Growing Your Own Moss: Some Tricks to Know


Moss Face
If you have Moss and you want to encourage it, or you are bringing some into your land…

Choose or create an ecology like the one in which your moss was originally thriving.
Look for clues as to the favored habitat of your particular candidates. Think about the soil and exposure around each kind in the places where you find it. Most kinds of mosses are shade loving, but there are sun accepting ones, and some amble over stones. Try to reestablish each in its preferred ecology within your landscape.

  • Will you be walking on your moss a bit ? The ferny Hypnum seems better in this application than most others.
    Lovely soft clumps of the trailside pincushion mosses will need a more protected context.

“The way to study a plant is to look at it and observe how it behaves,
to see where
it flourishes and where it gets into trouble.”

Fletcher Steele / Gardens and People

  • Blow them off a lot – mosses don’t like debris on them.
    Keep your would be mossy place blown off or otherwise swept clean of all leaves and miscellaneous stuff. This is critical to the maintenance of all mossy places.
  • Moisture on their tops.
    Moisture from above is important to all mosses as they don’t gather moisture from below.
    Reproduction is accomplished best in a moist environment, so if you want the colony to flourish, reproduce and so expand, keep the moss surface moist.
  • Your earth should typically be of a pH less than 6.
    In the top 2” or so, at least, and a 5 to 5.5 pH is usually even better.
    This will be acidic soil, so it will be best to choose a setting where the surrounding plants are acid loving as well.
  • Bring in different kinds of mosses – but be discriminating.
    There are many kinds to choose from, and some are more desirable for your gardens than others. Typically the coarser kinds will outcompete the velvets, so you may want to keep them separated. The fine textured types may be less commonly available, and slower growing, but even small pieces will multiply along fine in a well chosen moist setting.
  • Many of the beautiful ones look their best if living in a moist place.
    Mosses will be happier, prettier and more amenable to colonisation with moisture around most of the time. Shady, cool and moist places are usually good, but it is sometimes hard to predict who will do best exactly where, so perhaps try each kind in different locations. As soon as you see who does best in the places you would like to have them, go get more of those kinds.
  • Never take more than a few pieces from a colony.
    Wherever you find your moss, choose your removal locations so that the remaining moss colony can fill back in from all sides. When you cut a piece out, sprinkle some earth from nearby into the hole you make to encourage replenishment of the original colony.
    There can be hundreds of moss plants in a square inch of a colony. Perhaps this is part of the reason why even small gathered pieces can feel like great treasures.
  • Propagating your own moss.
    Moss can regrow from tiny broken pieces. This is very advantageous both to the moss and to us since it can be transported willy nilly via the paws of wandering creatures and colonise new places. In the forest the squirrels or chipmunks may be the local transporters, but our human paws can easily bring them to new places too.
    G. muralis, l. Alpina, mosses and Euphorbia chamacyparissias………
  • If you crumble a pad of moss, the bits will make new plants.
    The appropriate destination ecology needs to be  chosen for the kind of moss.
    To make conditions optimal, sometimes organic encouragement in the form of buttermilk or beer (both have their fan clubs) is reported to have a good effect on the rapid colonisation of the new place. Having heard this advice long ago, I keep a tin of powdered buttermilk handy and mix the moss crumble with some of it before distributing the moss to a new place. I subsequently mist the moss area so the preparation wont blow away, then let the whole situation get naturally watered in over time. If I’m after crevice moss as on a terrace, I may do a gentle hand sweeping of the place with some powdered buttermilk once or twice a year.
    If I want to encourage moss on a trough or other broad surface, I may make a slurry of the moss/buttermilk crumble with water so I can pour it on something, but I prefer the dry method when adhesion is not an issue, since it is so much less messy.
    My mosses do well, but I don’t really know if it is because of the buttermilk, the watchful watering, or the wandering ants and earthworms.
  • More Moss Tricks
    If I want some moss on a stone wall (any stone or cement artifact is game) I gather sheets of lightweight rock loving moss, let it dry, and then with any old waterproof glue, adhere some here and there onto the stone or mortar .
    I try to choose places somewhat high up where the colony will receive surface moisture. Water and gravity help the moss reproduce down from there.
    The parent pieces you glued on may fall off after a while, but by then you’ll probably have some oncoming colonies they have generated. The patina the mosses provide makes the wall look older sooner, and I’m often working towards that effect.
  • Green Side Down over Green Side Up.
    For transport of mature colony cutouts, I place the small pads side by side close together to conserve the integrity of the pieces. If you are layering pads for transport, the moss will stay cleaner if you layer the pads tops to tops and bottoms to bottoms.
    10” x 20” draining nursery trays are useful carrying tools. You can put a bit of newspaper as a tray liner to keep the bits in the tray, but get the mosses to safety soon as the paper won’t last, or if it does, it will trap water in ways the moss won’t like.
  • Mosses are patient.
    Most kinds will turn all shades of brown and look terrible in drought, but they are usually not dead, just in a sort of suspended animation. A little surface water will usually bring the colony back to a lovely green. It will be nice if the mosses are someplace where the wind or the grade of the land helps to take the leaf fall away, but it will be best to site the moss out of strong, drying winds.


  • Moss will grow best where it doesn’t have much competition.
    It is often hard to weed mosses without breaking up the pads, so if you want to keep the colonies pure, try stay ahead of any invasions. Count on some time for detail weeding now and then.
  • Mosses have been Men’s and Women’s companions down through time.
    They insulated hands and feet through many long ago winters, and provided pillows for sleep. For countless generations they kept women clean through their monthly cycles and diapered their babies. [1]
    After having lived so closely with them for so long, it would seem natural that so many of us have a heartfelt affinity for Mosses.
  • E.O. Wilson would call this Biophilia, meaning our attraction to and affiliation of feeling for landscapes, plant materials and creatures with which we coevolved.For some pictures of the different kinds of Mosses and their names, please see my article on Moss Identification

    The radial moss garden pictured above was made lightheartedly from the leftover masonry materials at the end of a full landscape renovation project. The peaceful place thus created has become a beloved feature for the People and their gathered Mosses.

[1] Please see the most wonderful book about Moss that has ever come into my hands.
Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
She received the John Burroughs Medal Award for this lovely work.

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  • All written and visual materials on this site are Copyrighted. (C) Ellen Cool 2010 - 2021


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2 Trackbacks

  • By Stone Stories 1 - A Reasoned Landscape on July 28, 2012 at 7:38 am

    [...] of the earth, and happens faster in a shady, moistish place. Feel free to rub mud on them or add a moss and buttermilk concoction once in a while to encourage biological beginnings on the stone’s surfaces. [...]

  • By Tiffany Dinwiddie on February 11, 2012 at 1:36 am

    I think this is a really great blog article.Much thanks again. Much obliged….

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