Is moss a weed or a ground cover? It depends on your perspective. In shady, damp areas of a lawn, moss might pop up on its own. You often will see it in bare spots or in between pavers. And if you like the look of moss, you can encourage its growth on a lawn, as edging, and even up walls for a natural appearance. While many people prefer a lush lawn of turf grass, there are several benefits of growing moss.
The Benefits of Moss
Moss is low-growing and will form a dense mat on a lawn. It can provide you with a lush natural green carpet that rivals any turf grass. And it can survive where grass often can’t—namely in shady spots. Thus, if you allow moss to grow, you'll be able to fill in unsightly bare spots on your lawn.
Moreover, moss has shallow roots, so it doesn’t require digging to plant. And it can easily grow on compacted soil and even on rocks where grass likely wouldn’t be able to survive. Plus, it can tolerate a wide range of soil pH, including acidic soil. It also generally doesn't need fertilization.
A moss lawn is also incredibly low maintenance. Because the plant remains short, you won't have to mow it. Raking it is also out of the question, as this can completely lift and remove the plant from the ground. You can make quick work of any fallen leaves with a leaf blower. And while moss prefers a moist environment, it can tolerate some dry weather. So you likely will only need to water during prolonged periods of drought. Plus, wildlife generally doesn't bother it.
How to Grow Moss
While moss can grow in partial sun, it will have less competition with other plants if you grow it in the shade. So start by picking a spot that's consistently shady. Remove any grass, weeds, and other plants that are growing in that spot to allow the moss the best chance of establishing itself in that territory. Also, if you have neutral or alkaline soil, use a soil acidifier (which you can find at most garden centers) to lower the soil pH. Most mosses thrive in acidic conditions below a soil pH of 5.5, but be sure to check the optimal soil pH for your specific moss species.
Next, spread your moss plants across the bare spots you've cleared and prepared for them. You can purchase moss that's recommended for your climate at many garden centers. Or, if you're lucky enough to have moss growing in another part of your yard, dig up some to plant in the bare spots. That's often the best method because you already know the moss will like your soil conditions. If you don't have any moss naturally growing on your property, check with neighbors to see whether they have any to spare.
Make sure to keep the soil of the planting site consistently moist as the moss becomes established. It's best to use rain water to water moss, as tap water often has unwanted minerals and other substances that can harm the plant. Thus, it can be useful to set up a rain barrel if you don't already have one if you plan to plant moss. Also, regularly clear away any fallen leaves from your planting site. While moss likes shade, leaves covering it can prevent it from getting essential sunlight. And a heavy mat of leaves can promote bacterial and fungal growth.