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How to Grow Moss

How Can I Get Moss to Grow on My Rocks and in My Garden?

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Growing Moss - Moss Covered Grinding Wheel

Sometimes moss finds just the right place to spread out and grow.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Moss looks wonderful in the garden, especially on rocks and rock walls. It gives any garden a sense of age and weight. Getting moss to grow on rocks or on the ground in your garden simply requires you give the moss the growing conditions it needs and have some patience while it gets established.

What Does Moss Like?

Mosses like moisture, shade and generally prefer an acidic soil (5.0 - 6.0). Partial to full shade is essential. Hot afternoon sun will destroy a patch of moss in no time. Did you know that moss has no roots? It has little filaments that allow it to take up nutrients, but no true roots, so it will dry out even faster than groundcover plants.

How to Get Moss to Grow on Soil

The easiest way to get a patch of moss started is to take a piece from somewhere else and move it. Rake and scratch the surface of the soil you’re going to be putting it on, so that the filaments make good contacts. Wet the area and lay the moss on top of it. Press is well into the soil. It even helps if you pin it in place or put some light rocks on it to anchor it. Newly transplanted moss will need to be kept moist for the first few weeks. You can tell you moss as taken when it doesn’t lift with a light tug.

I’ve heard that certain mosses will only grow on soil and others only on hard surfaces. I haven’t found a definitive answer on this, but it’s probably wise to take your transplant moss from a similar surface to minimize transplant problems.

How to Get Moss to Grow on Rocks, Bricks or Pots

It’s a little harder to start moss on a rock by simply lifting it and moving it. To grow moss on rocks, bricks or pots, many people have luck cultivating moss by mixing it with buttermilk and painting it on the new surface.

Moss Making Recipe:

  • 2 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups of chopped-up moss (Fresh or Dried)

Mix until creamy and spreadable. If the mixture is too thick, add a small amount of water. If it’s too thin, add more moss.

Paint the mixture onto the new surface. You can allow the mixture to sit for a day or two, to start the process. You may get mold first, but by about week 6 you should see signs of moss.

Maintaining Moss

To keep your moss growing well, you need to maintain ideal moss conditions: shade, moisture and a low soil pH. You’ll also need to keep the weeds out. Moss can’t compete for moisture with the roots of weeds.

Be sure to remove fallen leaves in the fall.

A Final Moss Growing Tip

I wanted moss to grow around the edges of my raised water garden. To do this, I lined the top edge of my garden with landscape fabric and laid a small piece of moss on it. Since the fabric soaked up water and stayed moist, the moss took hold and spread quickly.

So now when I want to start a new patch of moss, I put it on a scrap of landscape fabric and set it in on the side of my water garden, although a suspect a shallow tray of water would work as well.

Once the moss filaments are attached to the landscape fabric, I can move the whole piece to the soil I’ve raked and prepared for transplanting. You’ll still need to keep it moist for several weeks, but it seems to make a stronger start.

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