Moss Gardens Are Made in the Shade

Not every plant needs sunshine to shine.

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Moss gardens mean even shade is no deterrent to green.

Moss gardens mean even shade is no deterrent to green.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Moss Acres.

Image courtesy of Moss Acres.

Moss makes a beautiful border in this Japanese garden and requires no mowing, leaving more time for meditation.

Got a shady space in your garden where you can't get anything to grow? It's not a problem; it's the perfect place for a moss makeover! These small, soft plants are low maintenance and highly beneficial: They're easy to grow, drought resistant, adapt well to snow and create a gorgeous green carpet that tolerates moderate foot traffic.

"Moss offers a way to work with nature and grow something that naturally occurs in shady areas," says Al Benner, owner of Moss Acres, an online moss supplier based in northeast Pennsylvania. "It's a way to tread more gently on the planet instead of continuing to apply fertilizers, moss killer and grass seed in vain in a shady area." 

And guess what else? Moss requires zero mowing. That's right: Zero. Mowing. Whether you're creating a moss garden, working moss into a pathway, rock garden or around the perimeter of a pond, here's how to spread the love with a lush landscape of moss:

Moss 101 – Know your varieties. "Some can take more sunlight, while others prefer shadier, moister areas," Benner says. "For example, sheet moss can tolerate more foot traffic while cushion moss should be used in a garden bed setting."

Benner recommends Feather (Hypnum) or Fern (Thuidium) moss if you're looking for something that will spread out, and Rock Cap (Dicranum) and Hair Cap (Polytrichum) moss for slow, horizontal growth that may clump up a bit.

Get Misty – Before planting, make sure the area is clear of leaves, weeds and debris and affords a good amount of shade and moisture. A soil pH between 5 and 6 is another good indicator that you're in the perfect spot. After planting, break out the watering can and fill it with collected rain water whenever possible. "Regular moisture for the first month or two can really help moss take," Benner says. "Sprinkling or periodically misting the moss will keep plants lush and vibrant until they knit to the surface."

Ground Control – Moss is extremely low maintenance, but needs a little help to stay healthy. Move or blow leaves away in the fall so they don't smother it and try to keep birds and animals at bay while the moss is young so they don't pull it up to look for worms or insects. "Other than that, you will never need to fertilize, mow, use pesticides or lime your lawn again," Benner says.

Moss Acres offers four varieties of live moss plus accessories, project ideas, workshops and even a Moss Milkshake, a blend of ground up Hypnum moss, powdered buttermilk and water retention gel served straight from an adorable half-gallon milk carton. Mix with water—or beer!—spread over soil or stone and let Mother Nature do the dirty work.

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