Moss for Indoor Plants – Guide to Pros & Cons
Moss is a highly versatile plant with many indoor plant garden applications. There are many varieties of moss, each with its unique properties and specific uses for houseplants. In this article, we will be exploring:
- the most popular types of moss for indoor plants,
- benefits and precautions that should be aware of,
- how to use moss in your potted plants, and
- answering those common questions about moss for indoor plants.
So grab a coffee and get comfortable because we’re going to get up close and personal to one of our favorite combinations – moss and indoor plants.
Types of Moss for Indoor Plants?
There are over twelve thousand different varieties of moss around the world — each with other appearances, textures, adaptations, and growth habits.
They usually form thick carpets in moist environments like bogs, tropical forests, and water sources. And we can use this attraction to water to benefit our indoor plants – we’ll elaborate on this point later.
However, we are interested more in the moss varieties that have applications for our houseplants. So here is a quick rundown of our favorite mosses to use.
Even though you may not have realized it then, you have probably seen peat moss at your nursery or in some of your potted plants.
It is a popular moss with plenty of beneficial properties that enhance potted plants’ soil quality.
Peat moss is an organic material harvested from peat bogs (predominantly located in Canada). The moss is usually transported from its source and allowed to dry. With all the moisture eliminated, the decomposed moss is often mixed with perlite and packed together in tight bricks for storage and transportation purposes.
You can usually find peat moss sold at your local nursery around the other dry goods. Alternatively, you can also source high-quality peat moss online at places like Amazon.
Of all the mosses to use with potted plants, sphagnum moss has to be one of our favorites. We love the look, feel, and properties that sphagnum moss brings to our plants.
We love sphagnum moss so much that we wrote a complete care guide HERE.
Like peat moss, sphagnum moss is sourced from bogs and used for horticultural worldwide. It is well known for its water absorption and retaining properties, which can be used in gardens, mainly indoor plants.
We like the look and feel of the live plant, which we try to incorporate into the aesthetics of our tropical plants, like orchids and terrariums.
Pin Cushion Moss
It is probably the variety that most people picture when they think about moss. Pin cushion moss is a mounding perennial moss that looks like lovely little cushions covering the ground.
Unlike the previous two varieties, pin cushion moss is not harvested for horticultural purposes. Instead, this soft and paunchy-looking moss is better suited for its aesthetic contributions to gardens and indoor plants.
Benefits of Moss for Potted Plants?
Let’s now consider why we are big fans of this unassuming plant.
A (Live) Mulch
In our mind, the most significant benefit of using moss with indoor plants is the water retaining properties boost it provides your soil.
One of the most effective ways to use moss varieties like sphagnum and pin cushion moss is to grow it on your planter’s topsoil.
It creates a beautiful mulch that helps to reduce moisture evaporation from the soil.
Additionally, the aesthetics of moss growing at the base of a plant creates a wonderfully natural-looking aesthetic that is second to none.
Top Quality Potting Soil
Another excellent benefit of using moss in your planters is how it enhances the quality of your garden soil.
Mixing mosses, like sphagnum and peat moss, into your potting mixture increases your soil’s natural organic materials.
Not only will your plants welcome the nutrients and minerals released as the moss decomposes, but it will also deliver water retaining properties to your soil. This will help regulate the moisture levels in your soil and reduce the frequency you need to water your house plants.
Prevents Fungus Gnats
One of the most frustrating and annoying indoor plant pests is the common fungus gnat. They infest the soil in your houseplants and annoy household guests by hovering around your food, drinks, and person.
So, how does moss stop fungus gnats?
Fungus gnats require readily available wet and soggy soil to lay their eggs. They actively seek it out from pot plant to pot plant. Therefore, if you have a thick carpet of live moss growing on top of your pot plant’s soil, the adult fungus gnats will not be able to lay their eggs. This will break the fungus gnat life cycle and prevent them from repopulating.
NOTE: It is essential to understand that your moss needs to cover the entire soil surface in your planter. If a small part of the soil is exposed, rest assured the gnats will find it and lay eggs.
This is one prong of our three-pronged approach to eliminating fungus gnats forever. You can read more about our Garden Bench Top strategy HERE.
The Disadvantages of Moss for Plants?
As with most things in life, there is always some bad with the good. Here are some precautions you should be aware of when using moss in indoor plants.
When Moss Takes Over
When the right conditions are met, the live moss growing on the top soil can multiply and overtake your planter.
This won’t necessarily kill your indoor plant. However, it will slowly weaken your plant through dehydration and starvation.
When the moss cover becomes too thick, it can absorb all the water you add to your plants, preventing it from reaching your roots.
At the same time, an overgrown moss ball can potentially become a competitor with your plant for nutrients.
Unfortunately, both scenarios will leave your plant worse off in the long term.
Hard to Tell Moisture Levels
One of our preferred methods for testing soil moisture levels is digging our fingers into the topsoil. It’s an easy, convenient, and budget-friendly way of determining when your potted plants need more water.
With live moss in your houseplants, this task becomes very challenging, if not impossible, without damaging the moss.
Sure, you can always choose to use a soil moisture meter; however, that goes against our tagline…Get Your Hands Dirty!
How do you use moss in a potted plant?
Now that we have covered the good and the bad of moss for potted plants, let’s look at how you can use this excellent plant.
Mixed Into Soil
We touched on this earlier, but mixing peat moss and sphagnum into the potting mix is one of their primary uses. They are natural materials that help to enrich the composition of the soil.
In addition, they bring along their excellent water absorption properties to help the soil retain moisture for your indoor plants.
We always include some type of moss or coco coir in our indoor soil for these very reasons.
Moss Poles for Potted Plants
Another ingenious way to use moss in potted plants is as part of a moss pole.
Many tropical plants we try to cultivate inside our homes use aerial roots to cling to objects while they continue to grow. Some examples of indoor epiphytes include monsteras, pothos, and philodendrons, to name just a few.
But these aerial roots aren’t just for clinging to things. They can also function as everyday roots and absorb water and nutrients from the surrounding environment.
This is where moss poles come into their own. A moss pole is essentially an upright structure with moss wrapped around (or inside) it. Due to its porous and malleable texture, the moss pole is the perfect structure for aerial roots to attach themselves to.
But the brilliant thing about moss poles is that they also possess moss retaining water properties. Which allows the aerial roots to feed and take in water as your indoor plant grows.
Propagation and Sprouting Plants
If you have ever undertaken any propagation or seeding projects, you know constant moisture is one of the critical factors determining your successes or failures.
Moisture encourages plants to develop strong rooting structures that supply your cuttings or seedlings with the necessary nutrients and water.
And the perfect way to maintain a constantly moist environment is with moss.
To use moss for propagation or seeding, follow these steps:
- Soak a ball of sphagnum moss in distilled or filtered water, and place it inside your propagation containers.
- Push your index finger into the center of the moss ball to create a hole approximately an inch deep.
- Place your seed(s) or cutting into the hole and backfill the hole with more damp moss.
- Keep your moss moist until you see roots and new shoots developing.
Moss for Indoor Plants – Common Questions
Is Moss Good for Succulents?
Succulents prefer arid conditions. Because of this, they are not tolerant of the constantly moist conditions that moss creates with their water retaining properties. When succulents remain in wet environments, they are susceptible to rot and other diseases.
We do not recommend the use of moss with succulents. Instead, use our recipe for the best succulent soil HERE.
Is Moss Harmful to Plants?
We are happy to report moss is one of the good guys. It is not harmful to your potted plants or garden. We understand how some gardeners may conclude that moss is detrimental to their plants. Because of moss’s affinity for moist environments, it grows when plants become overwatered.
When plants become overwatered, they become weak, appear limp, and can develop rot. Unfortunately, plant owners mistakenly associate their ailing plant with growing moss and misattribute blame.
Can Plants Grow in just Sphagnum Moss?
Absolutely YES – sphagnum moss is an excellent growing medium for many plants like orchids. Plants that can survive from the water content in the ambient air around them are suitable for growing in sphagnum moss.