How to Grow Moss

With patience, a fluffy moss bed is easy to cultivate

Close up of moss

Peter Starman / Photographer's Choice RF / Getty Images

In certain climates, moss pops up on its own, usually on pavers and in bare spots of the lawn. However, if you love the look of moss but it doesn't grow naturally in your yard, you can cultivate it to grow in your garden as a bed, on edging, and on rock walls. Moss gives any garden an aged, almost medieval, look. And by giving the plant the growing conditions it needs—and a little patience while it gets established—you can have a landscape that rivals any English cottage garden.

Moss prefers moisture, shade, and generally acidic soil. Partial to full shade is essential to grow it, as a hot afternoon sun will destroy a decorative patch in no time. Instead of roots, moss has shallow filaments that allow it to take up nutrients. These filaments dry up faster than the deep roots of other groundcovers, so keeping your bed weed-free eliminates any competition for moisture and nutrients.

When to Grow Moss

You can grow moss both by transplanting it and propagating it as a slurry. This non-vascular plant does best in areas where grass has a hard time taking root or along pathways and among rocks. The best time to transplant or propagate moss is in the early spring when the sun sits lower in the sky and the ground conditions are still wet from winter rain or snow. But, make sure any threat of the last frost has passed and select a shady area for your plantings. Moss beds started early will fixate themselves long before the summer heat and challenging growing conditions set in.

What You'll Need

Equipment/Tools

  • Pitchfork
  • Rake
  • Gardening Gloves
  • Hose and sprinkler
  • Blender
  • Paintbrush or spatula
  • Spray bottle

Materials

  • Soil pH strips
  • Moss transplant
  • Landscaping pins
  • Moss slurry

Instructions

Growing Moss by Transplanting (For Soil)

The easiest way to get a patch of moss started is to take a piece from somewhere else and move it. 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 edging to your garden, or to cover up bare patches where your lawn won't proliferate.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 1 to 2 hours
  • Total Time: About 6 weeks
  • Material Cost: Under 50 dollars if you choose to purchase transplants
  1. With a pitchfork, upturn and weed the area you want to plant. Rake the surface of the soil so that the filaments make good contact with the ground.
  2. Purchase soil pH test strips from your local garden store and test your soil's acidity. If its higher than 5.5, add compost, manure, or another soil amendment.
  3. Wet down the planting area with a hose or sprinkler. Allow the water to soak in so that you're not planting on top of puddles (about 15 minutes to half an hour).
  4. Lay the transplant on top of the soil. Press it down firmly and pin it in place with landscaping pins. You can also put some light rocks on top of it as an anchor.
  5. Keep your newly transplanted moss moist for the first few weeks. You can tell you moss has taken root when it doesn’t lift with a gentle tug.

Growing Moss With a Slurry (For Rocks and Bricks)

It’s difficult to start moss as a transplant on a rocky or brick surface. So, that's where a slurry comes in. A slurry consists of a mixture of chopped up moss and a food medium (like buttermilk) that helps it propagate. This slurry can then be painted onto the rock medium of your choice.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 1 to 2 hours
  • Total Time: About 6 weeks
  • Material Cost: Under 10 dollars
  1. In a blender, combine 2 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt with 1 to 1 1/2 cups of chopped-up moss, fresh or dried.
  2. Allow the mixture to sit for a day or two at room temperature to create spores.
  3. Using a chunky paintbrush or spatula, paint the slurry onto the desired surface. If the slurry is thick enough to stay in place, you can also pour it on.
  4. Lightly mist the surface of your slurry, taking care not to add too much water and wash the spores off the surface.
  5. Keep the mixture wet until moss sprouts appear, and then, once established, moisten regularly with a sprinkler or garden hose.

Moss Growing Tips

If you're transplanting moss from one area to another (instead of buying it from a nursery), make sure the new surface is similar to the old one to minimize potential transplant problems.

For a stronger transplant, place a small piece of moss on a scrap of landscape fabric and put it in a shallow tray of water so that 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.

If you're making moss from a slurry and your blender mixture is too thick, add a small amount of water until you reach the desired consistency. If it’s too thin, add more moss. Once spread, the slurry may first grow mold, but in about six weeks you should see signs of moss.

Keeping a carpet of moss requires ideal conditions, like shade and ample moisture, but the area also needs to be kept free of weeds. Moss has a hard time competing with weed roots for moisture.

Working With Moss Near a Water Source

Damp landscape fabric also makes a good surface for cultivating mosses near a water source. Place a small piece of moss on landscape fabric at the edge of a water garden so that it sits above the waterline. The fabric will soak up the water and stay moist, allowing the moss to take hold and spread quickly.