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When we recreate the natural environment for our houseplants we offer them a chance to thrive in an environment similar to their native habitat. Let’s imagine where our tropical houseplant types grow naturally. Picture that collage of lush green foliage and chances are you’ll envision moss too! Did you know that moss grows on every single continent in the world? These highly adaptable and ancient plants have been around for over 250 million years and can thrive anywhere plants that photosynthesize grow too. Luminescent mosses have even been found growing inside caves!! Certain types can survive extreme temperatures as high as 100ºC (212º F) and manage to live through temps below -272ºC (-457º F). They can withstand droughts by going dormant and can hold over 20 times their weight in water. MOSS IS SO COOL!
Throughout history mosses have been used as sponges, natural diapers, pillows, bedding, as first aid treatments to pack wounds and cuts and, if absolutely necessary, can be a food source (apparently not delicious or highly nutritious, but edible). Honestly, the more I learn about moss, the more I want to share and celebrate these incredible little plants! Before we jump in to how moss can be use with your houseplants, let’s first learn a bit about the three main types of moss we use in and around our home.
The first step is learning the difference between Sphagnum Moss and Peat Moss. Often referred to as ‘peat moss’ or ‘sphagnum peat moss’ these are actually two parts of the same plant. One is sustainable and regenerates every 5-8 years (Sphagnum), while the other takes thousand of years to reproduce (Peat) and should be left undisturbed.
Sphagnum Moss grows along the surface of bogs, swamps or soil wetlands. When harvested sustainably it can regrow quickly (about 5-7 years) without negatively impacting the environment. Peat Moss on the other hand, is sunken Sphagnum Moss growing over thousand of years forming an intrigal, foundational layer and is responsible for sequestering (soaking up and storing) more carbon than all other types of plant life combined! Peatlands need our protection for a variety of reasons, so let’s be sure to only buy or source sustainably sourced Sphagnum moss. I’ll add a link at the end of this post if you’d like to dive deeper into learning about this precious resource. I’ll also be focusing on the world of Moss this winter in Sacred Elements Plant School Volume 5.
In our homes, Sphagnum Moss is used for propagating cuttings, wrapping around wood or bamboo to create a Moss Pole, (more details below) as a soil topper for decorative use, to wrap around soil to create Kokedama - a stunning way to display houseplants where the soil is wrapped in moss. Sphagnum Moss can also be used as a soil amendment for tropical types like philodendron and ferns.
Spanish ‘Moss’ is not a type of moss at all, but part of the bromeliad family (think pineapple). This silvery grey plant is a flowering epiphyte, just like our beloved Xerographica! They grow naturally and abundantly in warm, humid environments, generally clinging to tree limbs. It’s important to point out that they grow by draping over trees, they are an epiphyte - not a parasite, meaning they do not feed on the trees that host them, and unless the tree is overrun by Spanish Moss and must fight for sunlight to photosynthesize, these plants and trees live quite harmoniously.
In our home we use Spanish Moss for terrariums, as decorative mulch over potting soil, wrapped around a climbing pole, and for craft projects that need natural filling or stuffing. Did you know that Spanish Moss filament was used as for upholstery in cars, furniture and mattresses? Apparently mattresses made with Spanish Moss were exceptional for climate control keeping things nice and cool!
Carpet (Sheet) Moss
Here in the Pacific Northwest we see Carpet Moss everywhere, especially during the winter months when lush green tufts blanket sidewalks, pathways, tree bark, rocks and practically any hard surface that’s left undisturbed for any period of time. We have a saying around here, “Be careful not to stand still too long or you may begin to grow moss too!”
Carpet moss has the unique ability to soak up vast amounts of water in their capillaries and help soak up rainfall and moisture making them perfect for topping of soil in your tropical houseplants that need a little extra humidity and moistness. Carpet Moss can be used with Sphagnum Moss to create Kokedama - a stunning way to display houseplants where the soil is wrapped in moss. Carpet Moss is also a lovely way to add a vibrant pop of green to your terrariums.
Giant Monstera climbing up a tree on the Big Island of Hawaii
More about MOSS POLES
Offering our vining houseplants a moss pole not only helps support their natural climbing tendencies, it recreates their natural environment too, yay! And, when you keep that moss pole moist by weekly misting, it encourages those lovely aerial roots to grab on and climb up which boosts the overall strength and integrity of your plant resulting in larger, healthier leaves too!
We now offer long fibered Sphagnum Moss poles in both 15 inch and 18 inch sizes for your small and medium houseplants. I hand wraps multiple layers of sustainably harvested sphagnum moss around sturdy golden and black bamboo poles grown in my garden. We also just added bags of Long Fibered Sphagnum, Spanish, and Carpet Mosses to our shop, all sourced sustainably from the bogs of Wisconsin.
For more in depth exploration and information about Peatlands and how you can help read this article
Thanks so much for being a part of the Sacred Elements Community!
Karina and the Sacred Elements Team
A manual that will lead you to connect with the natural world, and encourage you to make it a daily ritual.
You’ll find Karina’s signature plant life imagery, sensory guided experiences and meditations, plant care tips, step by step guidance to create your own sacred space, and ways to live more sustainably.
*20% of the proceeds of every Sacred Elements Guidebook sold will go to organizations that supporting small, independent farmers and educate children to grow their own food.