Magical Moss

Moss and fern adorn rock surface in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Moss and fern adorn rock surface (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Imagine yourself walking in a forest where the only sounds are wind gently blowing through surrounding boughs and leaves rustling with the scurrying of squirrels busily collecting nuts for winter.  The air is filled with an earthy scent of fallen leaves, while high above a chorus of birds celebrate the new day.  While strolling along you realize that your path was made not by man, but by the creatures of this forest.  You imagine raccoons and possums that sifted through the soil beneath your feet in their search for tidbits, and you see evidence of branches nibbled by passing deer.  Looking about a little more cautiously, you wonder if larger predators such as coyote and bear might not be lurking somewhere close by.  And then you come upon a small clearing where the ground, fallen tree trunks and boulders are all cloaked in an emerald blanket of moss.  For a moment you are mesmerized by the wizardry of nature.

An emerald carpet in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

An emerald carpet (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Whenever I see a colony of moss, I’m transported back to the natural places deep in the wood where I first witnessed it.  Moss is the “turtle plant” of the forest, moving slowly and steadily, embellishing the forest floor in a lush green carpet that provides a welcoming habitat for animals and a visual treat for human visitors.  Upon discovering my first patch, I instinctively reached to gently touch and experience the feeling of it tickling my fingertips.  Then I carefully rested my head on a fluffy mound while looking up through the trees at the clear blue sky high above.  The experience was magical, and I still feel the same way whenever I see moss blanketing a surface.

Moss growing on a granite slab in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Moss growing on a granite slab (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Although moss occurs naturally in our forests, along moist streams and other shady locations (and we should never disturb it), there are types of mosses that we can purchase and plant in our landscape to emulate the forms that we find in our woods.  I found this really neat website: with beautiful images, planting suggestions and moss available for sale in our colder zones.  Although most mosses prefer moist, cool shady conditions, a few will tolerate a little less coddling and a little more sun.  Moss Acres has four types of moss for different applications such as edging walkways, covering large swaths as a low care lawn, clumps that can be spread randomly through a wooded area, small pieces to embellish a shady garden, or on rocks and stumps as accent.  There is also mention of “inoculating” fragments of moss for coverage of large areas.  The possibilities are endless; all you’ll need is a vision, and the patience to allow the moss to create the soothing scene you’re envisioning.

Moss growing on log in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Moss growing on a log (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Heavily treed areas surrounded with barren soil could be a great opportunity to incorporate a few sections of moss to liven things up. Around shady water sources, moss loves the moisture and frogs adore the cushioned pedestals to bask upon.  Moss willingly adorns stone walls, and provides companionship for many woodland ferns to mingle with.  Moss Acres recommends medium green fern leaf Sheet Moss, hypnum, as a ground cover for light traffic in shady to partial sun conditions.  Hypnum also works well as a lawn or under planting.  The lighter green Cushion Moss, Leucobryum, are round clumps that prefer sandy soil and tolerate partial sun. Hair Cap Moss, Polytrichum, is the moss I remember cuddling with in the woods.  A richer shade of green with denser character, this moss is wonderful in masses throughout a garden, and will work in clay or sandy soils in shade to part sun.  Like its name, Rock Cap Moss, Dicranum, is comfortable perched on a rock in dense shade.  Unlike its siblings, the darker green dicranum is the vampire of mosses, sizzling from the slightest touch of sun light, and therefore must be kept in full shade throughout the year.

Moss growing on a hiking trail in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Moss growing on a hiking trail (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

So, what are you waiting for my moss loving friends?  It’s time to get your moss on . . .


  1. I love moss!!!! Crazy I know, but I just adore it. Thank you for all of the moss info! Any other moss lovers out there . . . read Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book A Signature of All Things.

  2. What a great idea! Do you think I can re-plant my lawn with it??? Green all the time, no mowing!

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