Spagnum Moss as the planting medium

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Spagnum Moss as the planting medium

Post  Jurgis on Wed Jul 04, 2012 2:30 am

I have come across people using only spagnum moss as the planting medium and would like to research it further as to how it compares to the traditional, as well as watering, fertilizing, repotting, etc. If you have any information, please post your response.
Jurgis

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Re: Spagnum Moss as the planting medium

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Wed Jul 04, 2012 2:55 am

Jurgis,

for about 2 years, I grew a test cutting of a Chinese serissa in our local cocoa moss, since it was more easily available. I had no problems, and I repotted twice over those two years.
I was warned by Jerry Meislik, that I could end up with the plant suddenly giving up the ghost. He has more experience than I do, so this year I returned the plant to normal bonsai soil.

Placement was full sun, and fertilizer was applied at 1/3 strength, because it was lawn fertilizer. The moss showed no signs of decay, and in fact I saw nothing unusual.
Here is an image of the test shrub.
Later.
Khaimraj [ I got the idea from youtube ]


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Re: Spagnum Moss as the planting medium

Post  marcus watts on Wed Jul 04, 2012 6:43 am

hi,
I have used pure sphagnum on very weak trees with very damaged root systems as it definitely promites root growth, the level of humidity is high but air space it also high, so the perfect conditions to recover a tree, but only for a year or two - not long term.

One important aspect of bonsai 'soil' is to hold the tree firmly in place and with many trees it needs to support beneficial fungi growths - I have not seen sphagnum do either in trees I have placed in it. Firstly I'd ask what are you trying to achieve ? and then what properties are you hoping to gain?

I use 10% chopped sphagmum on the bulk of my trees mixed into other components but dont see any gains from pure moss as the mediul - much too wet in the winter when a tree stops growing. (the weak treees mentioned were protected in the green house at all times)

cheers Marcus

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Re: Spagnum Moss as the planting medium

Post  Andre Beaurain on Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:23 pm

Marcus is absolutely right.
Spagnum goes sour after a year, and needs to be replaced.
This is a known fact in the Orchid world. Spagnum is not a growing medium for bonsai, its only an additive to retain moisture. It also doesnt have any feeding value.
I do understand the need to rejuvinate trees in spagnum, but never permanently.
Spagnum is wonderfull for mounting epiphytes,(Orchids, Tillandsia, ect) cause it has time to dry out, As Marcus said , in pots (particularly glazed ones) it tends to stay to wet, which isnt good adall!

Love and light
Andre

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Re: Spagnum Moss as the planting medium

Post  nickalpin on Fri Jul 13, 2012 6:08 pm

You'll find a member on YouTube living here in FL who only uses sphagnum moss as his growing medium. He has to repot often as the moss goes bad rather quickly. You'll notice his trees have leggy growth. As was stated, it can be used on ailing trees, but it won't promote finer root growth, one of the main benefits of bonsai soil.

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Re: Spagnum Moss as the planting medium

Post  leatherback on Fri Jul 13, 2012 6:36 pm

nickalpin wrote:You'll find a member on YouTube living here in FL who only uses sphagnum moss as his growing medium. He has to repot often as the moss goes bad rather quickly. You'll notice his trees have leggy growth. As was stated, it can be used on ailing trees, but it won't promote finer root growth, one of the main benefits of bonsai soil.

What that guy does, I would hardly call bonsai. I think that person is really good at giving off the impression that everybody doin bonsai is despirately trying to keep plants small by malltreating them...

Shocked

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Re: Spagnum Moss as the planting medium

Post  Xavier de Lapeyre on Fri Nov 09, 2012 11:43 am

Jurgis wrote:I have come across people using only spagnum moss as the planting medium and would like to research it further as to how it compares to the traditional, as well as watering, fertilizing, repotting, etc. If you have any information, please post your response.
Jurgis

I did give this method a try... Dont start throwing rocks just yet please!! [ you may throw the tomatoes though, fresh one please ]
Basically here is what I've seen so far:

Pros:
Its quick to re-pot, no need to add a mesh or anything, just moss, moss, moss and more moss.

It retains a LOT of water [ I am not talking humid here, I am talking real wet ]

It seems to promote root development much more readily than say perlite. Stress on word "seems to".

I've been feeding with liquid fertilizer, at the same time as my other trees [once a week] when buds starts to appear. I've not seen any significant pros or cons so far on that aspect.


Cons:
If you like to check on your root status or simply bare roots the tree when re-potting, then sphagnum moss might not be for you. Its great to get a weak tree to drop off new roots, it great to promote those roots, but its a pain in the @$$ when you start to have an established root system and you want to do some professional work such as promote lots of fine feeder roots and less of thick feeder roots, find and get rid of long lateral and tap roots.
It good to get your roots started, but not to work on them [ nebari or improving root mass ].
Side note : I am trying to work the nebari on a tiny privet in sphagnum moss with some success so far, but the bigger trees just loose too much feeder roots when I tried to work on the roots.

If you're living in a very rainy area, like I do, the sphagnum moss just gloats itself with water to the point it becomes a spongy sluggish mass in the pot. Sure the "excess" water gets thrown away, but the saturation point is just was beyond what I would usually want to keep in the pot. I have not yet got a dead plant from potting in sphagnum moss, but I did get loads of rotten roots on one and a massive leaf fall in another. They were privets/ligustrum, so
that might account to some extend for its survival. Oh and it smells too at some point, just take a couple of leaves and leave them in a bucket of water for some days and you'll get a very good smell replica.
Side note on this, you need to have a really good drainage. For the typical soil mix, even a tiny hole is enough to drain the excess water. With sphagnum moss if you could have an open ended pot that would be great.

The trees are not stable in the pot, they move about when you tilt, move the pot or worst when you work on the tree. This also means that the roots are also moving about, bending or worse breaking. If you have a thick / long trunk, it might just topple over in your typical training or bonsai pot.
Wiring the roots does not seem to have much impact on stabilizing the plant in the pot, the sphagnum moss just get crushed.
Only viable solution was to wire the trunk, but I did not give it a go. It was pointless, because I would then have to keep that wire on the trunk at all times.
Needless to say wiring the branches or any work that might require applying pressure on the tree, like setting up a guy wire, could very well ripoff your root-system.
In addition to the weight of the tree itself, the size of the pot also impacts on the stability it seems.
Basically it goes like this : Small pots = stable, large pots = unstable.
I've given a try on two mame in progress and two "pseudo-yamadori" with virtually not root systems.
The two mame are relatively stable, but the two bigger ones have stability issues. If I did not know better I would suspect them to hit on the beer a but too hard.

DO NOT LET IT GO DRY - Its an obvious thing in bonsai, but we also know that things can happen that prevents us to water properly.
With a "modern substrate", even it the mix gets dry or starts to dry, the plant stays well anchored in the pot [ specially if the roots are already established ]. But with sphagnum moss, when it gets dry it will compact itself, detaching itself from the pot and compacting on the root system. I am not sure what it does to the roots, specially fine feeder roots at this point, but I doubt its very healthy. Also when it got dry once, take your time to water it well. If you water just to get the outer surface moist chances are that inside will still be hard solid dry.
It seems that when the plant gets root bound in the pot the same thing happens. The sphagnum moss gets compacted by the roots and detach itself from the pots surface. At this point you tree could very well just fall off the pot - at lease the pot won't break.


Personal conclusions on bonsai use:
I would not recommend using it as sole potting medium for trees with a good / established root system.
Like several already suggested, add to your mix to improve water retention or use temporarily to restore failing health of a tree.
I've also been using it on freshly cut root [ thick taproot or lateral roots ], just a blob on the cut and the typical mix around it.

I think it could be used successfully for shohin and mame. Not a 100% mix mind you, but a 50% sphagnum moss + 50% non-organic mix "might" be good.
I'm still using it, as an experiment.
So far I'm using ligustrum, pinus elliottii and murraya in full sphagnum moss.
I just placed the slash pine and murraya in the sphagnum moss so I cant tell much about it, except that they are not stable in the pot.
Growth does not seem negative so far either.

I'm in the tropics so I cannot say how a freezing winter would affect it. My winter is lots of rain but not freezing temperatures.



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Re: Spagnum Moss as the planting medium

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Fri Nov 09, 2012 12:27 pm

Xavier,

[ I am also in the tropics, 10 deg. or so, off of the equator.]

the moss I used came from Cocoa trees, and the pot was an earthenware pot with the glaze only on the sides of the pot. The pot's bottom wicks away extra water.

If you are repotting every year and only moss the repotted section, the moss idea will work. It will definately work for me because the tree moss does not decay in under two years.
You would have to start with a cutting / tree grown in a stony soil. Leave the core stony.

For convenience, and if you follow the repotting routine, the idea will work, and a glazed earthenware [ fired but porous ]
container.
As an addition, the tree moss grows very healthy suface moss [ Bonsai lawn ]

I also tested the tree seen in the image before, with an osmocote type [ from Israel for 30 deg.C soils ]

Note the Chinese serissa was grown in full sun.

I suggest tests with cuttings to - master - this idea. Otherwise stay with Bonsai soil mixes.
Later.
Khaimraj

* Will try a much larger specimen this year let you know how it went.- [ willow ?]

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Re: Spagnum Moss as the planting medium

Post  rockm on Fri Nov 09, 2012 5:53 pm

If you have some time, do a Web search on "New Horizons in Bonsai" and "Brian Batchelder."

Batchelder pioneered growing bonsai in pure sphagnum back in the late 80's early 90's. He produced a series of videos that aired on U.S. PBS stations.It was an interesting approach, and aimed primarily at tropical bonsai.
http://www.inlandbonsai.com/articles/moss/moss1.php

t is notable, however, that he was killed by an infection he got from the moss called sporotrichosis.

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00001173.htm.

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Re: Spagnum Moss as the planting medium

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