How Important Is Moss For Your Bonsai?
When talking about bonsai care, one topic seems to come up on a regular basis: Moss.
Properly using moss on your bonsai trees is not something I really understood the importance of until quite recently. I used to have it when I would buy a tree from a shop, but now for all my bonsai trees I make sure to utilize moss in some way, shape or form.
There are a few reasons for this.
First off, I think it’s pretty.
It’s green, which I like, and it looks unique, which I also like. Following my #1 rule of bonsai trees (do what you like) — moss fits the bill.
Second, it’s fantastic at preventing erosion or soil loss from watering. Moss will, at best, adhere to the top layer of your soil and keep it where it belongs when you water. At worst, it will just sort of float on top (but still prevent erosion.)
Lastly, it helps prevent any exposed or shallow roots from drying out on a hot day. Moss retains moisture, which can be fast fleeting for your helpless bonsai tree on a hot summer day… A very critical use for this strange green plant.
When it comes to choosing a variety of moss, you’re stuck with a ton of options. You can buy special Kyoto moss spores or some preserved sheet moss from Amazon, or go harvest your own from around the yard / neighborhood.
It depends on your goal.
Let me start off by saying, I’ve tried the Kyoto spores about a dozen times and I was never able to grow a thing. I probably just suck at growing my own moss, but that’s my experience.
So for me, my choice is always between moss harvesting and preserved sheet moss.
To decide, I ask a simple question: “Will this bonsai ever live indoors?”
If the answer is “yes” as it is for any tropical / sub-tropical tree, it get’s sheet moss.
If the answer is “no,” it gets live moss.
The reasoning behind this is simple: Moss doesn’t survive indoors.
So if I have to bring a tree indoors for the winter, it gets preserved sheet moss. Adding sheet moss to a bonsai is rather simple. Cut it to size and tuck it into the sides of the pot with a knife. Simple!
The color wont last, and it can sprout some bread-mold like nastiness on it, so be prepared to change it out once or twice a year.
If my tree stays outdoors, I find a type of moss nearby that looks pretty and harvest it with a pocket knife. “Harvest” is a fancy way of saying I just gently scrape it off the dirt / patio / wherever.
To add it to my trees, I just firmly press it down on my bonsai soil right before watering, and leave it alone. Eventually, it’ll stick.
Keeping this one simple rule in mind, my bonsai collection retains more moisture, looks much nicer and retains almost all soil when I water it.