roof or are having new shingles installed, what could be the downside in an attempt to save the moss? Best of luck ~ David

  58. James

    I am considering creating a moss bathmat for my bathroom. Any advice? Pertinent questions I can think of:
    1. What is a good substrate? The idea of putting soil or sand in my bathroom to get tracked around doesn’t appeal. I’ve seen websites recommend plastizote, but why make a “green” product using plastic?
    2. What kind of moss? Do you recommend specific species? Pleurocarps, I’m guessing, to stand up to daily moisture. I have a windowless bathroom.
    3. Will it sporiolate to other places in my house?
    4. Will it attract or bring in (contain) bugs?

  59. Julianne

    I am wondering about watering moss during the winter. I live in Minnesota. I have always wanted a moss garden, but the watering cylces that you suggest imply the need to water moss in the depth of winter. I am unclear how it would be possible in -40F temps. Since you also indicate mosses can grow in all zones, I presume there is a solution that I am not seeing.


    1. David Spain

      Julianne, I am sorry that the answer you seek was not convenient. My post covers the three factors for growth. Sunlight, water and temperatures above 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Even though you could apply unfrozen water to your mosses during harsh winter conditions, it wouldn’t allow much if any growth before they were frozen again. Most people have the impression that mosses are like tropical plants that don’t survive or like cold temperatures, when in fact they do. If you are in a region where you do not experience freezing temperatures very often or at all, then you can apply the watering techniques year round. ~David

  60. Christian

    I live in Houston, Texas and I was wondering if growing moss on a wall is possible considering our hot humid weather during the summer. Is it possible to grow moss in this hot humid weather at all? Your help would be greatly appreciated. If possible what would you recommend?

    Thank you,

    1. David Spain

      If you wanting a moss to grow on a vertical surface, I have found that pleurocarps are the easiest to attach and spread. A moss like Thuidium delecatulum can create rhizoid anchors in 30 days if kept moist during daytime. Being from the Houston area before landing in the Carolinas, I can guarantee that moss can and does grow very well in Houston. ~David

      1. Christian

        Thanks for your reply. The moss would be growing on a wall which is hit by the sun in the back. There is no shade from trees or anything that creates shadow except the wall (since the sun is basically shinning from behind). Do you think moss can still grow on this wall in the Houston summer? How would you go about doing this? Also, where can I find or buy Thuidium Delecatulum from?

  61. Dale

    i have a very large tree under which grass does not grow well. The tree also soaks up almost ALL of the moisture from the ground. Most of the plants I place on that entire side of the yard require a LOT of attention due to the trees roots and dryness. Will moss survive in such an environment even with a watering schedule? Is there a particular type you would recommend?

    1. David Spain

      I have found that your situation is very common and an easy fit for moss. Almost any type could work, but I would recommend Thuidium delecatulum for good full coverage. ~David

  62. Jason


    I live in Austin, TX and was hoping to lay a paver patio in my mostly shaded back yard with stuffed moss as the gap filler. You say “Be sure to use pleurocarps and a soil substrate between the stones, especially if the stones were set in sand or stone dust.” However, I am wondering if the acrocarps are better, simply because of the drought tolerance that you mention. Texas is not exactly the wettest state in the union.

    Obviously I would water religiously for the first 4-6 months to get them well established, but if I left it mostly to fare on it’s own after that (with occasional watering), would it surely perish? Or would my religious watering need to be eternal?

    Thanks in advance for any feedback.


    1. David Spain

      Jason, the real question here is wether or not pleurocarp mosses which are preferred, would survive the conditions in Austin. This is a common misconception since areas like Texas are considered hot and dry. However, moss does grow well in Texas and using irrigation techniques to speed up growth is applicable but not needed forever. Mosses are drought tolerant. Increasing the watering frequency is what allows for the moss to establish and spread but not needed for survival. Good luck ~ David

  63. Tom

    I’ve been looking at a moss filled garden for some time but didnt know where to start, great site, fantastic pics,, thanks a heap,

  64. Cathy

    We just recently bought some property in the PNW. It has a lovely wooded area surrounded by ancient cedar trees with a horseshoe driveway around it. Upon closer looking it was discovered that there is grass and weeds growing over top a beautiful layer of moss. I talked with the extension people and they identified one of the weeds as creeping buttercup. Their advice was to hand pick the weeds, so that’s what I have been doing. Every afternoon when its not raining I go out and sit and do what I call my weeding meditation. The grass is thicker in the center of the yard so I am getting the edges now. Never thought I would be so happy to see crane fly larva in the yard. That is unless they like moss? Maybe they will get the grass out for me. Also discovered some yellow wild violets yesterday. Have gone over your site reading everything I can. Thank you so much. Really enjoying this type of gardening.

  65. Jan

    In a week I will be moving into a lovely home in Hickory Withe, TN, with a beautiful wooded acre lot in the back. I noticed the previous homeowner planted sod but, all that remains are a few grass springs and alot of netting, more importantly, alot of moss. As an avid gardener, I know this is natures way of saying that trying to grow grass in this area will only lead to failure.
    So, knowing I want to work with nature and not against her, I began to research moss and found your website. I am excited to take the bare areas and encourage new moss growth.
    I can’t wait to be sitting in the garden each morning watching the moss transform the area into a beautiful and peaceful sanctuary. Thank you for the information and inspiration.

  66. elizabeth

    Just wanted to congratulate you on what an excellent site you have! It’s informative, engaging, inspiring, and hilarious! I never leave comments but i just had to compliment you on what a fabulous job you’ve done.


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