Spanish moss is famous for its dainty aquamarine strands. It hangs down off the boughs of trees and makes them look like something from a magic, fairytale forest.
While it is well-loved by many indoor plant parents as an elegant wall-hanging, having Spanish moss on one’s backyard trees can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare. The moss strands trap water and weigh down trees’ limbs, making them more likely to break.
Spanish moss also hosts pests! Furthermore, it prevents sunlight from reaching the lower limbs of the trees it is living on, which can cause rot to grow and your lawn grass to turn brown because the grass is not getting enough sunlight.
How to kill Spanish Moss
Place a secure ladder beside the tree you want to remove Spanish moss from. Use a rake or a long pole with a hook to remove the moss streamers. Apply a copper, baking soda or potassium-based solution to the moss and compost it. Apply the solution to any moss remaining on the tree.
The tools you need to get rid of Spanish moss
To get rid of Spanish moss, you will want gloves, a bucket, a spray container, a tall ladder, a rake, a water source, and a method for disposing of the moss you remove.
You will also need either baking soda, potassium bicarbonate, or copper sulfate. If using a copper sulfate solution, you will also require lime.
You might be wondering why you need a rake to get rid of moss. This is because killing Spanish moss is a very different process to the one usually involved in removing moss from trees.
To kill Spanish moss, you need to set up and secure an appropriately sized ladder beside or beneath your tree. Wear gloves to protect your hands. Use a rake or pole to lift the moss strands off your tree limbs and bring them down to the ground.
Once you have taken as much of your Spanish moss off your tree’s limbs as you can, use a rake to gather together any other bits of moss that may have fallen off in the process.
Next, you will want to dispose of your Spanish moss appropriately.
The best way to do this is to compost it. Be sure to spray it with one of the herbicide solutions recommended below to ensure that the moss dies.
To be extra careful, you can also cover it with other compostable organic matter in order to prevent any moss that escaped the herbicide spray from being picked up by birds.
Birds may use any Spanish moss lying around to insulate their nests. In doing so, they will be bringing the moss right back up into your trees.
If this happens, the moss will likely continue to spread and grow out from the nest, and all your hard work will be undone.
Using a potassium solution to kill Spanish moss
To create a potassium-based herbicide, mix ¼ cup of potassium bicarbonate with a gallon of water.
Mix your herbicide in your bucket and then pour it into your spray container.
Potassium is often called a “contact killer”, because it is so quick to kill the plant matter it is used to spray.
Potassium has the added benefit that it is not harmful to your tree, and in fact, it is beneficial for tree roots and acts as a fertilizer.
If you feel that you haven’t been able to get down as much of the moss strands as you would like to have, a potassium-based herbicide is the way to go! You can spray it on your tree liberally without worrying about damaging it.
Using a baking soda solution to kill Spanish moss
Baking soda is also a fast-working “contact killer” and is generally not harmful to trees, unless they are young trees and have quite a bit of new growth. In this case, the salt levels in baking soda can harm new shoots.
Baking soda is highly effective and can be sprayed directly onto the limbs of older trees with hard-to-reach moss once as much moss as possible has been manually removed.
Using a copper sulfate solution to kill Spanish moss
Most people looking to remove Spanish moss opt for a copper-based herbicide. Copper is commonly used to get rid of fungal infestations and is highly effective. That said, it is not as safe for your trees as baking soda and potassium-based solutions.
Copper is not a “contact killer” and takes up to a week to work. It is thought to be the most effective of the recommended herbicides when it comes to killing Spanish moss, but it needs to be used with care.
Copper sulfate can kill fresh leaves and buds and can also stain your tree’s limbs. It can also damage other natural elements in the surrounding area.
Double-check that copper sulfate is compatible with the tree you want to spray before purchasing it. Some trees, like oaks, do not take kindly to copper and you may end up doing more harm than good.
If your oak tree is significantly damaged after a Spanish moss infestation, or has taken badly to a copper spraying, read up on how to save a dying oak tree.
That said, if your tree variety doesn’t mind copper, you can make a copper-based herbicide by mixing one part copper sulfate with one part lime and 10 parts water.
Copper can be damaging to grass, so make sure that you do what you can to prevent it from getting on the grass beneath your tree. Lay down a tarp to prevent grass exposure.
If your grass has turned brown because the Spanish moss on your tree was blocking the sun, you can help it recover by using one of the best available lawn fertilizers to feed it.
Frequently asked questions about how to kill Spanish moss
Is Spanish moss taking stealing my trees’ nutrients?
Spanish moss is epiphytic, which means that while it grows on top of other plants, it does not take their nutrients. This means that Spanish moss is not actively draining your trees’ of their nutrition.
What should I do if my tree is too big for me to spray and remove moss from?
If you really want to get rid of the Spanish moss on your backyard trees for safety or aesthetic reasons but your tree is too big for you to do the job yourself, you may want to hire a professional arborist to come in and solve your problem for you. Arborists can do the job quickly and safely.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.