Moss – watering techniques


Dear David,

I had just about given up on growing moss until I started using bird netting to keep debris and animals out. One myth I’m still not sure about, is if tap water kills moss.
Last year I watered a lot, with no net and the results were not very good. This year I am letting my moss dry out and keeping a net on it and it is doing much better, but I’m not sure of how harmful tap water is, and if I should think about watering it.


Dear Guy,

We recommend using rainwater for the best results, you can also age your tap water to reduce the chloramines. Tap water is different for each city and we can’t speak for each one; however our experience in North Carolina has been that tap water is fine to use straight from the hose, without detriment to the mosses.

We have achieved superior results in vitality with higher quality water sources like harvested rainwater, so water chemistry does matter. Pay attention to volume, frequency, and time of day, as well for the optimum results. Drenching can lead to problems, frequent misting is better. Watering in the morning or afternoon is better than in the evening. Depending on the species your growing, regular drying out may be required for long-term health. Avoid creating a constant wet then dry cycle over the course of hot summer days.  It’s better to keep moist all day, then dry all day, this avoids having the moss go into dormancy multiple times in a 24 hour period which uses as much energy as it produces, resulting in a net loss for the mosses growth.

Good luck and let us know how you make out.

David Spain

Editor: Helen  Yoest



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9 thoughts on “Moss – watering techniques

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  3. Lauren Bishop

    Hi! Let me just say, I’m a huge fan of your blog. Keep up the wonderful work!

    Anyway, I have a question about tap water. I have three moss terrariums (all open) and I have been watering for a few weeks with tap water. The moss kept getting progressively browner because my tap water is apparently moderately ‘hard.’ But after some research, I’m starting to collect rainwater and I might even go buy some distilled water.

    However, will the moss that is already slightly brown bounce back from the damage once I start watering with rainwater/distilled, or should I harvest new moss?

    Thanks in advance!

  4. David Spain

    Lauren, there are several factors that could effect my advice, what species you are working with and what you mean by brown. If the species is pleurocarp, then chances to recover in your terrarium are fair, if they are acrocarps, they will need to be returned to the care of mother nature for three months to regenerate. If the color brown is dark brown, then too little light or too much moisture is the cause, if pale brown or tan your likely to have too much light or stress from impurities in the water. You may want to see the post on “Knowing your acrocarp from your pleurocarp” (4-5-11) to help determine which type you are dealing with. It is important to know that not many mosses will survive indoors for long and despite excellent care may be doomed. Bringing mosses in for a visit is a better over-all approach to indoor moss gardening than attempting a long term stabile artificial ecosystem. As for the water source, rainwater is superior to distilled, a better type of bottled water is one filtered by reverse osmosis, which removes chemicals but not trace elements. Good luck Lauren and be sure to share photos of your creations on our facebook page!

    1. Lauren Bishop

      Thank you so much for the help, David! As far as I can tell, the browning on the tips is a pale brown or tan, so it would definitely make sense that it would be a water issue. However, I’ve started to water with rainwater, so I’ll see how it goes! Also, all of my mosses are definitely acrocarpous! In fact, they seem to all be Dicranum scoparium. So I’ll definitely think about returning them to mother nature for a few months to get better. Thanks, again! And I’ll be sure to share the photos.

      1. David Spain

        Dear Lauren, I’m glad you can identify the acrocapous mosses and take the proper action. I look forward to seeing your photos on our Facebook page!

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  6. Dirk Hartness

    I was wondering what and how to rid my moss of the creatures that make the little mud piles. Those things are a pain to keep off the moss.


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