Moss – 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, 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!

Photo credit — David Spain


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8 thoughts on “Moss – mosses for sun

  1. Kathy Newman

    I love mosses & fungii & ferns! The photos have enticed me to start a dish moss garden. I live in No. CA. Any suggestions on how to start & what to start with?

    1. David Spain

      Kathy, Start with a shallow vessel with drain holes. Next, add well draining soil. Then add a rock or two and maybe a native fern. Locate mosses growing in your area and transplant, making sure to tuck them in, pressing them firmly to the moistened soil and viola! Water frequently for a couple of months to establish the mosses and enjoy!

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  3. Xia

    I’m REALLY excited to have come across this site: I really love moss but live in sometimes-dry northern California. My climate is a Mediterranean climate, characterized by damp to wet, mild winters and hot, dry summers. And I wanted to landscape my entire half acre backyard with moss that can endure piercing sunlight. My concern is the color: Like the picture at the head of this article, the landscape has a tan color to it. But I have grown an affinity for rich green hues in moss and want to know which moss I should plant that can take the heat but still stay fabulous (green).

    ~Xia M.

  4. David Spain

    Xia, I am glad to hear of your enthusiasm, you’ll need it to landscape a half acre with moss! Start by observing local species that are growing in similar exposures to your backyard. Once you have found species that are appropriate, collect some and transplant to your landscape. If you do this at the beginning of your wet season, it will minimize the need to irrigate for establishment. Capitalize on your successes and continue to fragment and spread until you have developed a section of the landscape. Once you have a healthy patch of moss, you can use it as a nursery to seed other areas. You may also find species that will volunteer on their own if you remove all vegetation, smooth the ground and keep moist for 8 to 12 weeks. When the surface begins to turn green, you’ll know that moss is forming. Best of luck and keep us informed on your progress.
    David Spain

  5. E W

    Saw the PBS program and found your site — Wonderful!

    Milw, Wi location: front yard – east exposure with 2 large maples; and backyard – west exposure w/ 4 large Norway (?) firs.
    Both area “lawns” grow weeds and violets exceedingly well; very scrawny grass. We are not herbicide or fertilizer users and mow the “lawn” infrequently b/c there is not much grass growing.

    Several years ago discovered moss growing under the sparse grass, weeds and violets. The eureka moment – let’s turn neighborhood front lawn eyesore into moss garden (I used to live in Japan).
    However, as I have been systemically hand pulling up the weeds and violets, it seems the naturally growing moss needs the sun (?) protection of the previously covering weeds/violets. OR, is it just that I wasn’t watering enough to maintain the now exposed moss?
    Any specific information or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks (wish I had found your site several years ago when I first started this project),

    1. David Spain

      E.W., it is likely that the species of moss that was growing along with the weeds and violets is a brachythecium species and somewhat dependent on the micro climate created by the mixture of plants. I think you have already observed this effect after removal of the weeds. You can compensate for this micro climate change by adding moisture and encouraging a thicker growth which will eventually create it’s own micro climate. I would suggest the introduction of a species with a better adaptability to a range of conditions like Thuidium delecatulum. Seeding the existing moss area with this fast covering species will take advantage of the brachythecium growth and use it as a nursery, eventually out competing the weaker moss. Best of luck,
      David Spain

  6. Kassandra

    I am currently trying to revamp my garden. I was excited to find this website and how much knowledge you have about moss! I’ve seen the “moss graffiti” online and I really want to be able to write the letter M in moss on a wall at my house. The only problem is, that I tried it and it failed miserably. I had some moss that really took off growing in my yard and used that thinking it would work, but it didn’t! I think it might be because the wall I am planning on putting the M on is in direct sunlight for a majority of the day and it isn’t surviving. It has also started to decline in the sunny areas of my yard. How do you feel about the moss graffiti? Is there any help you could give me with my new found project? I would really appreciate it. I kind of have an awkward blank wall at the moment! 🙂 Thank for any advice!


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