As a reputable seller of Live Sphagnum Moss, I have written this guide to aid buyers in making the most of their purchase of freshly picked, live British Sphagnum Moss. I get many questions asked from buyers keen to know the best storage and growing conditions for moss, so hope these get answered here.
Long-strand Sphagnum Moss is predominantly found in peat bogs where, over many hundreds of years, it rots down with other plant life to form peat. In this environment it is a protected species and cannot be harvested, picked or farmed. However, Sphagnum Moss also grows under certain types of coniferous trees in wet and acidic conditions, out of direct sunlight. The species particularly likes Lodgepole Pines which provide them with filtered sunlight. These forests are grown commercially for timber and when the trees are harvested, the moss dies due to exposure to the sun. However it grows again once the new trees are growing and provide shade once more. Thus, moss in this environment is growing sustainably and it is from these conditions on our farm where our moss grows.
Moss is notoriously tricky to "grow on" once uprooted from its natural growing site. This is mainly due to its lack of conventional roots system and its very particular requirements. Our home site is 1,000 feet above sea level, so is mostly cool temperatures. Moss survives under snow in temperatures as low as -18 degrees Celsius (last winter!) and is happy under the trees in the shade in summer temperatures into the 30 degrees (has been known!). It totally dislikes direct sun. It needs pure air - most places where sphagnum grows also grows lichen, a pure air fanatic! It also needs loads of water, preferably running, with an acidic environment. Tree sap leeching into the water courses here turns the water brown and brackish which the moss loves. Some of our "horticulturally aware" buyers have successfully grown-on sphagnum moss from us and are happy with our supply.
Colour of moss varies tremendously. Although our moss is described as being green or red, it is not totally solid in colour. Due to its nature, moss grows in thick clumps, forming a carpet-effect in the forest. It is only the tips of the moss which turn green or red under the sunlight. The remainder of the strands are creamy or brownish in colour. Some buyers have complained the moss they receive is "dead" as it appears brown in colour. However, when its explained and they study our photos which show us in the forest picking the moss (see listings), they understand that colour varies. However, I have successfully "greened up" sphagnum by soaking it overnight in water containing a green food colouring. A good tip for florists wanting a better colour in arrangements.
To store your moss, it needs to be kept in a cool place out of direct sunlight. To keep it fresh, it must not be allowed to dry out. Also, do not use tap water which is treated with chemicals such as fluoride and chlorine. Chlorine is a type of bleach to kill bacteria and is fatal to most plants. Moss is particularly sensitive to bad water, so use rainwater (usually acidic) or bottled water (non fizzy!). It can be kept in a plastic bag as long as its a clear plastic to allow sunlight in and its not sealed. Ideally, a garden shed with a window or rooflight would be a good store or a garage which receives some natural light.
Fresh moss will keep for quite a long time without needing to be put into soil like most plants. It can be stored for months, even if not being grown on. It can be dried, if you don't require it to be live. For example, for use in dried arrangements or for a vivarium as a substrate in a dry area. To do this, spread the moss on some type of rack to allow air through it and place in the sun. Allow to dry naturally. Store dried moss in bags in a cool dry place. It will not retain its colour once dried.
For further information on sphagnum moss, see my other guides and visit our shop to buy, http:/stores.ebay.co.uk/mossandmore/ "Moss and More"