Top dressing moss

Last summer and fall I collected moss from places around where I live but I really didn’t get that much. After grinding it down and mixing with sphagnum I can easily tell it won’t be enough for all my trees. Can i supplement with packets of moss spores and get the same effect? For example, stonelantern sells Joshua Roth moss packets. Could that be used as a substitute to finish off the rest of my trees with top dressing?


I have the same question. Not much moss to be had near me. I collected some but it doesn’t grow well. The Kyoto moss packets I have are basically just dust. I’m going to try it but i would be nice to have more confidence it will work.

My wife has a moss garden…pretty easy to grow your own. Either in a flat or in a low traffic area on a deck in pots or disposable pans bought at the dollar store.
It does take some effort, but the reward is great.


when you sift your soil, save the fines. The dust makes good soil for moss propagation. And also used to make muck for slab planting.

@trent.strum and @AbrahamWilson, I’m lucky enough to have moss in abundance around my place, but I have had some luck using the Joshua Roth Kyoto moss. It was kind of hit-or-miss, but that may have been due to a lack of watering skills in my early Bonsai days. Also, at that point I didn’t know to use anything other than potting soil, so I’m not sure how well the Kyoto moss grows on a more aggregate substrate like a Bonsai mixture. However, what I will say is that when I did have success with the packets it was some of the most beautiful, fine, and velvety moss I’ve seen. Definitely worth trying.


@Berg, awesome! Thank you!

I find that growing moss in our top dressing has alot more to do with our watering practices or lack thereof. For years I collected local moss, bought moss spores in packets and never had any success. I realized one day that the top of the soil around my bonsai were too dry, even for the moss I gathered locally and thus well adapted to the climate. I began using misters 1-3 times per day for about 1-2 minutes and now have success with growing moss in my bonsai containers. This works well for me in central Texas. Of course some will have no problem with growing moss in other areas that aren’t as hot and dry.

Just my 2 cents.


I see you’re in Oklahoma. That’s a bit dry, correct? Making sure I understand the challenge.

I recommend looking around air conditioner condensation discharge pipes. Here in Louisiana, we have high humidity, so the a/c discharge pipes could be used as lawn sprinklers. Thus, the areas near the discharge pipe can be covered in moss. Since you’re in a drier location, you may only have a tiny mud puddle with little to nothing growing around it. One thing I’ve noticed that is fantastic for growing moss is cinder blocks. The current supply of cinder blocks is made of concrete. The older blocks look like they were made by mixing cement with haydite. The blocks hold water nicely. I have a supply of stepping stones made of the same material. I have them below my benches. When I need moss, I use a 4-inch spackling blade to just scrape of a large, neet piece.

If you can find actual cinderblocks, or better yet, cinder stepping stones, ask neighbors, friends, family if you can put these beneath their a/c discharge pipe. They may prefer it to just letting it drip and form an ugly tiny mud hole.

Another good material for growing moss is cheap building bricks. You want the low-fire kind. I have a small supply of bricks embossed with “Mexico”. You can carve your name in them with your thumbnail. They hold water nicely and moss likes to grow on it.

Good luck!


Hello, I am in Northern CA. Has anyone yet tried mixing sphagnum and local moss as a top dressing and had it long enough to know if it grows?
It is normal practice around here to shred sphagnum moss, put a thin layer on top of bonsai soil in a pot and then cover this with collected bits of fresh moss. This is often done shortly before a show. If watered correctly, after a month or so the moss is pretty much permanent.
I am trying to grow a full blanket of moss using the mixed moss method. Don’t know if it will work yet. Does anyone have more experience to share?

I collect some of the best fine moss from a paver brick sidewalk on the east side of our house.
The mortar that I used is cheap mix your own cement from a big box store, and the down spouts run water over the sidewalk so they receive moisture naturally. When I water the trees getting morning sun, I water the brick sidewalk to encourage moss, but mainly to create a little micro climate that gives off humidity during the warmer part of the day. Having the eastern exposure and growing on a brick cement aggregate seems to give me the best moss to grow on my aggregate soil mix. Any inexpensive cement or aggregate paver block work well in our woodland garden, and that is where my wife collects moss to expand her moss garden. Our air conditioner is on the west side, so I have not seen a lot of moss in that area. We use well water outside so chlorine and salt are not a problem in the water we use on trees, moss, and huge perennial beds. I hope this info is helpful. The solution that works for me is finding that micro climate that moss will thrive in, and then placing the trees into that climate to establish a good covering. Moving the sun loving trees into full sun once the moss is established has not hurt the moss in my experience, but I do notice that watering must be very thorough because the water tends to run off where the moss is thick.

Working over in Marlton NJ, I walk daily at lunch. There are a number of dead trees in the industrial loop I walk around, and there is plenty of fine short-leaf moss growing in clumps on the decayed mulch the landscapers put there.
Previously had collected from a Belgian-block venue in central Philadelphia, which also had loads of Silver-Mound moss…great stuff.

The only issue have had with applying to my trees is the darned birds like to pick off the moss mounds,
in hopes of finding worms. Solution? Picked up some black expanded black mesh Deer Netting (1/4 inch mesh opening) and wrapped over the pot and moss…works like a charm! Netting is available at my local hardware store for a few bucks, and also works well over Azaleas and Yews, which deer used to nibble in my grow area.

1 Like

@flex Felix… I have always been told not to collect moss from trees or dead wood, because it will prefer to grow on you tree and damage the bark and be unsightly. If that is incorrect information I would be grateful for anyone to correct me or tell me why that advise is wrong.:worried:

1 Like

Bob…thanx for insight!
The moss I collect is NOT on deadwood. It is either in cracks between Belgian block, or on decayed mulch around a 20 ft. diameter area where a tree died. I never take anything from bark…!

1 Like

Great advice. As for deadwood, I would imagine that pulling such moss would carry with it the agents of decay working on the deadwood.

It’s so easy to forget the common sense things when we’re desperate for moss.

Central Texas is pretty close to the same climate here in OKC. Are you misting the foliage as well or just at the top dressing? Does the misting frequency alter your watering (less frequent)?

Hi Bill, my challenge was primarily that I had collected all the moss I could find in my local area but had used it all up and was only a quarter of the way through my repotting. I was trying to find a satisfactory alternative in order to finish out my repotting for the season being that I was unable to find any more moss near me.

Haha but I was able to find some on a roadtrip I took over the weekend. I was able to get a few pounds of moss so I am set to get through this years repotting. But I will definitely have some left over so I will follow your advice and begin cultivating it for next year under my benches.

Thank you for the advice!

Ryan mentioned to use an old carpet nailed on a piece of plywood and topdress it to propagate moos for repotting later. The carpet holds the moisture longer and coukd be shifted out of intense sun without impeed the need of a tree. I used this methode with the finest parts from the sifting process. I will see how this will perform during the year. In my place the most intense moos growth happens during the winter season.



I love that idea! I didn’t catch it when he said it but I will definitely be doing that with any of my leftover moss to begin growing for next year.

I collect moss (ferns and sprouts too) in pool parking lots. Sometimes, in rest areas too when doing long drives :grin:

I live in PNW