Everything You Need to Know About Growing a Moss Garden

Japanese moss garden at Saiho-ji temple Koke-dera in Kyoto, one of Kyoto`s Unesco World Heritage Sites.

Moss has been used in Japan for centuries as a crucial element in gardens, bringing a sense of serenity and calm to the surroundings. (Image: Rudiuk via Dreamstime)

Moss has been used in Japan for centuries as a crucial element in gardens, bringing a sense of serenity and calm to the surroundings. It is so important that no Japanese garden is thought to be complete without moss. This ancient tradition has inspired a modern trend as more and more people consider growing a moss garden at home.

The garden, covered with blankets of moss, exudes an exotic and somewhat fairy-tale-like look. It is quite common to see moss growing without human intervention and care. It grows on trees, pavements, and in the wilderness. The good thing is, you can grow moss the way you want, in a garden bed and also on rock walls.

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What type of setting do you need for growing a moss garden?

Mosses are defined as small, non-flowering plants, categorized as Bryophytes. If your garden has enough shade and acidic soil, these conditions are ideal. If the area is moist, it is even better. There are two main types of moss — branching and upright. Of the two, branching moss tends to grow faster. It is good for stopping soil erosion as well. The upright version is more delicate and dry. It can be damaged if walked upon.

Using stepping stones when growing a moss garden to reduce footfall.
Using stepping stones in a moss garden can reduce footfall. (Image: Grian12 via Dreamstime)

Benefits of growing a moss garden

A moss garden is not only esthetically pleasing, but it also has several benefits:

  • Moss doesn’t have a root structure, so it takes nutrients from the atmosphere and cleanses the air of pollutants in the process.
  • Moss is low-maintenance since it never needs to be fertilized or mowed.
  • Moss retains moisture and is able to cope with spells of drought way better than most other plants.
  • Moss gardens also host certain types of insects that are beneficial to plants, such as spiders and ants.

What will you need to start growing a moss garden?

You will need the following tools and accessories for growing a moss garden:

  • A spray bottle
  • A paintbrush or spatula
  • A set of gardening gloves
  • A garden fork
  • A hose and sprinkler
Hose and sprinkler being used to water the backyard.
Use a hose and sprinkler to help keep the moss damp until it is well established. (Image: Lawrence W Stolte via Dreamstime)

Growing a moss garden

  1. First, you have to remove any grass and weeds from the area, getting down to bare dirt. Then, rake the soil lightly.
  2. Next, you need to figure out if the soil is acidic. You can use pH strips. The pH level should be less than 6 or so. If the reading is above 5.5, add some manure and compost to the soil.
  3. Now, you will need to wet the soil using a hose. Let the water soak in first and then place some moss on the soil. Press it down firmly. You may even put a few rocks atop the moss or push a stick into it to make sure it stays in place.
  4. Ensure the planted moss is kept damp for the next 21 days or so. Using a misting garden hose can be ideal. If the weather is dry, wet it at least once every day.

It is advisable that you transplant moss in early spring.

Growing a moss garden on a rock wall or brick surface

It is definitely possible to grow moss on a vertical rock or brick surface to add a unique appeal to your garden. You will have to use what is known as moss slurry. To make it, get out your blender and add a handful of moss along with a cup of yogurt or buttermilk and a cup of water and mix it up. This slurry can then be painted on the rock wall. After you pour or paint the slurry onto the rock surface, use a spray bottle to keep it damp. Keep in mind that this method leads to slower moss growth.

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