You might have heard of sphagnum moss before, and all of the reasons to use it with your plants – it keeps moist longer than soil, and retains nutrients more than when water runs through the soil. But I didn’t have luck with it, in fact, I think it hindered some of my plants growth in the last year. That’s why I don’t think using moss in potted plants is a good idea, and why I’ll never use it with my houseplants again.
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(Note: This is not for orchids or plants that specifically need it.)
The way I used sphagnum moss for the last year was to have it as a layer at the bottom of the pot, to retain some moisture to then be put back into the soil whenever it dried out. It didn’t work, and backfired on me, which I realized as I was just repotting many of my plants (they just needed to be freshened up after a year)
So let’s get into why I wanted to use sphagnum moss, thinking that moss is good for plants, and how it didn’t work for me.
Why I Wanted To Try Sphagnum Moss
Before I explain why I won’t be using sphagnum moss in my pots anymore, let me first explain why I wanted to try it in the first place.
I have many plants, and I water them every week. But I wanted to have to water them less often, especially during the summer. And I had heard that having a layer of this moss in the bottom would be beneficial to my plants by holding in moisture to allow water to slowly go up into the soil throughout the week. It would also help with keeping nutrients in with the plant.
This way I would have to water them less often, and less water would just drain out of their drainage holes.
What Was My Problem With The Sphagnum Moss?
Looking at my plants that had the sphagnum moss in the bottom of the pot a year later, I realized I had two different issues. When bottom watering plants, only that layer of moss would be moist, and the rest of the soil stayed completely dry. The other problem I found was that the roots would not grow in the moss, thereby making them have less space to spread out.
The Moss Took All of The Water
One of the big issues I didn’t realize until I looked at the soil of one of my plants was that the moss was absorbing all of the water and not sharing with the soil. This is especially a problem when bottom watering plants.
My watermelon pilea (aluminum plant), I’ve almost exclusively bottom watered for the last year, because it seemed to need a lot of water every week.
And this is a DRAMATIC plant. It wilts the second it gets even slightly dry (or so I thought). When I pulled this plant out of it’s pot to repot it, the soil was completely dry. It felt like the soil hadn’t felt water in months, where I knew I watered it the day before.
The moss was nice and moist at the bottom though. So it was no wonder why this poor plant always looked starved for water. It was only able to get water from any roots that were near the moss.
The moss has now been removed from this plants pot, and now the soil will actually be able to have moisture and the plant will not have to work as hard to get a drink.
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No Room For The Roots To Grow
The other issue I noticed with multiple plants that had sphagnum moss at the base of the pot is it acted almost as a barrier.
What I was concerned about was the fact that plants with sphagnum moss in the bottom of the pots could not extend their roots as far. The roots would grow above the sphagnum moss, making it seem like they were in a smaller container than they really were.
And this rendered me putting them into a larger pot so they could extend their roots and grow larger basically useless.
So do I think using moss in potted plants is a good idea? Not in the way that I used it. Maybe, if I had mixed the moss in among the soil, rather than having a layer at the bottom it would have worked better.
The way I used it didn’t seem to help the plants at all.
For the meantime, I’m going to be staying away from adding sphagnum moss from any of my potted plants, indoor or outdoor.