6 Simple Steps to Grow Moss on Bonsai
Moss provides a beautiful base for your bonsai tree, but don’t expect moss to grow on your bonsai on its own.
You’ll need to learn the following steps to grow moss on a bonsai and achieve your desired result.
- Find or grow moss
- Prepare a smooth surface in your soil
- Apply sphagnum moss to the surface soil
- Design and apply your moss of choice
- Press your moss
- Water and maintain the moss
You’ll find a step-by-step guide on how to grow moss on a bonsai in the following article.
You’ll also learn how to choose the right moss for your soil and bonsai, where to find moss, and how to keep moss from dying.
6 Steps to Grow Moss on a Bonsai
To grow moss on a bonsai, you’ll need to find the moss you want to use, make sure it will work for your bonsai, then apply the moss and keep it alive.
Many bonsai growers like the aesthetic appeal of moss covering their bonsai soil.
It adds a colorful pop to most bonsai trees and can actually benefit your tree in certain circumstances.
To grow moss on bonsai, carefully follow these six steps.
Step One: Grow, Buy, or Collect Moss Specimens You Like
The first step in growing moss on your bonsai is finding an appropriate moss to use.
You can grow your own moss from purchased or harvested spores.
To grow your own moss for harvest, you’ll need to plant spores in a container with a breathable lid or top to keep the spores in a moist environment.
Then, you’ll mist the spores approximately once per day until there’s enough moss to harvest.
It can take up to four weeks before you have the appropriate amount of moss.
You can also buy live moss online or at a nursery but take care to choose a moss that has similar growing conditions to your bonsai.
Or, you can always collect moss specimens from your surrounding environment.
Collecting moss yourself ensures that it can grow in your climate and will thrive along with your bonsai.
To find moss, you should check your rooftop, pavement cracks, tree bark, and other places where moss naturally grows.
You need to harvest the moss in big patches and, in this case, transplant them almost immediately onto your tree.
Step Two: Prepare the Top Layer of Soil
Once you’ve harvested moss for your bonsai, you’re ready to transplant it.
The first step in transplanting your moss is to prepare the top layer of soil in your bonsai plant container.
To do this, sheer off any roots poking through the surface.
Next, remove debris, such as sticks, rocks, or other saplings in your soil.
The end result should be a smooth soil surface for your moss.
Step Three: Put Down a Layer of Sphagnum Moss
Before you put your moss on your now-smooth soil bed, you’ll need to apply a layer of sphagnum moss.
Sphagnum moss helps soil aerate and drain, keeping it healthy and allowing it to maintain the appropriate amount of wetness.
You can purchase sphagnum moss online, at craft stores, and at nurseries, in its dried form.
But buyer beware: your bonsai soil requires pure sphagnum moss, not peat moss which looks similar.
Peat moss is too acidic for most pH-neutral bonsai soil.
Peat moss also contains debris and sometimes even dead insects.
So, stick to pure sphagnum moss only.
Once you’ve got your sphagnum moss, lay down a single layer over your soil, and then gently water or mist it to keep it in place.
This layer will help keep your visible moss in place, moist, and healthy.
Step Four: Design Your Moss Additions
With your sphagnum moss in place, you can start laying down your cultivated or harvested moss.
First, consider the design of your moss: is it a species that spreads, or does it grow in lumps?
Position it accordingly in a way that looks natural in your bonsai container.
Some growers choose to use moss sparingly and in patches for an artistic touch.
Others position their moss slightly against their bonsai tree trunk and lay it all the way to the edges of their pot to make it look more realistic.
Use your eye to determine what looks best to you.
However, avoid adding moss in layers to lessen the chance that your bonsai soil will not receive all the moisture it requires.
Step Five: Press the Moss Into the Soil
Once you’ve positioned your cultivated moss and you’re happy with its appearance, it’s time to make the look stick.
Using the back of a spoon or a small offset spatula, gently press the moss into the soil in your pot.
Step Six: Keep Your Moss Damp
Finally, mist the moss to keep it moist and allow it to absorb into the soil.
The moss will eventually take hold in the soil and stay put.
Continue caring for your bonsai as you did per its species instructions.
What Type of Moss Is Best for Bonsai?
The best type of moss for your bonsai trees is the moss that grows naturally in the environment in which your bonsai lives.
So, your moss should match your bonsai’s climate, conditions, light needs, and the pH balance of the soil in which your bonsai is already thriving.
Thus, it’s very important to keep in mind that not all moss will work on your tree.
For example, some moss is very acidic, meaning it won’t do well in neutral bonsai soil.
Other mosses require more water than your bonsai may tolerate and visa-versa.
Additionally, the type of moss you choose will depend on its appearance.
Some moss is colorful, other varieties develop small hill-like features, and some grow fast and flat.
You should pick the moss that you think will look best with your tree as long as that moss doesn’t interfere with your tree’s health.
Most Popular Bonsai Mosses
Atrichum moss, also called slender starburst moss, occurs naturally in North America and Europe.
You can find it on rocks, roots, and roadways.
Bryum argenteum, also called silvery Bryum, is a common urban moss with a green base and silvery tips.
You can often find it in sidewalk cracks in big cities.
Ceratodon is a good moss choice for bonsai tree growers who want some colorful options, as it comes in yellow, green, and even red colors.
It grows to about one inch (3 cm) high.
Ctenidium moss is a carpet moss because of its flat nature and capability of spreading.
Hypnum moss, also known as feather moss, has an almost cypress-leaved structure and is bright green.
People commonly use it on yards as a groundcover.
Thuidium moss is also known as common fern moss.
It’s an evergreen variety that forms as a loose mat and grows quickly.
Is Moss Good for Bonsai?
Moss is an excellent addition to your bonsai tree as long as you choose one that can grow along with your tree and cohabitate.
In certain instances, though, it can harm your tree.
Why Moss Is Good for Bonsai
Some of the pros of moss include:
- Makes your tree look more realistic
- Keeps moisture in the soil longer
- Prevents soil loss
- Keeps the soil warm in winter (good for tropical bonsais)
- Keeps the soil cool in hotter months
Why Moss Is Bad for Bonsai
For some growers, moss on bonsai trees adds extra complications to what can already be a testy and temperamental growing process.
Many mosses will require more water to keep them vibrant and alive than the bonsai tree itself needs.
Thus, you will have to maintain a balancing act to ensure you don’t underwater the moss and overwater your tree.
To combat this issue, try misting your moss instead of watering it if your tree does not require water, but the moss has begun to dry out.
For these reasons, some growers who take their bonsai to shows and competitions will only add moss for visual appeal, then remove it after the showing.
Why Is My Bonsai Moss Turning Brown?
If the moss in your bonsai tree pot turns brown, it may be dying.
There are many reasons the moss may start to die.
Commonly, moss dies because it receives too much water.
Overwatering the moss can lead to fungus building up in the soil.
To prevent this, try spritzing your moss instead of watering it to give it just the right amount of moisture.
And, since most bonsai prefer sunny spots, keeping the moss in the sun will allow it to dry enough between waterings to prevent mold from growing.
There’s also a chance that the moss you purchased at the store was not real moss at all.
If this is the case, it could be that the product is drying out, or the color added to it is simply fading.
While beautiful, putting moss on your bonsai adds an extra layer of complication in the maintenance process since its pH level and water and light needs may differ from your bonsai tree’s requirements.
To avoid this situation, choose moss that grows in the same region as your bonsai tree.
Overall, though, moss provides a beautiful layer of color to your bonsai and can be an added benefit if applied correctly.
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