Learn how to grow Spanish moss, growing Spanish moss demands care and a few requirements that need to be fulfilled.
USDA Zones: 7-11
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Common Names: Spanish moss, Tree Hair, Old Man’s Beard, Kali’s Hair, Spanish Beard
How does Spanish Moss Grow?
Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is not a moss but a flowering plant that grows over trees, however, it doesn’t leach nutrients from them. It is native in North, Central and South America and belongs to the family of Bromeliads (Bromeliaceae), the family of pineapples. It is epiphytic. Epiphytes (air plants) are those that sit or grow on other plants, but they do not use the energy of host plant or feed on them.
In its natural habitat, it colonized not only on trees but also hangs on power lines, wires or stones. Spanish moss shoots, depending on the form can have different thicknesses are several meters long. Its small flowers are yellowish-green. Like other air plants, it gets water and nutrients from particles in the air.
Most often it is propagated naturally when the tiny pieces of its stems and plantlets spread during rainy or windy weather. In your garden, you can propagate it from division by separating side shoots and plantlets.
To germinate it from seeds, sow them in a substrate with good drainage and put that in a bright location. Remember, humidity promotes germination but once germinated, frequent and regular watering can cause rotting of young plants. Growing Spanish moss from seeds is a slow process. In months it only reaches 1 cm in height.
Best Spanish Moss Varieties
Munro’s Filiformis: Native to Paraguay it’s also known as a “Silver Ghost.” The greenish grey colores tendril give this variety a spooky look. Flowers are tinged green.
Maurice’s Robusta: Very popular in Australia this cultivar originates from Mexico. The leaves are thicker and greyish as compared to “Silver ghost.”
Spanish Gold: Native to South America it’s gaining popularity very quickly in other parts. The greyish-green leaves are adorned with bright yellow flowers.
Tight and Curly: As the name suggests the leaves of this plant are tightly curled. You’ll find it most commonly in California.
Odin’s Genuina: The overall beauty of this plant is enhanced by its yellowish brown flowers. Guatemala and Mexico are from where it originated.
Requirements for Growing Spanish Moss
Overall Spanish moss prefers bright but not direct light and good air circulation. Choose a location that is exposed to light morning and evening sun on a tree or tall shrub.
During summer or if you’re growing it in tropics, must remember that you never place it in proximity to a hot window or wall otherwise the heat will transfer and might be detrimental for Spanish moss.
NOTE: If the moss starts to turn black it’s a sign of too much direct exposure to the sun. Protect the plant before it dies!
Avoid using chlorinated water, use purified, distilled or rainwater. Keep the Spanish moss moist all the time in a hot and dry climate. Otherwise, it will become dormant. Give a good soaking to Spanish moss by pouring water over the leaves when they become dry. In humid and rainy conditions, spray it with water regularly but only when it seems dry. Frequent watering when it is already moist can be detrimental.
Spanish Moss Care
Spanish moss care is slightly tricky, but once you understand it, it is simple.
Humidity is an important factor, especially when you’re growing Spanish moss indoors. To avoid it from drying out of the middle or rear drives, spray it from all sides.
Spanish moss doesn’t need fertilizer instead it is itself used as a fertilizer. However, if it is growing poorly or discoloring, spray it with compost tea diluted half with water.
Check out this fertilizer recipe with Spanish moss as an active ingredient!
Simply snip off the ends using a sharp tool to prune it back lengthwise. Avoid over pruning as it results in side-shoot formation.
In cooler zones, Spanish moss dies in winter as it can’t tolerate temperature below 50 F (10 C) for a long time. However, Spanish moss can tolerate temperature down to 22 F (-5 C). To overwinter it, keep the Spanish moss indoors, hanging near the sunny window at a temperature around 50 to 70 Degrees F (10 and 21 C).
In summer provide it a light shade and increase watering. Soaking the plant also benefits extensively in hot summers.
Beware of Pests
It’s not Spanish moss we are worried about it’s you! Spanish moss itself does not hold nutrients for pests and is hardy when it comes to diseases. But many creatures such as rat snakes, jumping spiders, chiggers and bats can reside in Spanish moss. So before you try to tackle it always wear protective gloves and layers.