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, you can cultivate it to grow in your garden as a bed, on edging, and on rock walls. Moss can give any garden an aged look. And by providing the right growing conditions, you can have a landscape that rivals any English cottage garden. Moss prefers moisture, shade, and generally acidic soil. Hot afternoon sun will quickly destroy it. Instead of roots, moss has shallow filaments that take up nutrients. These filaments dry up faster than the deep roots of other ground cover, so keeping your bed moist and weed-free is important to eliminate competition for nutrients.
When to Grow Moss
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. Moss beds started early enough will be able to establish themselves before the summer heat and other challenging growing conditions set in. However, make sure any threat of the last frost has passed before you select a shady area for your plantings.
Equipment / Tools
- Gardening gloves
- Hose and sprinkler
- Paintbrush or spatula
- Spray bottle
- Soil pH strips
- Moss transplant
- Landscaping pins
- Moss slurry
How to Grow 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.
Upturn and Weed the Area
With a pitchfork, upturn and weed the area you want to plant. Rake the surface of the soil, so the filaments can make good contact with the ground.
Use Soil pH Strips to Test Your Soil's Acidity
If it's higher than 5.5, add compost, manure, or another soil amendment.
Wet the Planting Area With a Hose or Sprinkler
Allow the water to soak in for about 15 minutes to a half hour, so you're not planting in puddles.
Lay the Moss 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.
Keep the Moss Moist
Keep your newly transplanted moss moist for the first few weeks. You can tell the moss has taken root when it doesn’t lift with a gentle tug.
How to Grow 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 is a mixture of chopped moss and a food medium (such as buttermilk) that helps it propagate. The slurry can be painted onto the rock medium of your choice.
Make Moss 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. Allow the mixture to sit for a day or two at room temperature to create spores.
Paint Slurry Onto the Surface
Using a 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.
Lightly Mist the Surface of Your Slurry
Take care not to use too much water and wash away the spores.
Keep the Mixture Wet Until Moss Sprouts Appear
Then, moisten the area regularly with a sprinkler or garden hose.
Working With Moss Near a Water Source
Damp landscape fabric makes a good surface for cultivating moss near a water source. Place a small piece of moss on landscape fabric at the edge of a water garden, so it sits above the waterline. The fabric will soak up the water and stay moist, allowing the moss to take hold and spread quickly.
Moss Growing Tips
If you're transplanting moss from one area to another (instead of buying it from a nursery), make sure the new area 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. 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.
If you're making moss from a slurry and your blender mixture is too thick to easily spread, add a small amount of water. If it’s too thin, add more moss. Once spread, the slurry first might grow mold, but in about six weeks you should see signs of moss.
Keeping a carpet of moss requires ideal conditions, primarily shade and ample moisture. But the area also needs to be kept free of weeds and other plants. Moss has a hard time competing with plants for moisture.