Use of Moss as ground cover?????

David M. Martin

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I know from reading that peat moss is commonly used as a ground cover, but I'm curious to know if anyone has ever used regular, living ground moss as a decorative cover. If it has been used, I'm also curious to know about water retention in the soil since this medium is known to flourish in wetter soil conditions and lower sun light. Aesthetically it seems like a very pleasing appearance could be accomplished but I question the water/sun factors mentioned above. Any opinions on this subject?:confused:
 

rockm

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Peat moss is never used as ground cover. The moss used on the surface of bonsai is moss that can be found all around you. You can collect it, or grow it yourself. The best moss to use is the tight, low-growing stuff that can be found on poor soils and in between concrete pavers on the street.

Moss doesn't really like soggy conditions and no sun. What it does like is a well, drained, but moist soil, low in pH. It can take full sun once established, but getting it established on bonsai soil takes some doing and can even be bad for your tree.

The moss you see in photographs of bonsai exhibits and "formal" portraits of bonsai is added FOR THE PHOTO or exhibition, usually put in place a few weeks before and removed afterwards...
 

bonsaiTOM

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Mosses are often used, and to great affect, to enhance the appearance of trees in containers. This is done particularly for bonsai shows and exhibits.

However if left on for a time the moss will thicken and grow out of control and will climb around the surface roots and up the trunk. BAD. This causes too much moisture to collect in the soil medium trapping the water and inhibiting air passage through. Result? Root rot. :eek:

Tooth brushes and tooth picks can be used to gently remove unwanted moss growth. :cool:
 

Virgil

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moss

I am growing a bald cypress and have gathered moss from nature to use, it is doing good , i keep the cypress wet all the time.
 

rockm

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FWIW, moss is a pain in the butt to get to grow in most instances, takes an inordinate amount of work to keep looking good and/or from climbing your tree or blocking drainage.

While it has it's place in exhibitions and such, it's not really an everyday necessity for bonsai...
 

David M. Martin

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Thanks to everyone for the information. I'm glad I asked because my fears about moisture and sunlight requirements were well founded obviously. Although some of you say peat moss is never used, I have seen it a number of times, (not saying I agree with it's use), but it is used by some whether right or wrong. My tree originally had a copious amount of it covering the soil surface which I didn't hesitate to remove. I've even read where is suggested as a mixture with the soil medium, (again,,,, not declaring it right or wrong), but anyway,,,, I won't be adding "moss" to my pot, unless I just want a Kodak moment, and temporarily at that.
 

rockm

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"Although some of you say peat moss is never used, I have seen it a number of times."

Living sphagnum Peat moss is long-fibered, coarse and bog-loving. It's probably not the stuff you're looking at. There are many forms of moss and liverwort that resemble small ferns that occasionally crop up in bonsai pots. Those usually appear when conditions are too wet.

http://hibiscus-sinensis.com/water/sphagnum.htm

Dried peat moss, chopped up or used in long-fibered form, can be a bonsai soil ingredient. The living stuff will not survive on bonsai soil, nor is it aethetically "in scale" for such use. If there is sphagnum moss growing on the surface of a bonsai, it means the soil is pretty much a bog and the tree in it is in danger...
 

Mike423

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I have also seen what appears to be peat moss placed on the surface of Bonsai pots before. Then again the pots I see them on are also ones with rocks glued onto the surface......
 

rockm

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Dried Long fibered sphagnum moss placed on the surface of bonsai soil is not meant to be an artistic ground cover. It is sometimes used as a precaution in newly repotted bonsai to slow evaporation from the soil and keep roots from drying out as they regenerate. It is utilitarian, not aesthetic...

Its use with mallsai is pretty self-explanatory--like the rocks, it is used to cover up the really really bad soil the plant is in, and to hold the crappy soil in the cheap pot.
 

monza

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I would guess, that it is radically different for different climates as far as being a good or bad thing, but don't yell at me thats a guess....

In the book Gnarly Branches and Ancient Trees the photography is so incredibly crisp it actually makes the moss look totally amazing, like little forests of moss and ferns and things. I suspect that his trees always have it growing there due to the climate, warm and moist.
 
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I think somebody is confussing somebody... peat most is very fine dried up peat, when dry it's like dust, often added in soil mixture to help retain moisture in the soil itself, usually flowers, herbs etc. are planted in it, not bonsai, to moist. Spagnum moss can be applied to the top of the soil to help retain moisture in those type of plants that maintain alot of fine roots right at the trunk. Ie. junipers, in a very hot climate. You do also like said see them in plants from the store where rocks have been glued in, which is prob. why so they can only water about once a month. Spagnum moss used in this way, for it's moisture retaining properties can be very effective for it unlike if you were to lay peat moss, which would litterally smother the plant, it still allows the soil to breath. Then there is decorative moss which is usually the type you find in the corner of the yard where alot of moisture, and very little sun are, or on rocks, tree trunks etc. Which unlike the peat moss on top which would prob. kill it, the spagnum moss that can help it, the decorative moss is good to show the tree with, but as previously mentioned can take off.
 

DMBillies

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Spagnum moss can be applied to the top of the soil to help retain moisture in those type of plants that maintain alot of fine roots right at the trunk.
I live in TN and was finding that my pots were drying out enough in one day to significantly hinder a lot of my younger trees and trees in smaller pots. Forget to water one busy day and carnage would ensue. I'm no expert but got advice about using spagnum from a local shop. I now line the tops of each pot, which holds just enough water through the day in the summer that my plants are remaining much happier this year (and has the good side effect of preventing soil from hopping out of pots in bad thunderstorms, which are all too common here). I intend to take the spagnum off in the winter, when the heat leaves and the slower steadier rains really return, which will help keep the pots a little drier through the winter. It is a solution that, thus far, seems to be working spectacularly.

I have also put some regular old ground moss in a couple of my pots just to see what happened (I have a bad habit of putting any little tree I find in my yard in a pot and trying to grow it, which means I have plenty of subjects for experimenting). Summer puts the hurt on the moss anyway between the sun and heat and I can see that it would reduce aeration and keep the soil too moist, especially in early spring/late fall when rain is pretty common but it is still warm enough for moss to really take over. For that reason I've been trying to find other mini kinds of ground cover that works well in this climate but does not have the downsides of moss. I'm all about having a tree I can pretty up for special occasions, but I have to look at these things every day in my backyard and I want them to look spectacular as often as possible.
 

jk_lewis

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I collect mosses whereever I find them, and bring them home to a "moss farm" I've created under my bonsai tables. That way I have a supply of various kinds of moss to put on the pots as and when I show them. After display, the moss goes back into the "farm."
 

David M. Martin

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There was some confusion about the type of moss, but I think that all got cleared up. None the less, being as new as I am to the madness, I have to say that I'm excited about what is happening to my first Bonsai. All in all, I was disappointed with the original shape when I first received it as a birthday gift, but I've worked at it slowly and here are a couple of before and after shots to let everyone know how far I've come, and how much I appreciate all of the kind suggestions and help during my first year as a Bonsai owner. The after photo doesn't really do it justice because depth is hard to photograph, and I only placed it in the window sill to try and get a better picture,,,, but you'll get the idea of how much progress has been made. I can't wait to see how much change it will go through in another year. Cheers!
 

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rockm

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It will not survive very long indoors...
 

fore

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I found a cool trick to remove moss of the trunk, via the curator of the bonsai exhibit in Chicago. Use a small paint brush to brush on distilled white vinegar. Just be sure to try to keep it from entering the soil by using the vinegar sparingly.
 

headive24

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I think somebody is confussing somebody... peat most is very fine dried up peat, when dry it's like dust, often added in soil mixture to help retain moisture in the soil itself, usually flowers, herbs etc. are planted in it, not bonsai, to moist. Spagnum moss can be applied to the top of the soil to help retain moisture in those type of plants that maintain alot of fine roots right at the trunk. Ie. junipers, in a very hot climate. You do also like said see them in plants from the store where rocks have been glued in, which is prob. why so they can only water about once a month. Spagnum moss used in this way, for it's moisture retaining properties can be very effective for it unlike if you were to lay peat moss, which would litterally smother the plant, it still allows the soil to breath. Then there is decorative moss which is usually the type you find in the corner of the yard where alot of moisture, and very little sun are, or on rocks, tree trunks etc. Which unlike the peat moss on top which would prob. kill it, the spagnum moss that can help it, the decorative moss is good to show the tree with, but as previously mentioned can take off.
Your information is incorrect. Sphagnum is a genus of approximately 380 species of mosses commonly known as peat moss.

I know what you mean about the different products but commonly the package says sphagnum peat moss, they are not 1 different things: peat is just a common term used loosely.

As far as products sold for horticulture, I tend to agree that the fine dusty powdery stuff sold in "potting mixes" such as miracle grow does lead to root rot and nasty anaerobic soil after a little time. I don't ever use this stuff. Then there is the "good" kind of moss which you are referring to as sphagnum. This stuff is left whole and fibrous and allows aeration and retains water. I use it for air layers and comprised plants and sometimes put it along the outside of the pot on yamadori to give the roots something to grow towards (remember the elementary school experiment with the Dixie cup and the pea plant's roots would grow towards it). This good kind is often sold as "orchid grow moss".

But sphagnum and peat aren't two different things. That's like saying gymnosperms and conifers are two totally different things.

The difference is that the stuff you dont like that they put in most potting soils is the "sawdust" "dirt" and sometimes purposely shredded stuff when they process it. The good stuff is just the choice pieces when processed.

So to respond to you that "somebody is confusing somebody" I would agree, and you are perpetuating that confusion.

But as far as ornamental value of either of these I have a brief comment. I noticed that after adding some of the "orchid grow moss" to the top of a pot it had turned green after a few weeks even though it was completely brown when I first bought it. I googled this and others had noticed the same thing, but it's not the moss coming back but the algae that inhabits it. Since then I was reading my peter chan book and one section he repots a zelkova into a light blue pot. He uses some of the good rough textured moss, and then in the photo showing the tree months later, it had become green and looks quite nice.

Now I know nothing about if this algae that's coming back is harmful to trees; so I don't purposely go for that.

But to the original poster: dont let the certain people on this forum get you down. There are some people with incredible experience that just want to help; but not everyone. Some people are just regurgitating the same (often incorrect) information that they have heard and they are not answering your question from personal experience. There are also people who are just haters that come on this forum just argue and try to act like they know everything. I believe these people are missing all of the spiritual lessons that can be learned from our wonderful hobby. If you comment on this forum, it should be to share your knowledge and give some motivation. Too often ppl comment just to make the poster feel stupid and their overall message in discouraging and rude, instead of uplifting and helpful.

Like someone else said, it usually makes the most sense to apply groundcovers when preparing your tree to be shown so your soil drains better and your not having to fight back the moss. But if you want to use it all the time, you should try it because personal experiences are way more valuable then some comment from around the world that is telling someone their information is incorrect (when in fact their own info is incorrect). Ppl can be assholes, and especially when they are emboldened by the fact that they can say whatever they want online without the repercussion of getting punched in the face.
 
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Your information is incorrect. Sphagnum is a genus of approximately 380 species of mosses commonly known as peat moss.

I know what you mean about the different products but commonly the package says sphagnum peat moss, they are not 1 different things: peat is just a common term used loosely.

As far as products sold for horticulture, I tend to agree that the fine dusty powdery stuff sold in "potting mixes" such as miracle grow does lead to root rot and nasty anaerobic soil after a little time. I don't ever use this stuff. Then there is the "good" kind of moss which you are referring to as sphagnum. This stuff is left whole and fibrous and allows aeration and retains water. I use it for air layers and comprised plants and sometimes put it along the outside of the pot on yamadori to give the roots something to grow towards (remember the elementary school experiment with the Dixie cup and the pea plant's roots would grow towards it). This good kind is often sold as "orchid grow moss".

But sphagnum and peat aren't two different things. That's like saying gymnosperms and conifers are two totally different things.

The difference is that the stuff you dont like that they put in most potting soils is the "sawdust" "dirt" and sometimes purposely shredded stuff when they process it. The good stuff is just the choice pieces when processed.

So to respond to you that "somebody is confusing somebody" I would agree, and you are perpetuating that confusion.

But as far as ornamental value of either of these I have a brief comment. I noticed that after adding some of the "orchid grow moss" to the top of a pot it had turned green after a few weeks even though it was completely brown when I first bought it. I googled this and others had noticed the same thing, but it's not the moss coming back but the algae that inhabits it. Since then I was reading my peter chan book and one section he repots a zelkova into a light blue pot. He uses some of the good rough textured moss, and then in the photo showing the tree months later, it had become green and looks quite nice.

Now I know nothing about if this algae that's coming back is harmful to trees; so I don't purposely go for that.

But to the original poster: dont let the certain people on this forum get you down. There are some people with incredible experience that just want to help; but not everyone. Some people are just regurgitating the same (often incorrect) information that they have heard and they are not answering your question from personal experience. There are also people who are just haters that come on this forum just argue and try to act like they know everything. I believe these people are missing all of the spiritual lessons that can be learned from our wonderful hobby. If you comment on this forum, it should be to share your knowledge and give some motivation. Too often ppl comment just to make the poster feel stupid and their overall message in discouraging and rude, instead of uplifting and helpful.

Like someone else said, it usually makes the most sense to apply groundcovers when preparing your tree to be shown so your soil drains better and your not having to fight back the moss. But if you want to use it all the time, you should try it because personal experiences are way more valuable then some comment from around the world that is telling someone their information is incorrect (when in fact their own info is incorrect). Ppl can be assholes, and especially when they are emboldened by the fact that they can say whatever they want online without the repercussion of getting punched in the face.
Dude, the last post in this thread was 8 years ago. This information has been corrected - many times - in more recent threads.
What happens now, is that old and wrong information pops up again, confusing new(er) readers.

I don't want to be the asshole here, but I am a big fan of leaving the past in the past. Outdated information only stays outdated if nobody ever touches it again.
 

sorce

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Not to mention the arguing with one of 5 or 6 reincarnations of a douchebag!

Sorce
 

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