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How to Keep Moss Alive — Our Top Tips

How to Keep Moss Alive — Our Top Tips

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Growing moss is much more than a trend. It has practical advantages. 

It is used by florists, by gardeners as a soil amendment to prevent erosion, and once you master how to grow moss indoors, it becomes the cheapest plant for indoor green space. 

As easy as it is to grow though, there are a few things you need to know to keep moss alive. Not only growing. 

Read on to discover the pivotal things moss needs to maintain its greenery, prevent it from browning, and keep on flourishing in any moist environment. 


How to keep moss alive 

Light and sunlight are the only growing requirements moss needs. To keep it alive, it needs a sterile habitat. Mold, bacteria, and fungi will starve it. Water it with rainwater, or distilled water. Do not use fertilizer around the moss and monitor the soil acidity. Soil pH should be 5.0 to 5.5. 


Meeting the light requirements for moss 

Moss is a green plant that uses sunlight for photosynthesis. The majority of moss species can survive in low-light conditions that get as little as two hours morning sun. 

Mosses are unique in that they do not have roots. They have rhizoids, which are small cells that stems grow out of. 

On fern-type mosses, the stems grow off-shoots giving them more chloroplasts. 

All green leaf plants have chloroplasts that react to the energy from sunlight. Mosses are multi-celled plants that grow faster than lichen plants that only have one rhizoid per plant. 

As moss has more cells than any plant, it goes through a lot of water.

How plants grow through photosynthesis is converting water into sugar. Moss is a highly absorbent plant capable of storing up to ten times its weight in water. 

The more sunlight moss receives, the faster the moss dries out. 

Moss will grow in the shade and in direct sunlight, but the brighter and more direct sun moss is exposed to, the faster it will use its energy. 


Moss needs light to make food, but shade to stay alive

Too much sunlight will cause moss to dehydrate. In moss gardens, the plants need to be watered so that they remain moist. If they dry, the moss turns brown. Left too long, it may not recover. 

Brown patches can be cut off to tidy it up. Adding water is enough to revive dry moss, unless it has been burned to a cinder in direct sun. 


Safe watering practices for moss 

Just as important as the light requirements for moss is the water it needs to convert sugar molecules for energy. This is where things can get tricky because the water must be sterile. 

The only place moss will not grow is in salt water. Java moss is among the best freshwater floating aquarium plants, but put it in a saltwater aquarium with marine fish, it will quickly die. 


Salt kills moss! 

In unfiltered tap water, salt, minerals and other contaminants are put in at treatment plants to make the water safe for drinking. 

The doses are extremely low, but given the amount of water moss needs, low doses multiply fast. Anything can become toxic in high enough doses. 

This is especially true when growing moss in a terrarium because the water cycles. That is why activated charcoal needs to be included in sealed enclosures to purify the water. 

For garden mosses, or misting moss in an open terrarium with succulents, use distilled water, rainwater or purified water. 

To purify water, boil it and let it cool to room temperature. Then put it in a spray bottle and mist the moss. 

When moss is wet, it opens up to soak in the water. When it has had enough to drink, the leaves fold to stop drinking water. That is when there is a risk of sunburn. 

The majority of green-leaved plants have this same reaction of the plants’ leaves curling upwards to close the stomata preventing evapotranspiration. 

Given the small size of moss plants, the upward leaf curl is unnoticeable. The damage is visible once the sun hits the closed leaf causing it to brown. 


Pruning and trimming 

No matter the location or how you grow moss, be it indoors, in a garden, a tank terrarium, glass bottle, or for upcycling a satellite dish to make a fairy garden… like any plant, moss will require some trimming on occasion. 

Some patches can grow faster than others, shading out the lower leaves. It can lead to patches of discoloration. Some lush green top leaves, lower leaves yellowing, and saturated moss turning brown. 

Yellow patches quickly restore color when watered. Brown patches, not so much. Those need removed. 

To trim or prune moss back, no tools are needed. The rhizoids are so delicate that you can pull them off with your finger. 

When you do, just be sure not to pull away more than intended. Moss grows in clusters so when pulling the odd discolored patch, hold down the moss around it to prevent accidental removal of healthy moss.


Maintaining soil acidity 

Moss grows best on a solid base. In soil, they do not respond kindly to alkaline soil. The preference to maintain soil pH at is between 5.0 and 5.5. 

There are various methods to pH up and down in soil to maintain the correct acidity. The simplest though is to keep leaf litter on garden moss to a minimum and avoid fertilizing moss anywhere. 


Frequently Asked Questions related to keeping moss alive 


What is the best base for moss to grow? 

Moss grows on anything solid. On soil, the more compact the soil, the slower it drains. It will grow on rocks, wood, stones, pebble and gravel though. The more solid the base is, the better a foundation it will be for moss to anchor onto. 


Is it possible to keep moss alive in a garden bed? 

It is difficult to grow moss alongside plants that require a pH above 6.0. However, it can be grown off of the soil, such as on wood, brick, or boulders surrounding a raised bed. Not on the soil directly. Moss in garden beds would indicate the plants are not getting the nutrients that they need.