June 2, 2010 11:35 AM   Subscribe

I am fascinated by these indoor moss panels, but the instructions accompanying this project are a little vague...and I want to see more!

Will any old moss harvested from outside survive transplant? Do I sort of 'slice' off a layer of dirt and moss, or delicately scrape off just the plant material? Could this cause bug-problems in an already ant-infested house? Google has only yielded results for aquarium/terrarium sorts of projects.
I'm also very curious about other directions projects like this could take. What other non-traditional/sculptural/do-it-yrself gardening methods have you seen or had experience with? Artists who work in related mediums?
posted by supernaturelle to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I imagined just buying sheet moss from your local hardware store's garden department. Should be relatively easy to follow the directions from there, right?

Sound like a fun idea though. Thanks! :D
posted by Lizsterr at 11:52 AM on June 2, 2010

I imagine that you'd have to maintain a certain moisture level to keep it green. Spraying a frame on the wall might not be a great idea.
posted by mareli at 12:05 PM on June 2, 2010

Best answer: I'm a bit of a moss experimenter and this is what I've learned over a few years of making moss terrariums [mossariums].... moss is fickle. I'm having a really hard time even seeing how the things on readymade would actually work. I assume the top parts would dry out and it would be hard to give it enough water and have it not drip. I mean I'm sure you can build them in the manner described, but I can't imagine that they'd live long. This is how you build a moss terrarium. Pay special attention to the comments by rkr who is a moss expert and who I've been exchanging emails with on and off. The big deal with moss is light [not too much] moisture [more than you'd think] and ph [hard to control for, should match the moss's native habitat].

To answer your questions. Some moss will survive and some won't and I've found that the spongy moss tends to do worse than the flatter mosses [sorry for being so inexact]. This is unlikely to cause bug problems. And yeah you'd need to get some of whatever the moss is growing on in addition to the moss itself, this is where the moss gets nutrients from. If you want to go this route, I'd suggest getting more of a terrarium type of setup and getting a whole big mossy log and tossing it in your place somewhere. A little more controlled and a little easier to keep damp.

Other fun options include moss paint or go all out and put up a Victorian-style mossery.
posted by jessamyn at 12:07 PM on June 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

Best answer: The moss in your link looks somewhat like long fiber sphagnum, which is often used in vertical installations because it is tough, fibrous and doesn't require dirt to grow. Unless you happen to live in a peat bog, the moss you find outside is very unlikely to thrive indoors, it will quickly die if the thin layer of soil its growing on gets too dry (and if the soil is kept wet enough, the panel is going to be dripping water and likely too heavy to hang). If she's not using LFS, then her moss is dying because that brownish-yellow color is only normal for sphagnum.

Doing a vertical treatment for LF sphagnum usually means sandwiching it between stapled-down chicken wire and a flat water-proof surface. It would also work to sew it onto a screen as described in the link. If I were using window screen, I'd sew the moss on the outside because new growth will be too big to fit through the openings of window screen mesh. LFS is usually sold in compressed dry bricks. If the LFS wasn't treated with growth inhibiting chemicals by the packager (very common in the stuff sold at garden stores. Buy instead from a place supplying the pet trade), it will eventually start to send out new green growth once soaked in water and frequently misted with a light foliar fertilizer (the kind sold for bromeliads works great when diluted).

Note: I've done the above in amphibian enclosures but that's in a very small environment with high humidity and a full-time mister. I've also done large-ish walls hooked up to a drip watering system in locations no one cares about the water dripping off. Live mosses need constant water; I'm not sure how that's going to work in out in a living room above nice furniture. I suspect she's taking those panels down every third day and giving them a good underwater soaking in the sink but the moss snob in me thinks her moss isn't thriving.
posted by jamaro at 12:09 PM on June 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

Alternatively, you can just skip the water, staple up some dry LFS and hit it with some dilute green food coloring. It will not be alive but you'll have to get within a few feet to be able to tell.
posted by jamaro at 12:12 PM on June 2, 2010

Go for the moss paint mentioned above. It seems easier and also cooler.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:26 PM on June 2, 2010

That description in the link could definitely do with a few diagrams! If I may piggyback on, Jamaro do you think its feasible that wall panels using the LFS moss would do well in a bathroom?
posted by Joh at 12:27 PM on June 2, 2010

I came in to suggest the moss paint solution. Slate roofing tile, paint with milk, leave outside until you start getting growth. I haven't tried it, but that's where I'd start. (I'd be hoping to get single specimens of flat mosses rather than all-over coverage, which is why I wouldn't blend moss into the paint. YMMV.)
posted by Leon at 1:31 PM on June 2, 2010

(After Googling, I think I'm talking about lichens rather than mosses, which isn't what you want at all. I doubt a moss would be able to adhere to clean slate).
posted by Leon at 1:40 PM on June 2, 2010

Here's an idea if you'd like to use the regular moss you find outside that needs to be wet all of the time: moss waterfall!

Perhaps you could rig up a system like this where the moss is kept constantly moist by the waterfall.
posted by talkingmuffin at 2:07 PM on June 2, 2010

Joh, might work if there's enough light. Sphagnum enjoys full sun or several hours/day of artificial lighting but will tolerate lower lighting levels if you don't mind leggier moss. I have some growing fairly well in my bathroom window which gets a few hours of morning sun and bright indirect natural light the rest of the day. Sphagnum is the brighter green stuff w/ brown tips growing around the disc-leafed plant in the lower left corner. Everything in the pic is growing out of Jiffy peat pellets sitting in a tray of demineralized water. Here's what sphagnum looks like when it doesn't get enough light: more thready, less carpet.

It's still going to be uber-heavy to hang though: sphagnum is very absorbent and retains water like a sponge; a small dry brick swells up into a ridiculously huge mountain o' dead moss once water is added. Also, the panel is still going to be dribbling down the wall non-stop which is why the verticals I've made had a pond or catch basin at the base. Of all the different mosses you see in my pics, none of them other than LFS would work indoors vertically w/o a constant water supply; the LFS is slightly more tolerant of less than ideal growing conditions.
posted by jamaro at 3:47 PM on June 2, 2010

showbiz_liz: "Go for the moss paint mentioned above. It seems easier and also cooler."

I agree. Ever since I heard about the "moss milk" from Bill Nye, many years ago (I wish I could find a clip!), I've wanted to try this.
posted by Gordafarin at 8:38 PM on June 2, 2010

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