Human creativity knows no limits. We always think about new ways of growing our succulents, or at least of decorating the pots, or the overall plant arrangement in the garden. Spanish moss, which many people wrongly mistake with Sphagnum moss (0ften call peat moss, check our article on it here), is actually an epiphytic flowering plant that often grows upon large trees in tropical and subtropical climates. It has nothing to do with peat moss from bogs and fells. But can you use it with succulents? And if you can, in which way?
First of all, it is important to realize that Spanish Moss does not kill the plant it lives on. It is not a parasitic plant. It just uses a tree–or a succulent, or any other plant, as a place to hang on. But it absorbs nutrients and water through its own leaves from the air and rain (or water we use to water the plants) falling upon it. It doesn’t take any nutrients from the soil where your succulent is planted. This means that succulents and Spanish moss can coexist “peacefully” in a plant arrangement, small garden, or even in a single pot!
Spanish moss absorbs a lot of sun which can limit the growth of your succulents
Succulents love sun, and most of them love to get lots of it. I think this isn’t surprising to many people, considering that the plants are native to semi-desert and desert areas, where sun shines a lot and people pray for rain :). You should consider this when thinking about adding Spanish moss to your succulent garden, or simply implementing it in a pot with a bigger succulent.
What often happens is that the Spanish moss absorbs most of the sunshine, and the succulent later lacks it. It won’t kill it (lack of sunshine rarely kills a succulent), but it may change color of leaves, won’t grow as well as it normally would, and it may never flower in such a setting. To sum it up, it will survive, but it won’t thrive. Having said that, in certain occasions Spanish moss can actually help your succulents thrive. Let me explain.
With low light succulents planted in a sunny spot, for example outside or on a southern oriented terrace, it makes a lot of sense to provide them some shade. Some gardeners may get a shade cloth, others may move the plants around during the day, ensuring they won’t get burned on the strong afternoon sun. The most creative ones though will add Spanish moss to the arrangement, providing a nice and natural shade for the succulents.
Spanish moss traps water, which isn’t necessarily good for succulents
Some gardeners may consider using Spanish moss as a decoration for their succulent pots, placing it on the top of the soil. And while this isn’t a bad idea design-wise, it isn’t necessarily a great idea considering what succulents like, and what can kill them.
Spanish moss traps a lot of water in its thin “hair-like” structure. It can stay wet for a long time, especially if placed on the ground instead of hanging from the branches as it normally does in its natural habitat. The last thing succulents like is a wet stem, or a soil that’s constantly wet. This will sooner or later result in stem rot or root rot, which is the no. 1 reason of premature succulents death.
Having said that, each of us lives in different conditions and climate. Growing certain types of succulents in very dry climates, it may help having a “layer of Spanish moss” on the ground, to help with at least slightly favorable humidity for both people and succulents. If you decide to go for it, I suggest you to experiment on slow scale first, with just a few succulents. If they are fine after a month and you do not observe any negative changes, you can place Spanish moss to other pots.
Spanish moss as a natural fertilizer for succulents
Let me repeat that Spanish moss is not the same thing as Sphagnum moss, often also called peat moss. Peat moss (as you can read in this article on our website) isn’t a good fertilizer for succulents, or a good part of soil mix, since it retains too much water, and causes root rot in plants that do not like wet soil. Succulents are prime example of such plants.
Spanish moss is a bit different, but, as far as my knowledge goes, you won’t really reap any benefits using it as a fertilizer, or adding it to the soil mix. It is a plant on its own and deserves a decent life. It doesn’t have a high nutrient content or anything similar, and hence it isn’t a good fertilizer for any plants, in whatever form, live or dead. Last but not least, in my experience, vast majority of succulents does not really need any fertilization, hence such experiments would be just a waste of money.
Final thought on Spanish moss and succulents
I hope my writing hasn’t discouraged you completely from giving Spanish moss a try in your garden :). No doubt it can make any plant or flower arrangement more beautiful, but you should also realize that correct placement is the key here. If you mix it badly with your succulents, and it retains too much moisture close to the stem of the plant, or absorbs all the sun (and none is left for the succulents), you won’t be happy with the results. Spanish moss will thrive, but your succulents will suffer… Hope this helps, and good luck with your succulents!
May also interest you: LECA balls for succulents.