Embracing the Best Mosses Grown in the Home Garden

Bee Better Naturally with Helen Yoest

Did you know moss is the oldest living terrestrial plant? The sight of a verdant-green moss lawn will calm your soul. All you need is shade to part sun and moisture. Many shade-loving mosses can tolerate morning sun. Once established, many mosses are also drought-tolerant.

This post is the second in a series about moss garden. In case you missed it, HERE is the first posting!

Lacking roots, moss can grow on most firm surfaces, known as substrates, such as soil, rocks, walls, and pavement. Mosses are not particular about soil types, either. Indeed, mosses will grow on loam, clay, or even richly-amended soils. Soils with high sand content are unstable and don’t make a firm enough substrate to grow moss.

Within North American, there are 1,170 species of moss. Did you know there are only two types of moss—acrocarps and pleuocarps; with many different species within each type.

Let us explore 11 suitable and successful mosses for growing at home—Four acrocarpus species and seven pleurocarpous species.

Photo Credit: Moss and Stone Gardens

Acrocarpus Mosses—Clumping Forms--Clump on Left

Acrocarps are the slower growing species that often form mounding colonies and produce the breakable growing tips useful in propagation.

  1. Polytrichum commune, is commonly referred to as haircap moss. Polytrichum commune is a giant among mosses, forming colonies well over four-inches tall. Even though mosses lack roots, haircap moss has strong and deep rhizomes to securely fasten itself to the soil—which they prefer over other substrates. Once established, haircap moss can tolerate more sun than other mosses.
  2. Dicranum scoparium, commonly referred to as rockcap moss. Dicranum scoparium moss is a versatile and appealing chartreuse-colored species, adaptable to every shaded location. On rock, soil, or wood, this moody moss thrives.
  3. Campylopus Introflexus, commonly referred to as heath star moss. Whether grown in sun or shade, this species always shines. Heath rtar prefers a soil or wood substrate, but can adapt to stone.
  4. Luecobryum glaucum, is commonly known as cushion moss. Luecobryum glaucum is the chameleon among mosses. Cushion moss will grow in full sun to full shade, and changes its color from almost silvery-green to pale yellow when dry or a vibrant green when moist. Often found at the base of pine trees, cushion moss requires dry periods for continued health.

Photo by: Moss and Stone Garden

Pleurocarpous Mosses—Low Spreading Forms--Clump on Right, above.

  1. Thuidium delicatulum is known to moss gardeners as one of the most useful species of all. Commonly known as the delicate fern moss or common fern moss. Fast spreading colonies can transform bare earth into a carpet faster than any other. Delicate fern moss prefers constant moisture to feed their rapid spreading. Common fern moss can attach or crawl over anything. In fact if you decide to take a nap on a bed of this moss, don’t be surprised if you awake to find yourself in a Gulliver's Travel novel, with Lilliputian-like ropes attempting to hold you to the ground. OK, just kidding, but still fast growing. Thuidium delicatulum is tolerant of drought, and turning a golden color, Thuidium’s only restriction is direct afternoon sun.
  2. Plagiomnium cuspidatum, also known as baby-toothed moss, is another great moss carpeter that tickles all bare feet. Glistening dew drops form easily on this species as it has one of the largest leaves in the moss kingdom.
  3. The red-blooded all-star, Climacium americanum is a trickster. Also known as American climacium, Climacium americanum often show an upright habit of growth connected to prostrate rhizomes underground. You wouldn’t be out of line thinking this was an acrocarp, and who am I to argue with a bryologist! Climacium’s claim to fame is its ability to grow in standing water, making it one of the few that can be used directly in our water gardens at depths up to one inch. In addition to water-loving traits, American climacium tolerates sunny locations!
  4. Bryoandersonia illecebra, also known as worm moss. Bryoandersonia illecebra, is a common moss similar in appearance to several others, which will take time for beginners to distinguish. Tolerant of part sun, this loosely woven moss is known for its bright green growing tips. There’s no doubt to its happiness when it shines in this manner.
  5. Now for the sexiest moss in the line-up, Entodon seductrix, also know as seductive moss. Entodon seductrix is a moss that can do it all. Thriving in open lawns, gulping down applications of lime, fertilizer, and even round-up, seductive moss keeps shining with its iridescent golden patina, despite turf-tenders best efforts. Entodon seductrix is a species grown in full sun to full shade, and considers any place home. Raked from a lawn in small fragments, this moss will colonize any place you desire once you give its stunted rhizomes time to re-form.
  6. Hypnum cupressiforme, Sheet moss, a staple of the floral industry. Called to duty as a non-living mulch for our potted beauties and hanging baskets. In the garden it will settle in on all substrates asking only for moisture and shade to perform.
  7. Hypnum Imponens, is a cousin of Hypnum cupressiforme and also shares the common name of sheet moss. H. Imponens also shares the same traits of H. cupressiforme, only with a shinier golden-green hue and greater thirst. One of the most popular types of moss, sheet mosses is easily transplanted and handles foot traffic well. A low-growing plant, sheet moss highlights small wildflowers and is ideal as a low-maintenance ground cover between paving stones on shady patios and walkways.

As you can see, there is a moss for a lot if different sun/shade conditions. If you do have shade, keep it so, and grow moss for your lush, maintenance-free lawn!

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