Growing Moss

Asked July 11, 2019, 10:26 PM EDT

I have a stream in my backyard that runs into the storm drain. My mom neglected that part of the yard for decades and now that I am living here again my plan is to cut everything back (mostly wineberry bushes (ouch!) ivy and it's completely choked by Virginia creeper and probably poison ivy) as far as possible. I refuse to use chemicals and I checked in to renting goats but that, sadly, is way out of my budget. I intend to use a propane garden torch (carefully and with a hose handy) and try to get down to the soil. There is a lot of dead fall that I'll have to use a chainsaw on and a few junk trees that I'll have to remove and drag out. Once I get to soil I'd like to cover in moss. What should I use and where can I get a good fast-spreading moss that will deter weeds and fill in quickly?

Baltimore County Maryland

3 Responses

We appreciate your interest in removing invasive species and using moss as a groundcover. Just be aware that moss will not be able to outcompete tough perennial plants if you do not also remove the root systems. A propane flame torch will burn back the top-growth of plants and it is typically most effective for killing annual plants. Plants that are perennial (come back from year to year from an established root system) may come back up again after you burn the top growth. There is likely a good seed bank in the soil too -- so it will take some time to keep after new plants that emerge even after you begin to establish moss.

That said, there is a very good book on moss cultivation by Annie Martin, The Magical World of Moss Gardening, which goes into detail about selecting and propagating mosses. If you already have some mosses present in the area, you could use them to propagate more moss -- and you will likely have more success with what is already there rather than trying to establish new species with purchased plants. You can probably borrow the book from your local library. It goes into detail about selection, growing, and maintenance.

We also have information on other types of recommended groundcovers.
And this is a good article if you are looking for additional groundcover choices that are deer-resistant.


Hi Christa,

Thanks for answering my question so quickly and thoroughly! I'm very fond of moss but maybe a different ground cover would be more effective. I think I'll put on some heavy clothes and wade in there and try to get some pictures of what I'm trying to eradicate. I'm sure there are plants that I'll have to try to dig the roots out. I really wish I could afford to rent goats to clear the area but I called and it's VERY expensive! I have friends with sheep put the poor things would probably get stuck in the crazy mess and they wouldn't eat everything like goats do! I'll try to send some pics soon. I'm really glad I found your website! What a great service!

You're welcome! Okay, yes, photos of the site would help us have a better idea of what you're dealing with and will help us in making recommendations for you.