Topdressing - sphagnum moss

When creating moss topdressing, is sphagnum moss essential component, or it can be done without it? Thanks.


My experience is that sphagnum moss retains the water better than other types of grinded moss. It is definitely possible to make a topdressing without sphagnum moss but due to the fact that it already takes ages till the topdressing with sphagnum starts to grow i think it will take much longer without any sphagnum because the topdressing dries out much faster.
And i can imagine that there are some other advantages of sphagnum as well but this is the one i experienced on my own.

P.S. welcome to the Mirai community!

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Are sphagnum moss and sphagnum turfomoss the same stuff or is there any difference?
It translates equally but i didn’t notice the sphagnum turfomoss naming before.


I hope so because i use the same moss. (from Germany too ;)) If i remember right Ryan uses a moss from New Zealand. (Something like this:ÅMÅŽÕÑ&keywords=sphagnum+moss&qid=1552485080&s=gateway&sr=8-45) But i have no idea how big the quality difference is between them.

Good enough answer for me :). And considering the price, I’ll go with cheaper one.

I’ve been using the stuff that my local big box store carries for orchids with great results. I have noticed that cheaper stuff had more twigs and branches that I have to sift out. If the stuff your getting had minimal waste, I would call it good.

Welcome to Mirai MarkoB :slight_smile:

I have always top dressed my bonsai to grow moss, one growth media or another. Top dressing was listed in the books I used from the 1960s. Whatever works best; and doesn’t wash off before it is established. I used to use fine potting soil sprinkled on the surface to grow moss very well…
I also have flats of similarly grown mosses that I tear small chunks / sheets off for transplanting onto bonsai.
The trick is to wet and work/ tease the moss into the surface of the soil to establish it. If it dries up and comes loose, rub it up and scatter. It will rewet and grow new colonies of moss wherever it is placed. As long as there is surface media like chopped sphagnum moss to hold the spores.
I’ve observed that the akadama:lava:pumice surface will not grow moss unless helped out with this approach.

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I personally dont use sphagnum on my trees for top dressing. It tends to dry out too quickly where I live in Central Texas, even in the Fall/Spring when its cooler and rains more often. I had to water my shohin 3× today and my larger trees 2×. Dam water hogs. The accelerated growth of the trees combined with sun, wind and warmth = rapidly drying soil and topsoil. I find using a 2-3 mm particle size top layer with collected moss from nearby parks and biking/walking/hiking trails works amazing. I take a large sealable container and a paint scraper with me, then collect away. Moss turns yellow in the sun but when the canopies fill out it stays green and moist. Cheap and easy, plus you get out of the house and can look for inspiration and perhaps even yamadori material to collect.


Hmm… Before i watched Ryan using this topdressing i was also planning something like that. Need to make a decision :slight_smile:

Just got started with the Ryan collected moss/sphagnum mix. Very easy to prepare will see how it works

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Welcome Marco!! Happy AnnyV Kurt!! Welcome Q!!

Welcome to Mirai sir! I have used the sphagnum moss/moss mix and it has worked wonderfully. Solidifying the substrate was the most important thing for me. It allows sensitive root growth to happen without much disturbance. Especially helpful during the winter/spring transition, performing the “bonsai shuffle.”

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Yes, totally agree with you on stabilizing the soil. Also a reason I use collected moss. Collected moss is already established and flourishing in your particular climate. When collected, if selected and collected carefully will be free of weeds and unnecessary muck. Mosss tends to collect in shaded damp sandy, silty, even muddy or rocky areas. So when you scrape it away be sure to leave about 1/8th or more of the underlying media, usually it looks like mud. But is very distinct from the clay or whatever its growing beneath what tends to accumulate in its webbing. I simply remove anything like rocks, roots, etc… Then place it directly on my bonsai substrate and press in to ensure good contact. Water as usual, and let it be. It immediately stabilizes your soil surface, dries out a little slower, and looks better IMO. It will re establish itself and flourish far quicker. Then when you repot, do as Ryan demonstrated in a recent video and take off your moss prior to repotting and replace. All you need to do is collect more when you acquire more material.

Best time to collect is a day or two after rainfall while still overcast.


When you guys use sifted sphagnum together with sifted collected moss, how long does it take till you see it growing again? All the time i put on my topdressing it always takes 1 year and more till it is bright green again and grows. Is this normal?

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Could there be any issues if i use the collected moss or topdressing on the trees that have been in their pots from last year and are already established in their pots?

And another thing, i think Ryan uses moss from rocks, concrete and similar, any experience with regular forest moss that grows from wood and on ground?

That’s been my experience. Repot in Spring, don’t see healthy moss growth until next spring. Sometimes midwinter I can see the moss finally taking hold.

I believe Ryan mentions the same thing in a video too.


@SkeiL I takes a super long time, several months maybe almost the entire year for ground up moss to re-establish. That is why I use simply collected moss. Several of my bonsai never even grew moss despite using the same the top dressing as Ryan demonstrated. Over the course of the year the top dressing washed off or blew away as it dried up. Keep in mind I’m in central texas and its plenty dry and hot.
@MarkoB if you reuse moss from repot should be no issue given that 1) the tree was healthy and didnt have any diseases or infestations & 2) you take just the moss and the small amount of the fine particle layer to keep it alive while not inhibiting the ability to water and allow the “balance of water and oxygen” to be maintained.
Collected moss is the same as reused, ensure as much as possible its not ridden with anything detrimental to your trees.


Can’t remember if Ryan has mentioned if the topdressing needs to dry up before you apply it for any reason or it doesn’t make any difference.

It should dry, much easier to spread :+1:t2:

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