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Moss (Bryophyta) is a small flowerless plant that grows in dense clumps or mats, often in damp or shady locations. There are around 1200 – 15000 species of Moss around the world.

Moss does not have a real root or stem system.  It uses structures call rhizoids (which look like miniature roots)   to anchor them to any substrate and allow it to grow anywhere. It spreads by spores or plant fragments.

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It absorbs water and nutrients mainly through their leaves and only grows in clean environments.

Most botanists accepted that mosses evolved from a simpler filamentous green alga.  It is the first plant to survive on the ground.

How does moss get nutrients?

Moss does not draw nutrients from the soil as it does not have a root system. Mosses absorb all the necessary nutrients and moisture directly from the air through their leaves and harvest carbon dioxide and sunlight to create food by photosynthesis.

Reasons for moss on lawns:

Is moss thriving in your prized grass lawn? There can be many reasons for it. Let us get into all those reasons and see how we can control it.

Excessive shade – Mosses are shade-loving plants.

  • Prune your trees to provide your lawn plenty of sunlight
  • If the area is shady, reseed with shade-tolerant varieties of grasses like Bluegrass or St. Augustine.

Low soil fertility – Mosses have a low demand for nutrients.

  • Get a soil test done. The report will suggest the amounts of nutrients required.
  • Fertilize more if there is a nitrogen deficiency.
  • Fertilize more frequently, about four times a year.

Poorly drained and compacted soil – Mosses thrive in these conditions.

  • Install drain tiles or catch basins for good drainage
  • Aerate the soil by using a core aeration machine as oxygen is necessary for turfgrass root growth.
  • Avoid clay soil. If there is no option, add organic compost, pine bark, composted leaves, and gypsum but avoid adding sand or peat moss as this will create more problems. 

Low soil pH – Moss does prefer to grow in acidic soil, but it can grow in alkaline soil too.

  • Improve the health of the grass by increasing the pH by adding lime.

Too much moisture – Moss prefers these conditions.

  • Grass has deep root systems and thrives when the soil is moist 6-inches deep.
  • Grasses need more water when first planted, but once established, it requires infrequent deep watering. So, water deeply and as infrequently as possible.

A moisture meter is a handy tool to check the soil moisture and pH level. 

Click here for more information on a moisture meter.

Scalping (cutting your lawn ultra-short) – Allows moss to thrive.

  • Scalping severely weakens turfgrass as it removes so much leaf that grass can’t do photosynthesis to make food to survive. 
  • Use a smaller mower in uneven areas.
  • Regular mowing encourages the spread of grass.
  • Never remove more than one-third of the total grass blade length at a single cutting.
  • In autumn and winter, leave the grass to grow longer.

Excessive thatch layer – Moss can invade

  • Thatch is the accumulation of organic matter in the base of the lawn. It creates a barrier to moisture, nutrient contribution, and air circulation and effectively suffocates the roots. 
  • Dethatching helps to remove dead moss and other debris like grass cuttings.

How to kill moss in the lawn?

You can get rid of moss in the lawn using an organic or chemical spray.

Baking soda:

One of the easiest and inexpensive options to get rid of moss without using a chemical is Baking soda. Moss does prefer to grow in acidic soil (Low soil pH). So, adding baking soda increases the pH.

Baking soda can be directly applied to moss as a spray or sprinkled as powder.

Add 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda to 1 quart/approx 1 liter of water (warm water is preferable) and spray. If you are sprinkling the baking soda powder directly, see that moss is damp.

Once the moss looks brown and dried out, rake all the treated moss with a rake.One should notice that applying baking soda is not a long-term solution but works effectively in the short term.

Dish soap:

Mix 2 ounces of dish soap with 1 gallon of water. Drench the moss with the solution. See that the moss is damp while applying the solution.

It will take around 24 hours for this solution to act on the moss. Once the moss turns yellow or brown, rake the dead moss. Dump the collected dead moss away from the lawn and don’t compost it.

Re-seed bare areas left by the dead moss. Repeat the treatment until moss stops returning.

Iron Sulfate:

Mix around 5-6 ounces of Iron sulfate with 4 gallons (about 15 liters) of water, which can cover over 1000 square feet of lawn. Read the label instructions before applying.

You can spray this solution on the entire lawn to prevent moss growth but concentrate more on the areas with existing moss. Don’t water the lawn after you apply the solution.

Even after as little as one hour, moss will start to blacken. After two days, moss will dry out and turn dark brown. Re-seed bare areas left by the dead moss.

Overseeding the lawn promotes thick coverage, which helps to crowd out any future moss growth. Iron sulfate acts as a fertilizer, so it will benefit your lawn and make it greener.


Vinegar is just not strong enough to fix the moss issue. Vinegar is a herbicide, so it will also damage the parts of the plant it touches.

Use vinegar only in the place where you don’t want anything to grow, like driveways, patios, hard surfaces, or around paths.

Copper Sulfate:

Copper sulfate kills moss, but it grows back again unless more permanent methods of control are employed.

Hydrated lime:

Hydrated lime does not kill moss but instead raises soil pH, making the soil less acidic and more alkaline.

Why is moss bad for lawns?

Some of the reasons why people try to get rid of moss:

  • It gives a turf an uneven color and surface.
  • Some people view mosses as unattractive.
  • Loose mosses make the lawn feel spongy to walk on.
  • People are concerned about possible structural damage to parts of their property.
  • It does not make a suitable playground.

What are the benefits and uses of moss?

There are many benefits and uses of moss:

  • Moss holds water and nutrients that will benefit nearby plants.
  • It prevents soil erosion.
  • Filters rainwater and conserves water.
  • Wastewater treatment. 
  • Purifies the air we breathe
  • It helps retain moisture and nutrients in the soil. 
  • No maintenance, no fertilizer, drought-resistant.
  • The best thing to walk on.
  • Used in terrariums, fairy gardens, placed around the bonsai tree.

Does buttermilk help to grow moss?

Moss uses rhizoids to anchor them to any substrate.

Buttermilk, yogurt, beer, or corn starch for that matter, helps moss fragments to stick to the surface until rhizoids grow and attach to the surface. Buttermilk as such doesn’t provide any nutrients to the Moss. 

Where can I find natural moss?

Mosses are shade-loving and prefer moist conditions. You need to look for shady and moist areas. You can find them on the ground, on the rock, on living trees and fallen logs.

You may even find it in your backyard where moisture and shade are there.

Moss can be found in the forest too. While collecting the moss from wood, collect along with a layer of wood, because is used to it. You can even collect the dried moss.

What is Sphagnum Moss?

Sphagnum Moss is also called Peat moss, a genus of approximately 380 accepted species of plants in the subclass Sphagnidae, of the division Bryophyta.

It is a delicate plant with clusters of tiny slightly-toothed leaves and has light green leaves. Some species have a yellow, pink, deep red, or brown leaves.

They play a vital role in the creation of peat bogs by preventing the decay of dead plant material. It can absorb water (hold 20-30 time is dry weight in water) and even filter it.

Sphagnum Moss can survive in a wide variety of climates and is usually found in relatively acidic (low pH) soil.

Sphagnum Moss grows in wet and boggy areas like lakes, rivers, and regions that are prone to flooding.

Sphagnum moss is sterile and has some antibacterial qualities. It has a long history of medical use. Sphagnum moss works well as a potting medium for tropical plants.


References: http://www.bio.brandeis.edu/fieldbio/Survival/Pages/sphagnummoss.html


What is Irish Moss?

Irish moss (Sagina subulata) is a perennial plant that is hardy to USDA Zones 5 to 9. Irish moss is not a real moss but appears like real moss.

Irish moss has fan-shaped fronds with very deep green leaves.

It produces little white flowers (about 1/8 inch in diameter) in spring.
Irish moss grows 1 to 2 inches tall and is also tough enough to tolerate light foot traffic. It an excellent option for edging pathways and filling between stepping stones. Irish moss is not invasive.

Irish moss needs the partial sun for about 3-4 hours.
Under the full sun, it needs to be kept moist. It will turn yellow when exposed to hot sunshine. If it’s in an overly shady position, it can result in the plant losing some of its compact quality.

It doesn’t like soggy and dry soil. It needs well-drained
soil. It is not drought-tolerant. So, you need to water regularly (alternate
days) but not deep watering.

You need to make sure you keep it clean without debris or other leaves or else it will get choked and die. You can use a leaf blower or clean by sweeping with a broom.

You can propagate Irish moss through seeds or the division process. It also propagates naturally but takes a long time. The success rate is very low if propagated through seeds.

If you are propagating through division, make sure that the sections you replant have decent roots attached.

Irish moss has been used in traditional cooking for hundreds of years.