Growing a Moss Garden In Central Florida
By: Marti Wolf
What if, in addition to aesthetic value, one offered a resting place and home for local wildlife and provided nesting material for birds, all while requiring little maintenance?
That’s possible with a moss garden. While rare in Florida, with some planning and the right conditions, a part of your own landscape could become an oasis for local animal species and provide a visual delight by installing a moss garden.
Moss are a type of plant called bryophytes that have no roots and produce no flowers or vegetation. Instead, they have rhizoids - hairlike structures - that allow them to grow on surfaces like rocks and trees. Because moss lacks a complex root system, they absorb nutrients from their rhizoids or from the surrounding air.
Growing moss requires indirect sunlight and moisture, with higher moisture level promoting faster growth. Most mosses are only a single leaf layer thick, meaning during dry periods it is easy for them to completely dry out. Luckily, moss is hardy and easily reconstitutes in the rain or with watering.
Mosses don’t require much maintenance. They don’t need to be treated with pesticides or fertilizers, require minimal watering, and don’t inhibit the growth of grass because they are grown in shaded areas. Mosses also work well in areas of gardens that don’t offer the sunlight necessary to grow many flowers or shrubs.
Since they do not have roots, it is necessary to make sure no weeds or debris cover the moss, preventing it from absorbing water and nutrients. Some moss cultivators suggest placing a net over the moss and occasionally shaking any leaves or detritus material off of the net for easy upkeep.
The use of natural limestone and coquina rocks offer a great way to introduce mosses into your garden, as the porous nature of the rocks allows the moss to anchor on to the surface easily. Several species of moss are especially well adapted to this kind of surface: Entodon, Hedwigia, and Ceratodon.
There are (77) species of moss recorded in the Central Florida with vastly different vegetative and reproductive structures and a close look is very rewarding.¹