How To Grow Moss – Which Method Works Best?

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Robert Pavlis

Some of you want to get rid of the moss in your lawn and others want to grow more of it in special places like rocks and logs. Moss is a fairly good ground cover, it can take some traffic, and never needs to be mowed. It doesn’t need to be fertilized because it prefers low nutrient levels.

Moss is also a great addition to shade gardens giving them an aged look that is so hard to get. If you are building a stumpery, you almost have to add some moss to give it a final touch of authenticity.

But how do you grow more moss where you want it? You might be surprised to learn that not everything on the internet works. In this post I’ll review and test several ways to grow moss.

How To Grow Moss - Which Method Works Best?
How To Grow Moss – Which Method Works Best?

Moss Grows On Acidic Soil – a Myth

Moss growing on large limestone rock, image by Robert Pavlis
Moss growing on large limestone rock, image by Robert Pavlis

This is both true and a myth. Moss does grow on acidic soil, but it also grows on neutral soil and alkaline soil. There are more than 10,000 species of moss and they all have a different pH preference. Many will grow on your soil without any change to pH.

Compost Science for Gardeners by Robert Pavlis

My soil has a pH of 7.5 and the shady pathways through my property are covered with natural moss and low growing weeds. The picture to the right is my large five foot high, moss-rock garden that is limestone and very alkaline.

You do not need acidic soil to grow moss.

Moss Needs Shade Myth

This is another common myth that is just not true. Granted most types of moss prefer some shade and some even grow best in very shady locations, but other types grow just fine in full sun. Moss in a sunny lawn can be a problem, and moss grows quite will on rocks along a river in full sun.

If you would like to read about more moss myths se my post called, 14 Moss Myths Every Gardener Should Know.

Ways to Grow More Moss

There are several common ways to grow moss.

  • Moss/yogurt smoothie method
  • Tie-on method
  • Glue-on  method
  • Do nothing method

I decided to test these methods and see which ones worked best and I’ll include my personal observations in the comments below. I am located in zone 5 and have alkaline soil. The summers are warm and humid. Moss does grow naturally here in shady areas, but it can’t compete with larger plants. The following tests were done in part shade and watered every 3-4 days for the first month.

Moss/Yogurt Smoothie Method

Moss smoothie immediately after application
Moss smoothie immediately after application

A simple and common method is to take some live moss, put it in a blender with some buttermilk or yogurt, and blend it up into a slurry. You can also use 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and a can of cheap beer in place of the milk products. Then use a paint brush to cover any surface where you want moss to grow. Keep it misted until the moss is well established.

You can easily find people on the internet who say this method works, but keep in mind that some people live in very humid environments and moss will grow there without the blender and buttermilk. In fact, it grows so well it covers everything, even where you don’t want it.

This method is highly promoted on Pinterest, one of the worst online sources of information, but it doesn’t really work, except in high humidity areas. The process of grinding up moss is not good for the plant and will not make it grow better. I think the buttermilk is added to supply nutrients and some acidify, but this quickly washes away with the first watering.

When I tried this method the watering and rain just washed everything off. It was a messy process and a complete failure.

Tie-on Method

Moss tied to a log
Moss tied to a log

This method takes a sheet of moss and fixes it in place. It can be tied onto things like logs or rocks. If you want to grow it on soil you can just lay it on bare soil, or use some metal staples to hold it in place. The goal here is keep the moss from moving long enough for it to attach the the new surface.

This method works quite well when used to grow moss on soil where it attaches to the soil fairly quickly.

I tried attaching a sheet of moss to a log, using string. After being in place for a summer, the moss was still not attached. Admittedly, this was an unusually dry summer, but it was watered frequently during the first month.

Glue-on Method for Growing Moss

Moss glued to log
Moss glued to log

Crazy glue is a cyanoacrylate that forms a strong bond and it gets stronger when exposed to water. This makes it ideal for attaching moss and it’s frequently used in aquariums and is also reported to work in gardens. The goal is to glue the moss in place so that it can attach itself directly to the substrate.

I did not have any crazy glue so I tried Weldbond glue. The moss stuck very well to the log and even by the end of summer it was still attached. I don’t know if the moss has attached itself or if it is just held on by the glue. But even if it is mostly glue, this method gives a slow growing moss a chance to attach itself. Out of the methods I tried, this one seemed to be the best option.

Do Nothing Method for Growing Moss

This is a simple method – don’t do anything and let nature bring the moss. This works in climates with high humidity in summer and it just might be the best methods for many gardens. Many of my native rocks and logs have moss on them.

The problem with this method is that you have very little control over it and it can take a long time. You can keep wetting areas where you want moss to grow and that might speed up the process.

Best Type of Moss to Use

As you now know there are many kinds of moss. The secret to growing moss where you want it is to use moss that grows well in the conditions you have.

Try to get moss from nearby so that the pH of the soil in your garden matches that of the location where you collected the moss. If you are trying to grow it in sun, get moss that is growing in sun. Moss from a rock is more likely to grow on another rock of the same type; moss on granite, which is acidic, grows better on granite than limestone.

Best Growing Conditions

In general moss likes to stay wet and cool. It grows quickly on rocks in my waterfall where it stays a bit cooler and gets a constant spray of water. A bit of shade helps the process even more.

Moss grows slowly in most locations and it can take a full season for it to attach really well to its now location.

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Robert Pavlis

I have been gardening my whole life and have a science background. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

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