Mosses are primitive non-vascular plants known for their exotic texture and green hues. They have existed for 470 million years. Taken for granted for a long time, today, mosses are on the verge of becoming an urban homesteading sensation.
You can blame it on the internet, the fact that we miss the natural vivid greens, or that we have become more hedonistic and are now allowing ourselves to enjoy simple things like the mossy look and feel. Whatever the reason, mosses are entering the gardening and landscaping arenas. Big time!
If you have a shady part of your yard where not much will grow (or it simply takes too much effort to keep the plants thriving), consider creating a moss garden.
If your plot of land is large enough and you want additional income, your moss garden can turn into a real moss farm.
We’ll show you how – plus tons of tips for marketing, selling, and cultivating this lovely backyard crop.
Advantages of Growing Moss
If you live in a suitable climate, moss makes an excellent groundcover alternative to turf for shady and semi-shade areas.
It comes with many perks that make it superior to conventional lawns.
- No need to mow it
- No need for pesticides
- No need for fertilizers
- No de-thatching
- Very little or no weeding
- No additional watering once established
The last fact might surprise you, but many moss types are surprisingly drought-tolerant. They will go dormant when dry, but unlike the turfgrass, they won’t turn brown.
Besides all the maintenance-related benefits, mosses are very visually soothing. Their hues of green are deep and often richer than turfgrass green. It is no wonder that moss groundcovers have been one of the main pillars of Japanese garden design – and we all know how calming and aesthetically pleasing Japanese gardens are.
Disclaimer – In this article, we’ll talk mostly about true mosses. Moss-like plants and organisms such as Irish moss or lichens are something else – they do not belong to Bryophyta, the true-mosses division.
Environmental Benefits of Growing Moss
There were times when moss was considered a weed in conventional lawns. As people became aware of the horrific environmental impact of turfgrass lawns, they began searching for alternatives. And an alternative moss lawn can be incredibly environmentally friendly.
Besides being eye-catching and practical, growing moss has many benefits for nature and its biodiversity.
Moss is unique because of its sponge and filter-like qualities. Because of its structure, it can trap various polluting particles from the rainwater, preventing them from re-entering the soil and groundwater.
This moss trait can be of unique interest to those looking to build an artificial wetland, a pond, or a water/rain garden for water purification purposes.
Moss as Microhabitat
You may not see it readily, but moss is a habitat for many astounding creatures, such as springtails. Oh, and you heard of tardigrades? These microscopic arthropods, which gained fame for being almost indestructible and surviving space radiation, are also known as moss piglets. Guess why? Of course, they look like pigs. And they live in the moss.
Also, by trapping moisture and creating humid pockets within habitats, mosses support many other larger organisms such as millipedes, terrestrial amphibians such as toads and salamanders, and many others.
Moss as Nesting Material
Many birds commonly use mosses with longer stems (such as sheet moss) in nest building. The tender moss texture and insulating properties are ideal for the soft inner lining of bird nests.
The birds can get so greedy that some moss collectors, gardeners, and farmers must cover their moss with mesh during the nesting season!
It may surprise you that moss requires less water than a classic lawn, but it makes complete sense. Moss is moisture-loving but not thirsty. When there is not enough water, it will simply dry out and go dormant instead of wilting.
Yes, turfgrass can go dormant during droughts, too – but extensive browning and yellowing almost always follow. On the other hand, the dormant moss remains green and consequently looks better.
General Environmental and Climate Benefits
All the benefits related to plant growth – carbon dioxide extraction, air pollution reduction, oxygen production, and water retention – also apply to mosses. Since moss grows where no other plants will, you can increase the sum of your planted areas by adding moss on horizontal or vertical surfaces unsuitable for higher plants.
Wet farming as an alternative to paludiculture could become a vital tool in wetland conservation, and some types of moss are a part of the practice.
If you start growing moss and get attached to it (and the moss gets attached to your land), you can consider another step – moss farming.
Why Start Moss Farming?
The moss market seems to be growing rapidly. Once a part of niche Japanese gardening, moss is becoming popular in many other landscaping styles and interior design. Both living and preserved (dead) moss walls are becoming popular in offices, public spaces, and private residences, looking to add the trending biophilic look.
Besides helping you diversify your homesteading income, moss farming also helps protect our natural moss forests and other habitats. How, exactly?
Moss Harvesting and Its Issues
With the growing popularity of moss decor, the demand for live moss can surely increase. Since moss is tricky to grow in large quantities and few people do it anyway, most of it gets harvested from the wild.
Homesteaders once gathered and sold moss to companies that would dry and pack them to sell to florists and hobby stores. The National Forest Service was in charge of issuing permits for people to pick and sell moss, but there were few limitations – there seemed to be an endless supply of mossy goodness. Or was there?
Unfortunately, at the turn of the century, scientists discovered that mosses don’t regenerate as fast as we thought. They became concerned that moss depletion could negatively affect the moss population and other species dependent on it, prompting legal changes.
Moss collection laws now vary throughout the US. Some areas allow up to 25 pounds of moss to be gathered annually for personal use, while others do not issue permits, period.
Since the moss-picking legislation is not detailed (or maybe non-existent) in many countries and mosses are surprisingly understudied, we are still to see how the current moss fad will affect the moss-dependent ecosystems. My guess is – not well.
But one thing is for sure. By farming and selling moss, you are taking at least some of the pressure off of the natural, wild moss sources.
How Do I Start a Moss Farm?
First, you should know that outdoor moss cultivation rules are not very well established (yet). There are many myths surrounding mosses, and that’s because they have been understudied as a botanical group, especially in domestic settings – and are a very diverse plant division. Thus, doing proper research is necessary (I’ll recommend some literature at the end of the article).
In other words – despite diligently gathering information and doing your homework, you will likely have to go through some trial-and-error to get things right. Here are some helpful tips to guide you on the way.
Moss Varieties for Home Farming
Here’s a table showcasing some non-toxic moss cultivars with tips on their growing conditions.
|Haircap Moss – Polytrichum spp.
|Haircap moss is a lush, bright green moss. It has blatant, hair-like structures.
|1. Prefers moist, acidic soils
2. Requires good drainage
3. Can tolerate some sunlight but avoid prolonged exposure
|Sheet Moss – Hypnum spp.
|Sheet moss forms dense mats of low-growing, velvety foliage.
|1. Flourishes in shaded, damp areas
2. Adaptable to various soil types
3. Ideal for terrariums or ground cover
|Cushion Moss – Leucobryum spp.
|Cushion moss forms compact, cushion-like mounds with a feathery appearance.
|1. Requires consistently moist, well-draining soil
2. Prefers shaded, chilly environments
3. Suitable for rock gardens or damp woodland areas
|Fern Moss – Thuidium spp.
|Fern moss has a fern-like appearance and grows in loose, feathery tufts.
|1. Thrives in moist, shaded locations
2. Tolerates a range of soil types
3. Keep soil consistently damp but never waterlogged
|Rock Cap Moss – Dicranum spp.
|Rock cap moss grows in dense mats and often covers rocks and logs.
|1. Prefers well-draining, acidic soils
2. Thrives in partial shade to full shade
3. Suitable for terrariums or as ground cover
|Star Moss – Tortula ruralis
|Star moss forms star-shaped rosettes and grows in dense clusters.
|1. Adaptable to various soil types
2. Thrives in shaded or partly shaded areas
|Sphagnum Moss – Sphagnum spp.
|Sphagnum moss is absorbent and works excellently in terrariums and horticulture.
|1. Requires moist conditions
2. Prefers acidic, nutrient-poor soils
3. Grows well in boggy or wet areas
The above non-toxic moss cultivars offer a range of textures and appearances suitable for various growing conditions. Providing the best environment will help your preferred moss varieties thrive and contribute to a vibrant, lush landscape or indoor setting.
Best Conditions for Growing Moss
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to enjoy mossy surfaces just anywhere. To successfully grow most types of moss, your local climate needs to be humid, chilly, and cloudy. The position requires shelter from the wind. The climate and sun exposure will dictate which species you can and can’t grow.
Still, there are attractive moss species tolerant of drier conditions, extra sun, and multiple substrates.
Many moss species are highly in tune with their environments – and highly sensitive once taken out of their niche. It means that many moss species won’t survive, let alone grow and reproduce, outside their natural area (or an area that doesn’t replicate it precisely).
How to Grow Moss In 6 Easy Steps
Growing a moss farm at home is shockingly straightforward. We made a table below that shows you how to do it in 6 easy steps.
|Tips for Growing Moss
|1. Select the Area
|Choose a shaded, damp area with indirect sunlight, such as under trees or in a north-facing location.
|Ensure the area has good moisture retention and minimal foot traffic to encourage moss growth.
|2. Prepare the Surface
|Clean the surface where you want to grow moss, removing debris, weeds, and other competing plants.
|Roughen the surface using a brush or rake to create a better attachment for the moss spores. Ensure the surface is moist but not soaked.
|3. Collect Healthy Moss
|Gather healthy moss from existing healthy patches in the wild or purchase moss spores or sheets from a nursery.
|Select healthy, vibrant moss specimens. If using spores, mix them with water and buttermilk in a blender to create a moss slurry.
|4. Plant the Moss
|Spread the collected moss or moss slurry evenly over the prepared surface area. Press the moss softly to ensure contact with the substrate.
|Mist the area regularly to keep it moist, especially during dry spells or in warmer weather.
|5. Care and Maintenance
|Monitor the moss regularly to ensure it stays moist and undisturbed. Avoid stepping on or disturbing the growing moss.
|Maintain a humid environment by misting regularly, especially during dry periods. Remove debris, tree litter, and fallen leaves that accumulate.
|6. Encourage Mossy Growth
|Encourage the moss to grow by providing a conducive environment. Moss loves consistent moisture, shade, and minimal disturbance.
|Add more moss to fill in gaps or encourage faster coverage if necessary.
The table above provides a step-by-step guide to growing moss at home, focusing on the essential actions needed to cultivate a healthy moss patch in your desired area.
But there’s much more to know about growing a moss farm for profit. We’ll examine many more need-to-know insights.
Quality of Water
Once the moss colony gets established, it can survive without being watered for a long time and relies on natural rainfall.
However, while still in the process of becoming established (after transplantation), most mosses need a consistent water supply. They must get watered daily for the first 30 to 60 days. And after that, by varying regimes each month.
A hose with a gentle spray head and harvested rainwater is the best option for moss watering.
Growing Moss Under Trees
If you live in a cold, cloudy, humid climate such as the Pacific Northwest or Atlantic climate (on either side of the Atlantic), your choice of land to grow moss will be a lot more generous than in other places – you can even utilize open spaces. But if you live in a sunnier area, there is still hope.
For example, you can grow moss with tree farming or food forests because moss thrives best in humid forests shaded by large tree canopies. Mosses will also thrive on the trees themselves (usually at the trunk base or upper trunks), downed logs, and tree stumps you probably have in your forest.
Remember that the moss species are often specific about the tree species they’re attached to. Some prefer conifers, while others prefer broadleaf trees. Some might feel at home under and on oaks, others near alders, etc. If you combine moss growing with deciduous forests, remove leaf litter in the fall to avoid moss rotting under too much dead foliage.
If you have been worried about the influence of tree-growing moss on tree health, don’t sweat it. Mosses are not parasitic plants and don’t use any of the tree’s nutrients. They utilize the bark of trees as a growth medium.
What Is the Best Soil for Moss?
Mosses grow on various substrates. They are not sensitive to soil quality like cultivated vascular plants. Mosses don’t depend on abundant soil nutrients.
However, as said, many species are particular about the type of substrate they grow on. For example, some moss species require acidic conditions and will fail to thrive if the pH is off.
Mosses can grow on the following substrates:
- Disturbed soils,
- Compacted soils,
- Exposed mineral soils,
- Calcareous soils,
- Shaded humus-rich soil,
- Tree bark,
- Rock surfaces,
- Stabilized sandy dunes,
- Boggy substrates.
Here are some examples of commercially successful moss species and their preferred growing conditions.
- Sheet moss – (Hypnum impones) – Moist and ideally acidic soil, full or partial shade (two to four hours of sunlight).
- Haircap Moss – (Polytrichum commune) – loves growing in high humidity and rainfall.
- Pincushion Moss – (Leucobryum glaucum) – drier sandy and or acidic soil. Can tolerate increased sun exposure.
- Sidewalk Moss – (Bryum caespiticium) – one of the most sun-tolerant mosses – will grow in indirect and direct sunlight. It also loves growing within cracks in rocks and in between paving stones. Also, it can easily survive dry spells.
Experimental farming of sphagnum moss in certain wetland areas (wet farming) is underway and is something to keep an eye on. These innovative UK moss farmers are practicing sphagnum farming not only for its market value but also for its carbon-capturing abilities and wetland preservation and restoration.
After deciding on varieties of moss, you’ll move on to find a suitable plot of land.
Can You Grow Moss From Scratch?
The truth is that any suitable spot with no competition for nutrients and exposure to rain and some wind will eventually get colonized by mosses, only it will be even slower.
The best scenario is that you already have mosses growing there and that you support their growth, free up some additional space to allow their spread, and perhaps try to add more species.
One of the most famous moss gardens in the world at the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island (Washington State) developed this way. The land managers removed the shrubby undergrowth, weeded the herbaceous ground cover, and thinned the trees. Then, they allowed mosses to fill in spontaneously, creating a mossy spectacle over time.
Feel free to follow in their footsteps. First, you’ll have to clear the plot from the moss competitors – the weeds and the grasses. Assuming you have the right conditions, allow your local moss species to fill in naturally. You can add rocks or logs for those species that prefer this substrate.
Starting from scratch is quite effortless but very slow. If you want to speed up the process, you’ll have to transplant the moss from the wild or buy it online (make sure it’s live moss).
How Do You Harvest and Keep Moss Alive?
Instructions on collecting moss from the wild are beyond the scope of this article – you can find more in the link below. Still, I’ll emphasize that the process is more refined than just pulling and bagging it.
Make some effort to get into special techniques of moss harvesting, such as scooping, scraping, and raking. Applying the most suitable harvesting technique for the particular moss type or species is critical for a successful transplant!
How Fast Does Moss Reproduce?
Arm yourself with patience. It depends on the species, but transplanted mosses might take up to 6 months to establish themselves and up to 12 months to grow.
As for starting with moss spores, you might have heard about moss milkshakes containing mashed-up moss, plus ingredients ranging from buttermilk to beer to urine. Unfortunately, these mostly don’t work and become a gunky, moldy mess.
To support moss spread, you can create a solution containing ground moss and water to spray over a desired area, but if there are no moss spores, then nothing will happen.
To increase your chances of harvesting mosses with spores, gather them in rainy weather when they grow and reproduce by creating spores.
Can You Make Money From Moss?
If you form a thriving, stable moss colony, you can potentially make a buck from it. The approaches to making moss growing profitable can depend on how large your moss farm is and whether you have the time to make moss products.
Consider the following moss-farming monetization methods.
|Tips for Moss Farmers
|Creating and selling moss topiaries involves shaping live moss into artistic or decorative forms, often for indoor or outdoor display.
|Experiment with different topiary designs and shapes to attract varied buying personas. Ensure proper care instructions accompany each sale to maintain the moss’s health.
|Moss terrariums are enclosed glass containers or jars containing live moss, creating miniature, self-sustaining ecosystems.
|Offer a variety of terrarium sizes and styles to cater to different preferences. Provide care guides and customization options to attract buyers. Offer upsells containing several terrariums – or more advanced and better terrariums!
|Moss Terrarium Kits
|Selling DIY moss terrarium kits allows customers to create moss terrariums at home. Your DIY kit should provide all the necessary materials and instructions.
|Include everything needed for assembly in the kit, such as glass containers, moss, soil, decorative elements, and detailed instructions. Consider packaging options for gifting.
|Live Moss for Crafting and Bonsai Trees
|Providing live moss for craft projects or bonsai trees allows customers to enhance their artistic endeavors or cultivate miniature landscapes.
|Offer different species of moss suitable for various crafting projects or bonsai styles. Educate customers about moss care and its uses in various artistic applications.
|Dry and Preserved Moss Decoration
|Dried or preserved moss works perfectly for various decorative arrangements, such as wreaths, posies, centerpieces, or wall art.
|Preserve moss using glycerin or air-drying methods to maintain its color and texture. Create unique and eye-catching designs.
|Moss Wall Art
|Crafting moss into framed or hanging wall art pieces offers unique and natural decor options for customers’ homes, porches, or offices.
|Experiment with different framing techniques and arrangements to create visually appealing wall art. Consider offering customization options based on customer’s preferences or interior designs.
|Creating jewelry incorporating small sections of live or preserved moss appeals to nature-loving customers seeking unique accessories.
|Use resin or glass pendants to encase live or dried moss for durability and aesthetic appeal. Ensure proper sealing to protect the moss and maintain its appearance.
|Moss Workshops and Classes
|Hosting workshops or classes on moss terrarium making or moss care educates and engages customers while generating income. You could also teach a course on Udemy or SkillShare.
|Advertise workshops through social media or local community groups to attract students. Provide hands-on experience and informative sessions to encourage attendees. You can also give away free course coupons to create buzz.
|Moss Rental for Events
|Offering visually appealing moss as a decorative element for events like weddings, parties, or exhibitions provides a rental income stream.
|Showcase the versatility of moss in event decor through portfolio images and samples. Provide delivery, setup, and removal services for convenience.
|Wholesale Moss Supplies
|Selling bulk quantities of live or dried moss to retailers, florists, landscapers, or craft stores offers a wholesale revenue stream.
|Ensure high-quality and well-packaged moss for wholesale customers. Offer special moss deals or bundles to entice new bulk buyers. (Consider offering free samples to potential joint venture partners.)
These methods present diverse opportunities for moss farmers to monetize their harvest by tapping into various markets and catering to different customer preferences and needs.
Here are some strategies with more detail depending on the situation.
Large-Scale Moss Farming
Large moss farms supply your buyers with larger orders of moss for landscaping purposes. Sellers usually market moss by the square foot.
The prices depend on the moss species. According to the price range of one of the biggest live moss suppliers in the US, the Moss And Stone Gardens, you could earn $100 to $150 per 5 square feet of moss.
You can sell more substantial qualities of moss to landscapers, florists, or green roofing companies. If you get the suitable species for your climate, they also require no irrigation and are low maintenance.
Small-Scale Moss Farm
You can still make money from farming moss even if you don’t have enough space to create a proper moss farm to supply hundreds of square feet. However, you might need to get a bit more crafty.
Most mossy decor isn’t tricky to make, and it can boost the value of moss material, meaning that you can make a decent buck while growing smaller quantities.
How to Sell Moss Products
You can sell moss products on farmer’s markets, handmade fairs, horticulture fairs, or in online craft stores such as Etsy.
Here are some of the moss products you can make and sell. The price range came from analyzing the current offer of moss decoration on Etsy.
- Moss Topiary. Use wire constructions. That way, you can apply topiary moss to create living mossy sculptures. From the popular moss balls to moss letters to moss animals, all these shapes look excellent when covered in moss. Moss can also work as a topiary stuffing to help other topiary-friendly plants grow. Moss decorations of this kind cost from 35 to 100 dollars.
- Moss terrarium. Mosses are a standard addition to decorative terrariums because they enjoy the humid conditions within a glass dish. Plus, they look gorgeous and lush. Simpler terrariums in glass jar-like containers cost around $30, while more complex ones resembling tabletop landscapes can cost $100 to $200.
- Moss terrarium kit. If you lack the time and patience to design moss terrariums, you can sell terrarium kits containing elements your customers will arrange themselves. These usually include a nice glass jar, attractive wood pieces, rocks, gravel, substrate, and mosses. Terrarium Sets like this cost around $40.
- Live moss for crafting and bonsai trees. You can sell carefully picked live moss packages for crafters looking for live moss, bonsai growers, and other house plant enthusiasts. A small bag of decorative live moss costs around $10.
- Dry and preserved moss decoration. Mosses and moss-like species like reindeer lichen (ironically, often painted green to look more like moss!) are also sold preserved – dried and colored as a permanent, non-living ornament. Sellers usually market these in a box. A box of preserved cushion moss costs $30 to $40.
To Sum It Up
It is not hard to become mesmerized by moss. However, growing it is a bit tricker. Hopefully, this article gave you a decent head start, and you now have a better idea of how to grow moss successfully and even earn from it.
Still, I advise you to explore further. There are many other tips for satisfying moss growing. Thus, I’ve prepared some unique literature for moss enthusiasts – see below. Happy moss farming!
- Make Money Farming Five Acres Or Less – Not Just Market Gardening!
- Are There Valuable Rocks In Your Yard? Here’s How To Find Rocks And Crystals Worth Money!
- How To Start a Homestead With No Money!
- 5 Garden Vegetables That Save You The Most Money! – Cash-Saving Crops!
- 10 Best Wood-Splitting Axes That Are Worth Your Money
Farming Moss for a Homestead Income | References, Recommended Literature, and Books
- Bringing the Great Outdoors Inside | Native Terrarium DIY | Tulane University Outdoor Adventure Blog
- How to Grow Moss | University of New Hampshire Coop Extension Website
- Lovely Lichens Lurking In Your Woodlands | Oregon State University TreeTopics Blogs
- Fletcher, Michael (1991). Moss Grower Handbook. SevenTy Press, UK
- Glime, J. M. (2012). Gardening: Moss Garden Development and Maintenance. Chapt. 7 to 4. In Glime, J. M. Bryophyte Ecology. 7-4-1 Volume 5. Uses. Ebook by Michigan Technological University & the International Association of Bryologists.
- Kimmerer, Robin Wall (2003) | Gathering Moss, A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. Via Oregon State University Press
- Bloedel Reserve Moss Garden