How to Moss a Bonsai – The 4 Best Techniques

Adding moss to a bonsai tree is really straightforward. You can do it any time, but it is very common to do at the same time as repotting.

(You can read more about – When To Repot A Bonsai)

There a few different techniques you can use and they are all as simple as each other and I’ve found give you about the same results, but I will go through them below.

Firstly you need to find moss to use.

Where To Find Moss For Bonsai?

You have to go out and find moss to add to your bonsai. Don’t worry its really easy and the good news is that even if you can only get a little, you can turn into a lot more. 

Finding moss is easy, you just a need to go outside.

It’s easiest to find moss in a forest, but even if you live in a more urban area it’s still everywhere, you just need to look a little closer. Even if you live in a city, moss will still be there and you will be able to find some in no time. 

The easiest and most obvious place is to look is around any paved areas near your house. You will see that moss is growing the cracks of the paving. In general the corners of concrete are usually good places to find moss. 

Then you can also start by looking under bushes and trees. Just have a look about and try and work out what areas are in shade and might be damp, this is where the moss will be.

Where I live moss grows like crazy on roof tiles too, but not everywhere is as damp as here.

How To Collect Moss For Bonsai?

Collecting moss is just as easy as finding it. You just need to scrap some clumps off from whatever surface it is growing on. Moss does not have roots, so it is very easy to remove in clumps.

Don’t worry if it’s dry. This can actually be preferred as it’s easier to scrap off and you can re-hydrate it later.

Just scrap your moss up and and place it in a container and then you’re pretty much ready to use it for your bonsai trees.

If you collected your moss from the soil, you can try to gently scrape the underside of it to remove any excess dirt and soil but most moss will lift right up and be ready to use. 

Are Certain Mosses Better For Bonsai?

While there are hundreds, maybe thousands of different types of moss, most of them are going to be fine to use for your bonsai.

You might see variations in the colour and shape of the moss, but this is all fine and comes down to personal taste, really only thing that makes a moss ‘better’ is where it’s been growing.

Ideally you should try and look for mosses that are growing in conditions that are going to be similar to your pot and soil, so that they can acclimatise easily.

Moss that is growing on concrete and tiles is usually perfect for bonsai as it will be growing very flat and it will be easy to transfer to soil in your pot.

It’s also better if you can find moss that is growing in direct sunlight, as you know it will survive no problem in your bonsai pot. If you see moss like this, collect as much as you can.  

Can You Buy Moss For Bonsai Trees?

I’ve seen “moss seeds” or “moss spores” for sale online. I’m sorry, but I’m pretty sure they are a scam.

You don’t need to buy moss or even grow it yourself. I think you can buy actual moss online, but I would just use what is local to you. It’s free and you know it will grow in your environment already.

Literally walk outside and find it. You won’t have to look far.

However, if you want to use sphagnum moss (which will talk about below) then you will need to buy this as it is sometimes hard to find outside. I’ve bought it fresh and dried and both work equally as well.

How To Moss a Bonsai

Below are the 5 techniques I have used to moss my bonsai:

Moss Technique 1 – Patch Work Moss 

This couldn’t be any easier. Add some water to your collected clumps of moss. Give it 10 minutes or so to let them plump up and hydrate. 

Then simply take the moss and put it on your pot. Just place it on top like you are making a patch work.

All you need to do push it down so that it’s in contact with the soil and that’s it. 

Hopefully you’ve managed to collect enough moss to cover the whole pot and make a lovely patch work of moss across the whole soil surface. 

If you haven’t …Don’t worry. You will notice that when you push the moss down onto the soil surface, the moss spreads out when you squish it down. So you can make a small amount of moss stretch quite far.

You can also leave gaps in between the patches. The moss will grow and spread and eventually fill in the gaps. It doesn’t look as good initially, but with time it will be fine.

If you just wanted to moss half the pot or just around the edge. That’s fine. You can moss half the pot now and then go out again in a few months and find some more moss to finish the job. 

Moss Technique 2 – Shredded Moss 

This is also very simple and only needs one extra step.

Take your collected moss clumps and beak them up into smaller pieces. You can do this with scissors or if the moss is dry enough you can try doing it by hand. 

People often grate the moss against a wire mesh, so that the pieces become really really fine. This is also totally okay. It’s really up to you how fine you want your shredded moss to be. 

Now all you do is sprinkle your shredded moss onto the bonsai pot. (This is why some people like it to be really fine). 

You just spread it out evenly in a thin layer and pat it down.

Moss like this will usually spread over a wider area than if you kept the clumps whole so it is a good technique if you do not have a lot of moss. 

This technique doesn’t look great at first, but after a while the moss starts to grow in and its looks great.

Moss Technique 3 and 4 – Adding Sphagnum Moss

I’ve grouped these two techniques together as they are more an addition to techniques 1 and 2, rather than a completely new thing.

The addition is Sphagnum Moss.

All you need to do is take some sphagnum and chop it up really fine. You then add a thin layer of the chopped sphagnum to the top of the soil before applying the moss. You apply the moss exactly the same as in techniques 1 or 2.

It is believed that having this layer of sphagnum moss underneath your collected moss will hold extra moisture, compared to the soil on its own. This extra moisture helps the moss you’ve added establish itself quicker and its less likely to dry up and die.

If you use technique 2 and shred your moss really fine, you can mix in the shredded sphagnum and then you can add the combined mixture onto the soil in one go, rather than adding a layer of sphagnum then the shredded moss on top.

Moss Technique 5 – Let Nature Do It

I’m not sure if this is a technique, but it is something I do, which is just let nature just do everything.

If you have seen any of my videos you will see I don’t really add much moss, if any. I just repot my trees and leave them alone, but you will see by the end of the season I have a thick coating of moss all over the soil. Most of my trees are also in development so I don’t care if they have moss or not.

My climate is pretty damp and moss grows everywhere, so I don’t really need to do anything to make it grow, you may not get the same results.

This technique is of course slow and not guaranteed, so it not ideal if you actually want moss, or need it on there for a certain time, such as for a bonsai show.

You could always leave one tree alone and just see if any grows by itself.

What Is The Best Technique To Moss A Bonsai?

People will always argue that one technique is better than the other. People will also say that the sphagnum is essential and others will say it’s a waste of time.

I did an experiment (although it wasn’t exactly scientific) to see what technique would have the best result.

You can watch what I did (which was use the techniques above) in this video:

Initially, technique 1, the patch work way looks best. It’s almost an instant moss for your whole pot. It looks great straight way.

However, over time all 4 techniques are as good as each other. I felt they all ended up looking the same and all took around about the same amount of time to establish.

The addition of the sphagnum didn’t seem to speed any up, or improve results, but then I do live in a very damp environment so I probably didn’t need it. However, for you it may make all the difference.

So which one is the best? …I guess you need to do what you feel is going to best for the situation you are in. How much moss you can find along with your climate is going to dictate your success.

I would play around with all the techniques and see what works for you, maybe you will find they all work equally as well, like I found.

Buttermilk and Moss?

I have seen numerous people say you should take moss and blend it with buttermilk… in a blender. You then take this mossy paste and put it where you want the moss to grow and apparently it’s amazing.

This sounds like nonsense …because it is. I have only found one video where the person was brave enough to show the results after a few weeks, which of course showed it did not work.

The buttermilk is just going to wash away when you add water, making it pointless, or if it does remain, it’s just going to start to go off and smell.

Either way, this technique does not work and you are far better off using one of the four methods I have discussed above.


Adding moss to you bonsai is easy and free, so you should do it. It can really look great and can actually be beneficial.

If you are unsure if you should do it or not, you should read – Should You Put Moss On A Bonsai? to find out more information about how it can help your bonsai.