Which moss for top dressing

Nishant

Shohin
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Hello Friends,

I want to cultivate moss on my larch and pine trees compost . I was thinking of buying spores and needed advise on which species of moss is best so that it will not bother the tree's roots.

Please can you share you knowledge/experience and do's and don't with moss.

Thanks in advance for this.

Regards.
 
I have found moss very difficult to establish from spores. Conditions will need to be exactly right for it to establish. Much easier from established slabs of moss if you can find some.

Best mosses for bonsai are short fibre low growing species so they stay looking neat on the surface of the pots. I guess species will vary depending on location and prevailing conditions.

Mosses don't actually have roots like other plants which makes them very easy to transplant. Slide a knife or thin blade scraper under some moss and lift up a slab. To apply on a pot pare down the base of the moss if it is thick or has lots of soil under. Soak the slab in water for a minute or so to soften the slab. You can press down on the slab of moss and actually almost double the size of most slabs just before you apply it. Place on the surface and press down to ensure intimate contact with the substrate. I know some who use something like a knitting needle to poke through the moss slab to make better contact between moss and substrate.

Suitable moss is usually found growing on hard surfaces - concrete, asphalt, cracks in concrete footpaths, street gutters, etc. Car parks and sheltered foot paths seem to be good hunting grounds. Moss grows everywhere so even urban and city bonsai growers have access to living moss. Just keep your eyes open as you travel round your area.
Moss growing in lawns is usually long and untidy species so not best suited. It will also be invariably full of weeds or weed seeds. Moss from forests is usually long and coarse so avoid that too.
Sometimes there is a really nice looking moss growing on the trunks of street trees. Avoid that one. It prefers to grow on tree trunks and will desert the soil surface and climb your trees where you don't want it. I now spend lots of time getting rid of moss on the trunks of my bonsai. Big mistake!

Bonsai moss collectors will need to develop a thick hide. You will often be collecting in public areas and will receive some strange looks and odd questions so you will feel embarrassment. Just be prepared to tell them you are a bonsai grower. People seem to expect that we are more than a little odd and seem to happily forgive strange behavior from anyone who would grow mini trees.

Moss can also be established from dried crumbled moss. When moss dries it does not die, just goes dormant until water returns so dried moss can reactivate. Just sprinkle dried moss over the substrate and mist gently. This takes some time to get established and I have not had good results.
 
You can buy Kyoto moss from most bonsai supply houses. You'll need to have a topping of something organic like fine decayed bark on which to dust this dust. I use an old salt shaker to sprinkle it on the media. It grows well and will be a class A surface in 6 to 8 weeks.
 
Thanks Forsoothe & Shibui.

I am looking to establish moss asap so would prefer buying ready grown mats of moss. I am planning to get Cushion Bun moss. Please can you advise further if you know about this species.

How soon do moss develop the rhizoids/roots once I place them at desired place?
 
Would you not go and collect it? the moss name/species doesn't really matter, once on the tree no one will pay attention to moss name/species. Way easier and cheaper too is to go to local park and collect some from foot patches etc its not that hard and you have free supply, if you have to much, dry it and keep in the box untill its needed, or keep it on wet tray.

btw, where do you think they get that moss from ? looks a bit like of forest moss :)
 
I think I probably have around 4 different species of moss growing on my bonsai but I have no idea what species as all have been collected from local sources and moss is notoriously hard to ID accurately. I contributed some samples to a PhD student for analysis some years ago but never heard back about the ID of them.

Given the size of the container as scale reference that cushion moss looks a bit too coarse for bonsai but if that's all you can get........
 
Don't buy it!

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Sorce
 
You can buy Kyoto moss from most bonsai supply houses. You'll need to have a topping of something organic like fine decayed bark on which to dust this dust. I use an old salt shaker to sprinkle it on the media. It grows well and will be a class A surface in 6 to 8 weeks.

Does it matter whether the freshly applied spores are kept in full sun or shade?

There is very, very, very little moss to collect in Denver because it’s so arid. I’ve collected some moss from the mountains but it’s mostly been too coarse. I’ll keep looking, but in the meantime I ordered some of those spores!
 
I've never had luck with spores. I imagine a mile long walkabout in London with your eyes peeled will produce numerous locations to collect (if that's legal). I've had success in Texas, but I have to collect in March/April after the rains and then my window of opportunity usually closes. Here's a really boring video of my process collecting moss and removing excess soil and weeds.


Not in the video is mashing the moss into a sifter to reduce clumps and then mix with sphagnum for topdressing. This usually gets a nice covering going within a month and a half. With the excess moss fines and the soil you remove in the process you can grow a carpet using just the excess soil and tiny moss fines alone in about a month. Here's a picture of 30 days of growth for an idea using just the leftovers from topdressing creation. First picture taken on March 08th second picture on April 05th.
 

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I’d just get dry or fresh moss and mix with with sphagnum ... I don’t use a sieve either just get it in a bucket and chop/mix them up. The moss grown and then placed on wouldn’t adhere to the top as a dressing as fast, and it would affect watering .. if you grow the moss , it will allow for proper percolation as it grows.
 
I pick small bits of moss from cracks in the sidewalk around my house. It is very fine and because it grows in the sidewalk, it is sun and drought tolerant. I top-dress my plants with sphagnum moss, then sprinkle bits of fresh or dried moss from my sidewalk onto the sphagnum. You don't need much - it will grow and spead over the sphagnum if a few weeks. You can just pull up chunks of moss and apply it to the top of the soil - I've done that before, but I prefer growing it on the sphagnum. This would be faster than ordering spores - if you don't have it on your property, just take a walk somewhere and collect a bit.
 
My climate is fairly similar to the UK’s…

I grow moss like this:
4A924C5B-BAF7-49BC-8E42-338DBF0F6271.jpeg

…by starting like this:
B1E67148-49FE-4C2E-8104-E9A0D1424F91.jpeg

…which is the “standard” mix of equal parts shredded long fiber sphagnum moss and “good” green moss, collected locally.

I scrape up whatever green moss I can find growing on LEVEL CONCRETE surfaces (not running up a curb, for example) to get species with growing habits that are less likely to make a mess of trunks:
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I do what I can to get the shorter and more blueish colored species:
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I buy this sphagnum wherever I can find it:
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Then I shred it through half-inch wire screens over 1/8-inch wire screens over 1/20-inch wire screens. The half inch coarsely breaks it up, the 1/8-inch screen catches my general mix, and the 1/20-inch screen catches my shohin mix. Whatever falls out is used in my “muck” mix for building soil walls on slabs and other unique pottings.
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The final product looks like this:
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It has a great amount of surface area for good microbial activity, allows for gaseous exchange in the roots, and prevents stagnant pockets. Over time it turns to a perfect mat of moss so long as it is kept moist and doesn’t receive all day full sun.

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I recommend against placing full sheets of existing moss on top of soil. It gets too soggy in a wet climate.
 
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I haven't used moss just yet in my journey through bonsai, but I will be collecting some this spring. If you go to parks, or even just walking along sidewalks you can find alot. What I wanted to say though is I love the look of different species and multiple "patch like" Moss on the surface of the soil, instead of one even sheet of the same species of moss. To me the 'random', 'patchy' look really gives a natural look to it and will aid to make the tree look miniature!
 
There's not a lot of moss here in southern California where I could just take a walk and find some.

What moss works in dryer environments?

Also, what if your tree needs full sun?
 
There's not a lot of moss here in southern California where I could just take a walk and find some.

What moss works in dryer environments?

Also, what if your tree needs full sun?
The north sides of buildings or underneath abandoned cars can be useful for finding moss. There may also be drainage ditches, downspouts, or similar “natural” water sources where moss can be found.

I have a decent amount of moss on some trees that grow in full sun AND like to be moist. The trick is sphagnum holds water well and doesn’t really encourage algae or bad bacteria. The shade of a tree’s canopy can be enough respite from the sun to allow moss to establish.

This oak grows in full sun:
02346BBB-459A-48D7-92B4-C53B6FD9B01C.jpeg

This Mugo Pine gets absolutely blasted by sun but is shaded in the later afternoon: (this shallow pot doesn’t really dry out much)
F6C42299-7606-42DB-9F57-0BFE47E4D444.jpeg
 
There's not a lot of moss here in southern California where I could just take a walk and find some.

What moss works in dryer environments?

Also, what if your tree needs full sun?

Same here. Try looking for moss up in the hills when you go for a hike, near a stream.
 
Same here. Try looking for moss up in the hills when you go for a hike, near a stream.
I have hiking trails and a nature preserve behind my house, but the streams are only wet immediately after rain, which is a few days per year. I'd probably be better off trying the spores. I mean, it's only 6 bucks. I would probably just have to grow it separately in a cool, shaded place, and then harvest that for use when needed.
 
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