There's something about moss that can give any backyard an aged, "secret garden" look. In certain climates, you'll notice moss popping up on its own, usually on pavers, trees, and in bare spots of the lawn. If you love the look of moss but lack the fuzzy green covering in your own landscape, you can intentionally cultivate it to grow in your garden as a bed, edging, or on rock walls.
Moss prefers moisture, shade, and generally acidic soil. Though it's not traditionally hard to care for, hot afternoon sun will quickly destroy it, leaving it crunchy and brown. Instead of roots, moss has shallow filaments that take up nutrients—these filaments dry up faster than the deep roots of other plants, so keeping your moss bed moist and weed-free is important to eliminate competition for nutrients.
When to Plant Moss
The best time to transplant or propagate moss is in early spring when the sun sits lower in the sky and the ground conditions are still wet from winter rain or snow. Moss beds started early enough in the season will be able to establish themselves well before the summer heat and other challenging growing conditions set in. However, make sure any threat of frost has passed before you select a shady area for your plantings.
Before Getting Started
If you're transplanting moss from one area to another (instead of buying it from a nursery), make sure the conditions in the new planting area are similar to the original to minimize potential transplant problems.
For a stronger transplant, place a small piece of moss on a scrap of landscape fabric. Then, put it in a shallow tray of water, so the moss is not submerged but stays moist. Once the moss filaments attach to the landscape fabric, move the whole piece onto the soil patch you've prepared for transplanting.
Equipment / Tools
- Hose and sprinkler
- Garden hose
- Paintbrush or spatula
- Spray bottle
- Garden hose
- pH test strips
- Moss pieces
- Landscaping pins
- Soil amendments (if needed)
- Buttermilk or yogurt
- Chopped moss
How to Grow Moss by Transplanting (For Soil)
The easiest way to get a patch of moss started is to take an established piece from somewhere else and move it to your desired location. You can also purchase several varieties of moss from your local garden store to use as transplants. This method works best for growing moss directly in the soil as an edging to your garden or a way to cover up bare patches in your lawn where grass won't grow.
Upturn and Weed the Area
Using a pitchfork, upturn and weed the soil in the area where you want to plant your moss. Rake the surface of the soil to be flat but textured, so the moss filaments can make good contact with the ground.
Test Your Soil's Acidity
Using your pH test strips, conduct a soil test to gauge pH level. If the result shows that it's higher than 5.5, add compost, manure, or another soil amendment to make it slightly more acidic and therefore more appealing to moss.
Wet the Planting Area
Using a nearby hose or sprinkler system, water your planting area well, allowing the water to soak in for around 30 minutes until the soil is visibly moist but there are no puddles or standing water.
Lay the Moss
Place your sheets of transplanted moss onto the soil and press them down firmly, pinning them in place with landscaping pins. You can also put some light rocks on top of the moss as a temporary anchor.
Keep the Moss Moist
Keep your newly-transplanted moss moist for at least the first few weeks, until it has been established. You can tell the moss has taken root when it doesn’t lift from the soil with a gentle tug.
How to Grow Moss With Slurry (For Rocks and Bricks)
It’s difficult to start moss as a transplant on a rock or brick surface, so that's where a slurry comes in. A slurry is a mixture of chopped moss and a food medium (typically buttermilk or yogurt) that helps it propagate. The slurry can then be painted onto the rock of your choice to help add moss to that surface.
Make the Slurry
In a blender, combine 2 cups of buttermilk or plain yogurt with 1 to 1 1/2 cups of chopped moss, fresh or dried. If your blender mixture is too thick to easily spread, add a small amount of water. If it’s too thin, add more moss. Allow the mixture to sit for a day or two at room temperature to create spores.
Paint Slurry Onto the Surface
Using a paintbrush, coat the moss slurry onto the desired surface. If the slurry is thick enough to stay in place, you can pour it on instead.
Mist the Slurry
Using a spray bottle, mist the surface with the added the slurry to dampen it slightly. Make sure not to use too much water or soak the slurry completely, which can wash away the moss spores and undo all your hard work.
Keep the Mixture Wet
Periodically check on your moss application, routinely spraying the area to maintain a moist surface. You'll want to repeat this process until you notice visible moss forming—once spread, the slurry first might grow mold, but in about six weeks you should see signs of moss. At that point, it's fine to regularly moisten the area with a sprinkler or garden hose as you would traditional grass.