If you want your plants to grow healthily and vertically, tying them to a moss pole will do the trick. I’ve been doing this for years so here’s a comprehensive guide on how you can do it efficiently.
Moss poles give structural support, moisture, and micronutrients to plants, especially those with air roots. To use them, simply stake them on the ground and tie the stems and branches to the moss pole to direct the plant’s growth.
Ready-made moss poles are available, but you’d be surprised by how much easier they are to make! Read more to learn how to make moss poles in two quick and easy steps.
A moss pole is a stick or cylinder, coated or made of moss, that aids in growing plants vertically. The body or roots are tied to the moss pole to encourage the plant to take on the desired shape.
Moss poles are to plants as braces are to people. It serves to train and adapt the plant to grow in certain positions, making the use of moss poles both functional and aesthetic. Gardeners with houseplants can take full advantage of this by maximizing vertical growth, thus, saving on space.
Moss poles help plants grow by training their growth pattern, supporting the stem, and providing a source of nutrients. The moss is full of moisture and micronutrients that air roots can take advantage of.
For example, a top-heavy plant will droop due to its own weight. To remedy this, we tie it to a moss pole which reduces the weight the stems have to carry. This allows the stem time to strengthen while still positing the leaves and flowers to receive sunlight.
The moss provides vital micronutrients such as Iron (Fe) for leaf health, Boron (B) for plant growth, and Zinc (Zn) for plant metabolism, among others. Micronutrients still play a beneficial role to plant life and moss poles give the air roots an additional source of consumption.
Stake the moss pole in the ground near the plant without affecting the roots. Bind the plant stem or branch to the moss pole as needed.
You can use string, twist ties, plant ties, or even hairpins to bind the stem and branches at regular intervals. The binding process is continued throughout the plant’s growing life to direct its growth. A gardener may do this for either functional or aesthetic purposes.
After binding properly, water the moss pole along with the plant. A moist moss pole is beneficial to plants with air roots as it provides water, especially during those hot summer seasons.
Moss poles can be easily made at home. Simply cover a long stick with 1 or more inches of moss (sphagnum moss, sheet moss, river moss) and secure it with twine, strings, nets, or steel meshes.
Moss poles are so simple and accessible, you can either buy one or make your own. However, making one offers more flexibility in creating the desired thickness and height of the pole. Rather than being limited to the pre-made moss poles online, you can make a moss pole with the perfect height, thickness, and build.
Generally, there are two builds of moss poles available in the market: 1) the stick moss pole, and 2) the steel mesh moss pole.
Stick Moss poles are made by layering a thick and rigid stick with 1 or so inches of moss and securing it with bindings consisting of either twine, strings, nets, or steel meshes.
First, the moss of your choice is pre-moistened to help them clump tighter then lightly squeeze to remove the excess water. They are then layered to 1 inch (2.5 cm) on the stick for binding.
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Second, twine or strings must be wrapped from top to bottom to make sure all the moss coverings are well-secured to the pole. Nets and steel meshes are more convenient because they ensure that every inch of the moss pole is covered, unlike with twine or strings which only secure portions of the pole.
An additional yet optional step is to sharpen one end of the stick. This is done to help the moss pole penetrate and stake better to the ground. However, this is completely optional and an unsharpened stick will do just fine.
Steel mesh moss poles are made by only using a rolled steel mesh to serve as the cylindrical body where the moss is stuffed in. The mesh itself serves as the body and binding of the moss pole.
First, obtain steel meshes from your local supplier. Cut it lengthwise in segments of 8 inches (~20 cm) then roll these into open cylinders.
Second, pre-moisten the moss of your choice and lightly squeeze to remove any excess water, making them easier to clump together. Fill the cylindrical mesh with moss without worrying even if they are spilling.
Finally, use zip ties or wire evenly throughout the length of the pole to secure the cylindrical shape and to compact the moss inside.
Moss poles are often 1-3 inches (~2.5-7.6 cm) in diameter and 1-4 feet (~0.3-1.21 m) tall. This ensures that the pole is reasonably strong and long enough to be staked to the ground, providing support to the plant.
There is no perfect height and diameter for moss poles since they will depend on how big your plant is at the moment. The above specifications are often standard of what you will see in gardening stores.
But don’t let that discourage you from making bigger, thicker, or taller moss poles! Functionally, they give more support for large growing, top-heavy plants. Aesthetically, large moss poles allow for more ornamentation and more pleasing moss growths.
The height of moss poles can be increased by replacing a longer stick or attaching more steel meshes to the existing moss pole. The diameter can also be increased by adding more moss to the body of the pole and securing it with twine, strings, nets, or steel meshes, as may apply.
Increasing the height and diameter is definitely required if the plant grows larger than expected meaning that it would need more structural support. This is also a good opportunity to repair any defects, if any.
To extend, a longer stick is required to extend the length of the moss pole. To increase the diameter, add more moss on top of the existing layer and bind accordingly.
Moss poles with a stick as their base are more difficult to extend since it would be better to completely replace the old stick with the new longer one. This is better to maintain the rigidity and structural integrity of the pole.
However, it is much easier to increase the diameter because you only need to add more moss and bind accordingly on top of the existing layer.
To extend, fasten a cylindrical cut of steel mesh, bind it to the existing moss pole, and then fill it with sphagnum moss. To increase the diameter, an additional lengthwise mesh and mosses need to be added to the existing moss pole.
Moss poles that only have steel meshes to provide form and shape are easier to extend since you can add the desired length of steel mesh roll on the top.
However, they are slightly more difficult to increase in diameter because it would require cutting the moss pole lengthwise, attaching a lengthwise segment of steel mesh, filling it with moss, and then finally closing the steel mesh with bindings. Since the steel mesh is both the body and binding of the moss pole, it is necessary to cut open the existing moss pole.
Moss poles can rot away since they are made of organic material, often sphagnum moss. By the time the moss pole rots away, the plant has already developed a stronger body capable of carrying itself.
It is doubtful that the subsequent death and decay of the moss will negatively affect the plants. In fact, the decaying moss will provide nutrients to the growing medium. In any case, a rotted moss pole can be easily replaced or repaired.
Moss poles can be easily replaced if they are broken or have rotted away. Simply place another moss pole near the old one and tie the plant to the new moss pole.
After securing the plant onto the new moss pole, carefully remove the old one from the plant by cutting the bindings. Discard the decaying moss pole by either burning or placing the moss in a compost pit.
Moss poles are better for plants that grow vertically with air roots due to the nutrients in the moss. Trellises are better for climbing plants that have vines or bines to grow vertically.
Moss poles are generally more space-efficient as they do not occupy as much room, needing only a little of the growing medium to firmly plant itself. Trellises, though flat, require a wall or fixture to help them stay upright.
Moss poles are generally better for plants such as Monsteras, Philodendrons, and Pothos. Other top-heavy plants with large leaves also benefit from the support of moss poles such as Birds of Paradise, Fiddles, and Dumb Canes.
Trellises are generally better for climbing plants such as Roses, Japanese Wisteria, or Passion vines. These plants either use vines (tendrils) or bines (specialized stems that wrap around objects) for support.
Sphagnum or sheet moss have greater water retention and softer texture for aerial roots to adhere to. Coconut fibre is slightly less water retentive and harder but is cheaper and more environmentally friendly.
Sphagnum moss is harvested from peat bogs in Europe, North America, and Canada. These peat bogs take centuries to form and are an important part of the ecology as they absorb excess precipitation, preventing flooding and runoff. Their recovery rate of 25 years makes them unsustainable.
Sheet moss is primarily harvested on rocks, logs, or on the forest floor. Despite the long practice of gathering sheet moss, their slow growth rate of 0.25-2.5 inches (0.64-3.64 cm) per year and recovery rate of 10 years at best would indicate that their harvest is not sustainable.
Coconut Fibre is harvested from the thick fibrous pulp of coconuts – the coir. Extracting the coir from ripe coconuts yields brown, strong, and resistant fibres. On the other hand, coir extracted from immature coconuts yield white, soft, and absorbent fibres. Given that coconut husks are by-products of the coconut industry, it makes their use sustainable.
Moss poles are extremely simple to use and an effective method to direct the growth of plants. Stick the moss pole on the ground near the plant, bind the stems or branches to the desired position, and water the moss pole along with the plant.
Creating moss poles is equally as simple, needing only minor DIY knowledge. It can either be a 1) stick covered by moss that is securely tied, or 2) a steel mesh serving as body and binding stuffed with moss.
Moss poles provide essential moisture and beneficial micronutrients, especially to plants with air roots. Any choice of sphagnum moss, sheet moss, or coco fibre will do wonders for any plant.
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- “Alternatives to Sphagnum Moss” by Danielle Smyth in SF Gate
- “Coir” by Sailesh in MadeHow
- “Coconut: Post-Harvest Operations by P.G. Punchihewa & R.N. Arancon Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC)
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- “FAQ” by n/a in Vertical Jungle
- “Forest Moss” by Jeri Peck in Pennsylvania State University
- “From Understanding to Sustainable Use of Peatlands: The WETSCAPES Approach” by Jurasinski et al in MDPI
- “Peat Moss vs. Coco Coir: Which Should You Use?” by Matt Gibson and Erin Marissa Russell in Gardening Channel
- “Precious Minerals: Get To Know The 12 Nutrients Plants Need!” by n/a in Safer Brand
- “Sphagnum Mosses – Masters of Efficient N-Uptake while Avoiding Intoxication” by Fritz et al in PLoS ONE 9(1)
- “The Ultimate Guide to Climbing Plants” by Ambius in Ambius