How to Grow Sphagnum Moss

living sphagnum moss from above
What You'll Need
Fresh cuttings
Peat moss
Rain, distilled or gray water

Sphagnum moss is a popular decorative plant that grows in large, lush carpets throughout forests, swamps, and bogs all around the world. With a little care, you can grow this beautiful plant in your own backyard.

Step 1 – Preparing the Moss

If you can find a large, wild sphagnum growth that looks healthy and robust—the kind that wouldn't suffer from losing a small piece—you can bring home a clump of healthy moss growing in nature. If you don't have access to any wild plants, or you don't trust your moss identification techniques, buy a sphagnum starter from a nursery.

If you can't find live sphagnum even at a nursery, buy a bale of dried moss. Take a few handfuls, place it in a plastic bag, and saturate it with rain or distilled water. Place the bag in indirect sunlight and keep moist until you notice green new growth. This may take up to two weeks.

Next, take cuttings of your live sphagnum using sharp scissors. These should come from the top four inches of the plant. Cut these segments into one to three centimeter sections (between roughly 1/3 and one inch).

dry moss in a plastic bag

Step 2 – Prepare the Area

Once the moss is ready to go, dig a basin at least two feet into the ground, or get a large, deep pot. The diameter of the hole or pot depends on how much moss you aim to grow. One square foot of starter sphagnum moss will grow 10 square feet of new growth.

Fill the hole with a mixture of one part high quality peat moss and one part compost. Keep the level of the potting mix at least six inches below the rim of the pot or hole. If you are using a mini bog, make it no deeper than twenty inches.

Step 3 – Sow

Water the peat moss and compost mix so it's moist but not soaking. Sprinkle the surface of the container or hole with the small sphagnum cuttings. As the moss grows, it will develop runners and will soon cover the surface of the soil.

Step 4 – Mulch

A light layer of mulch should encourage your moss to grow quickly. Mulch just deep enough to keep the moss from getting dried out, but shallow enough to allow light to reach your moss. When dealing with a larger area, you can use straw as a cover. Otherwise, dried grass or leaves are ideal.

sphagnum moss growing near water

Step 5 – Water

Pay close attention to the water level. Mist your new moss with a misting bottle to keep it evenly moist, and occasionally flood the moss with no more than an inch of water. When beginning to grow your moss, keep the water level to a point that will keep it from drying out. If the tips are turning brown, raise the water level. Use only rain water or distilled water for your sphagnum moss—not hard water.

Step 6 – Ideal Environment

For best growing conditions, the temperature should never get above seventy or below fifty degrees Fahrenheit. A basin is usually the best place to start. If you are able to allow more light conditions, you will find that your moss will become more colorful.

Because sphagnum has no roots, it can grow over just about anything, as long as the conditions are right. Since sphagnum grows naturally in swamps, bogs and dens, water and warmth are the most important factors to keeping your sphagnum moss both healthy and happy.