Mosses, Lichens and their mimics



Our gardeners have an ambiguous attitude towards mosses and lichens.

On the one hand, these are relatively harmless companions of fruit trees, which, nevertheless, serve as a haven for parasitic insects.

On the other hand, juicy pictures on the Internet with images of Japanese moss gardens haunt the owners of ornamental gardens …

moss in the garden

moss in the garden

I only give a couple of photos depicting legendary landscapes just so that you take a closer look and … leave the idea of ​​​​copying such a landscape. There is only one reason: the inconsistency of climatic conditions to maintain such beauty.

moss on rocks and trees

Yes, we have forests where the soil is always moist, and the shade dominates most of the day.

moss in the swamp

Yes, we have marshes where constantly moist soil maintains ideal conditions for mosses to grow, even in bright sunshine and hot afternoons.

lichen on the edge of the forest

Finally, somewhere in the North there is a tundra… 🙂

But, alas, there are no such conditions specifically in your garden, with rare and, perhaps, happy exceptions, when the estate is located in an old pine forest.

So what, to completely abandon the idea of ​​​​creating a garden corner with luxurious velvet bumps?

If you have extensive areas with constant shading on your site, and even next to a pond, then the dream of a moss garden is quite realistic.

To create such a corner you need:

  • shade or partial shade
  • complete calm (no drafts and places blown by all winds!),
  • increased soil moisture
  • acidic soil at the base of the landscape,
  • planting material.

I’ll start with the last one. In our area, you can grow local species of this plant. The best option is to take small (10×10 cm) patches from the natural landscape, cutting out the turf with a piece of soil under it. In comfortable conditions, moss grows quite quickly.

Moss sphagnum (Sphagnum), also known as SWAMP MOSS, at the end of its life cycle, turns into high-moor peat. But this is not its only merit. This type of moss is actively used in interior decoration, potted plants, and even in the construction of log cabins.

Sphagnum caulk the joints between the logs. As a result, they get an ideal, from the point of view of ecology, housing.

Feeding on acidic soil, this moss itself is a constituent component of it, which means it is suitable for growing plants. Dried sphagnum moss creates a weightless substrate for growth, for example, orchids or violets.

Painted and stabilized moss is a valuable decorative component for green interior compositions. It is pleasant to the touch, soft and will serve as a decor for at least five years.

Well, for the garden landscape, sphagnum moss is most suitable for planting in “wet” areas or directly in composition with a waterfall. In addition to the traditionally green color of sphagnum, there is a variety with whitish twigs.

FOREST MOSS — the generalized name of the mosses that live in the forest zone. Here are the most common types.

Kukushkin flax (Polytrichum commune), despite the name, is also a moss. Why I don’t know “cuckoo”, maybe because of the size, but looking closer at the stems, it’s clear why “flax”. It is distinguished from sphagnum by a simpler structure of leaf-stems. And otherwise, all the same green «Christmas tree» twigs, growing up to 15 cm in height. Therefore, this moss is also used in timber architecture as a material for sealing.

Hypnum cypress (Hypnum cupressiforme) one of the most common in the forest zone. Its numerous leaves grow upward, like cypress branches. This moss is easily distinguished from the rest by its characteristic stems with spore boxes.

Cirriphyllum hairy (Cirriphyllum piliferum). Very similar to the previous species, but has a more «branched» structure. In the forest, it forms loose light green sods.

Moss dicranum (Dicranum) has several varieties and is able to live on soil, trees and stones. It loves high humidity, grows in curtains, has a height of 1-4 cm. It is most common in our forests along with cuckoo flax.

Dwells on STONES rural tortula (Tortula ruralis) and wall tortula (Tortula muralis). It grows in small pads, the spores ripen on tall peduncles. I am sure you have met him more than once on the northern walls of houses and in the trees near the house.

Iceland moss (Cetrararia islandica), aka deer moss, aka reindeer moss, actually a lichen, that is … a mushroom. This plant is a valuable medicinal raw material.

First green, and then the silver color of the foliage will not leave you indifferent. Therefore, do not ignore the opportunity to settle it on your site. Moreover, of all the above inhabitants of the moss garden, it is the least demanding, it endures the direct rays of the sun with natural soil moisture. It can often be found in spring on the edges of pine forests or even in coniferous plantations along highways.

There are many legends about lichen on trees. In the video below, I tell you which of them are true and which are just garden «horror stories»…


Moisture-loving moss is a companion and neighbor of mushrooms. So if you are going for a quiet hunt, look for prey among the bryozoans of the young forest.


Mosses do not have a developed root system; they reproduce by spores and vegetatively. These three features allow them to grow and reproduce in «difficult» conditions: on waterlogged soils, stones and trees.

moss on the rocks

Therefore, the transplant rule is quite simple: you need to plant each type of moss in the same conditions in which it grew before.

moss on the rocks

For growing on stone, moss propagation by spores is preferable. The texture of the stone should be rough, embossed, it can also be a concrete surface — it is porous.

The spore propagation method involves the presence of a moss sample (live or dried) and a nutrient medium (milk + water, in a 1: 1 ratio, or 300 ml of beer + ½ teaspoon of sugar). Moss is mixed with the selected mixture in a blender (moss is taken so much that a thick liquid of paint consistency is obtained).

The resulting «paint» is applied with a paint brush to those areas that need to be landscaped. Sources say that moss should begin to settle in the area within three weeks. I personally have not tried this method (I plan the procedure for the spring, when the snow melts), so I can’t talk about a guaranteed result.

moss on the rocks

It is even easier to settle moss on a retaining wall: putty is prepared from moss, soil and water, which fills the crevices between the stones. Under favorable conditions, the wall will be covered with green velvet in a month and a half.

Transplanting is the easiest and most affordable type of moss propagation in your backyard. To implement it you need:

  • take moss samples about 10×10 cm in size in an amount equal to 1/10 of the area on which it will grow;
  • put them in boxes for transportation and moisten;
  • create an environment at the landing site (humidity, calm and shading) similar to the one in which this moss grew.

If moss grows on a snag, then ideally pick it up with it.

Mosses growing in the forest prefer acidic soil. The soil is pre-enriched with humus, preferably with the presence of coniferous litter, fluffed up and well moistened.

moss in the garden

Moss samples are laid out on the ground at a distance from each other, slightly pressing into the ground so that it sinks into the ground.

Moss that has dramatically changed habitat conditions is poorly accepted. Therefore, you should not particularly trust those who convince you that it is easy to grow a moss garden. Those whose plot is located directly in the forest have the most chances.

On mine, for example, a forest zone will appear in 10-15 years. Therefore, attempts to propagate moss in the shady, but blown place I have chosen, were not crowned with success. But it grows safely in the shade of the fence, where on the other side there is a neighboring summer shower, calm and always moist soil.


If you cannot create ideal conditions for maintaining the beauty of mossy bumps, then you can not be upset. There are plants that in some way can replace capricious moss.


bryozoan (Irish moss) is an evergreen ground cover that looks very similar to moss. In addition, it also blooms with miniature white stars. This plant is not so demanding on the soil, but it cannot be called drought-resistant either. Therefore, a green bryozoan lawn should be watered regularly, especially during the July drought.

bryozoan, fern, stones

Do not plant this plant under a birch — it dries out the soil, and if it suddenly dies, do not be very upset, just shed this area well for several weeks. The seeds dropped after flowering will quickly germinate and restore the population, but after that, be sure to transplant the bryozoan to a more humid place.

stonecrop lydian — a charming sedum of pale green color. Outwardly, it looks like sphagnum trees only in an enlarged version. Unlike real moss, it is drought-resistant, loves the sun, and is not afraid of drafts.

It blooms with white inconspicuous flowers, after which it briefly loses its decorative effect. Another small «but» — although it is evergreen, it freezes heavily in winter, although it quickly recovers in the first warm months of spring.

stonecrop — a fellow Lydian, has a salad color of leaves and small yellow flowers-stars. The branches are more compact, it grows between stones and on dry roadsides, which means that it is absolutely undemanding to watering. It is planted in the «hottest» areas of the garden. It can also freeze during wintering and just as easily restore the population.


Despite the resistance to drought, to obtain a velvet carpet from «substitutes» for moss, it is important to periodically sprinkle the area, otherwise bald spots will appear on it.

And finally, a few photos with bryozoans in an ornamental garden.

moss in the garden
moss in the garden

moss in the garden

moss in the garden

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