What is Sphagnum Moss

What is Sphagnum Moss

You’ve likely heard of sphagnum moss, and maybe you’ve worked with it, but what is sphagnum moss? The short answer is it’s a plant material often used in place of soil. Find out more about this moss, how to use it, and what sets it apart from similar products.

What is Sphagnum Moss?

Sphagnum is a genus comprised of hundreds of species of moss. This moss grows in damp areas, like bogs and swamps. Sphagnum moss grows above water or on top of a swamp-like environment. The moss can be harvested without killing the plant, allowing new growth to develop for future harvests, making this a renewable resource. With that said, it often takes years for enough new growth to fill in to warrant another harvest. Sphagnum moss can grow one to four inches yearly, depending on the climate.

How to Use Sphagnum Moss?

Sphagnum moss is often used in place of soil. It is natural and organic and retains moisture, making it a good substitute for soil. Sphagnum can hold 20 times its weight in water, but it does not become soggy, making it a good soil replacement because it is damp but will not cause root rot.

Plants like orchids and bromeliads are often grown in sphagnum moss because, in nature, these plants are epiphytic and do not grow in soil. Instead, they use aerial roots to hold onto trees and other plants. The roots of these plants cannot handle dense soil, so they need something else. Sphagnum retains water but does not become a mushy mess and cause root rot. Plants grown in sphagnum will still need water and fertilizer, so learn more about your plant and provide the necessary care.

Other Uses

Sphagnum moss is sometimes used as a mulch layer or to line hanging baskets. This moss is visually appealing, retains moisture, cuts down on weeds, and will add nutrients to the potting mix as it breaks down.

Long-fiber sphagnum is often used in terrariums for amphibians. This moss is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and good at holding water without becoming mushy or rotting, making it a good material in a wet terrarium.

What is Sphagnum Moss

Is Sphagnum Moss the Same as Peat Moss?

Sphagnum moss and peat moss have a lot in common, but they’re different. Both plants belong to the sphagnum genus, but the harvesting process differs, resulting in various uses.

Peat moss is made up of dead plant material harvested from the bottom of the wetlands where the moss grows. The moss grows on the surface of the water, and as parts naturally die, they sink to the bottom. Other dead plant material and insects also fall and are included in the harvest, making up a nutrient-dense mass of organic content. Harvested peat moss is dried and often chopped up, so the moss, insects, and whatever else was in the mix is not identifiable. 

Sphagnum is harvested from the top of the living plant. The material is then dried. The long fibers are often left intact, so sphagnum moss resembles what it looked like as a live plant.


The rich organic content of peat moss is why this product is used as a fertilizer to amend potting mixes and garden beds. Peat moss has an acidic pH (sphagnum moss is neutral), so it’s also often used to create an ideal potting mix for acid-loving plants. 

Sphagnum moss is an organic product but is not as organically rich as peat moss; it’s also more expensive. Peat moss is the best choice to amend the soil for your houseplants or garden beds. Sphagnum moss shines as a soil substitute because it is lightweight and excels at retaining water without becoming soggy.