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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Q & A: Can I use spanish moss instead of sphagnum moss in my terrarium?

Image courtesy of http://www.orchidsandtropicals.com/
This week I received an excellent question in my post "How to Make a Terrarium: Adding Soil Layers."

Question: Can dried spanish moss be used in lieu of the spaghnum moss as a filter?

Answer: Sphagnum or peat moss is a commonly used element in gardening and container gardening but I have never seen spanish mossed used in the same capacities (i.e. to line a hanging wire flower basket).  I did some research online and found an ehow article that may help us.  The author points out that while sphagnum moss is a great water absorber, spanish moss is actually an air plant in the tillandsia family and will not act the same way when used in gardening.

I'll paraphrase some of the key points here:

"Spanish moss is home to small insects and other organism. Spanish moss requires treatment or sterilization before use.... Because sphagnum moss grows in highly acidic waters, peat moss is usually germ free.  Because of its water-retaining ability and lack of most pathogens, it is ideal for seed-starting mixes or use as a soil amendment.  Spanish moss, does not incorporate easily into soil, but does act as an effective mulch, especially for indoor potted plants."
Read more: Spanish Moss Vs. Peat Moss

The idea of the Spanish moss potentially containing contaminants makes me hesitant to suggest using it as a terrarium soil layer.  You'll want to minimize the inclusion of any mold or germs in your terrarium.


  1. Nevermind the contaminants... the bigger problem is that it will turn black and begin to rot very quickly when placed on the ground in a terrarium.

    1. Wow, good to know. Where you able to save your terrarium?

  2. Would it be okay to add Spanish moss to a compost bin?

  3. Thanks for info. My daughter needs sphagnum moss to “mount” the kind of air plant that looks like moose antlers. I have some Spanish moss on hand, but sounds as if we’d better get the sphagnum. Both for the health of the plant and esthetics.

  4. The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association recognizes that sphagnum moss grows in limited natural areas and thus a primary concern is the preservation of habitat while also ethically harvesting the moss and underlying layers of peat. It takes decades for sphagnum to renew into large, deep ecosystems. Today in Canada and the United States there are many producers of sphagnum and peat that harvest materials in order for it to be a more renewable resource.

    Spanish moss is widespread across much of the frost-free land of North America and is not in low supply. Since Spanish moss is easily obtainable when it drops from trees, it contains many small insects and other creatures in its foliage mass. Floridata comments that before the plant material is brought indoors or used, it should be microwaved or boiled in water to kill the plant and anything hiding or living within it.

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