So you want to know can sheet moss be used for orchids?
Sheet moss is undoubtedly eye-catching but obviously, that alone is not a reason to decide to use it with orchids
In this article, we find out a bit more about sheet moss, its pros and cons and when, where and how you might want to use it with your prized flowers.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
Can Sheet Moss Be Used For Orchids?
Sheet moss can serve several purposes with orchids. It is great for mounting orchids and makes an attractive top dressing. Live sheet moss also works well when mixed with other mediums as a potting soil. Overall though, sphagnum moss is still a preferable choice.
What is Sheet Moss?
Sheet moss is part of the Hypnum genus, and it consists of over 80 species.
As its name suggests, sheet moss grows wide and covers areas like a sheet. You will most likely have seen it growing on rocks and logs in forests and other areas usually characterized by humid conditions.
The Hypnum genus, which sheet moss is part of, is a desired species of moss. It is very hardy and is often used for its carpeting qualities
In fact, sheet moss is probably the most popular type of carpeting moss used in terrariums.
Sheet moss is found throughout the world and grows on any surface that has drainage that allows excess water to run off or through the medium.
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It has a unique way of absorbing nutrients and an unusually strong latching rooting system.
For this reason, you can find it covering fallen branches on dead trees, growing vertically up trees and walls and on stones and rocks.
Whilst sheet moss thrives in shaded areas with damp soil, its hardiness is demonstrated by the range of temperatures it can tolerate.
From below freezing to the high 90s, it will survive.
If you see sheet moss being sold in a store, it is most likely dead moss that has been preserved to remain green and isn’t meant for planting and growing.
But anyway, let’s get on to the main subject…
The Benefits of Sheet Moss for Orchids
It is Great for Mounting Orchids
Mounting orchids is growing them the way nature intended.
Many orchids are epiphytic, which means they grow on trees and their roots extend far from the plant.
When you mount an orchid it will live longer as its roots can stretch out and are not limited by the confines of a pot.
Sheet moss looks authentic and its tolerance to all kinds of weather conditions means if you wrap it around the roots of an orchid and mount it, it will provide sufficient protection and moisture to protect the roots from drying out.
It Makes a Good Top Dressing
Dead sheet moss you buy from shops is preserved and sometimes dyed to keep its green natural look.
Its vibrant color, combined with its ability to retain moisture means it works well as a decorative top dressing for orchids. This is similar to Spanish moss which is also great for decorative purposes.
Live Sheet Moss Can Make a Good Potting Medium When Mixed
Live sheet moss can actually work as a good potting medium when crumbled throughout another medium.
You can try it:
- Chopped up and mixed with sphagnum moss.
- Mixed in with fir bark and river sand.
- Mixed with limestone or quartz gravel, brick or granite rubble or lava rock.
The amount you use depends upon the species of orchid you are trying to grow. For instance, with Phalaenopsis orchids you would want a higher proportion of moss in comparison to rock, whereas with Cattleya orchids it is the other way around.
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It Might Even Heal Sick Orchids
I have to admit, this isn’t my idea, I have stolen it from ‘Seidenfaden’ from Orchidsforum.com but I thought it was quite interesting.
They have said they find sheet moss good for sowing seeds and “nurturing poorly or damaged plants”, and recounted how it had helped heal some Oncidium naevium seedlings that had been beset by bacteria.
They reported how planting the seedlings in sheet moss they gathered from local moorland nearby had revived them.
They concluded that years of experience has led them to believe that sheet moss “has unique healing properties for any orchids needing special attention”.
The Drawbacks of Sheet Moss for Orchids
It Might Contain Bugs
If you decide to use live sheet moss to pot or top-dress your orchids, then you need to watch out for bugs!
Anything you use from nature is likely to contain some kind of pesky hitchhiker from its natural habitat.
Make sure you treat it first, and be vigilant of aphids, millipedes, sow bugs, earwigs or anything else!
It Might Turn Brown
The problem with sheet moss, both living and preserved, is that eventually, it is likely to lose the natural green color that makes it so appealing.
After being watered a number of times, preserved sheet moss loses its color and turns an ugly brown.
In a similar way, live sheet moss used to mount an orchid, for example, will need to be kept alive, otherwise that too will eventually turn brown.
Dead Sheet Moss Doesn’t Make a Good Potting Medium
As dead sheet moss isn’t living (obviously!), when it is watered, it will stay wet and has a tendency to mold. This could also stifle air circulation to the roots of your orchid.
On the other hand though, if you limit watering so the moss is kept dry enough not to mold, then you probably aren’t providing your orchid with the water it needs to keep it happy.
What is the Difference Between Sphagnum Moss and Sheet Moss?
Sphagnum Moss is part of the Sphagnum genus and grows in thick clumps around swamps and ponds.
Sheet moss is part of the Hypnum genus and is a green moss that grows on rocks and logs in humid forests. When it is harvested sheet moss comes away in large sheets, this is unlike sphagnum moss.
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Sphagnum moss and sheet moss do share some traits.
Both are bryophytes and non-vascular plants, both prefer shaded areas and acidic soils and both can retain water.
Sphagnum moss is a large part of peat moss. When peat moss is harvested and dried it is used primarily as fuel. Sheet moss on the other hand serves a mainly decorative purpose, to enhance garden and landscape settings.
As you can see there are some benefits to using sheet moss with orchids, but if you are asking can I use sheet moss instead of sphagnum moss? Then my answer would be no.
Although both are bryophytes, I believe sphagnum moss is the better to use of the two with orchids.
It has a more fluffy and airy nature and anti-fungal properties as well, because of the chemicals it produces.
However, sheet moss can play a role in the cultivation of orchids when used with other mediums, as an attractive top dressing and when used on mounted orchids.