Moss for Succulents: Which Moss Plant Should You Use?

Choosing moss for succulents’ potting mix can make all the difference in their growth. For one, moss provides good water drainage, so you don’t have to worry about soggy soil. Yet, it retains water and nutrients so that your succulents remain nourished!

So, which moss should you use for succulents?

Most cactuses and succulents can grow well in sphagnum or peat moss. Alternatively, you can add coco coir to the potting mix. However, the former soil component isn’t a moss plant.

In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between sphagnum, peat, and coco coir. We’ll also explain why they make a great addition to your succulent potting mix. So, stick around!

Can Succulents Grow in Moss?

Yes! Succulents can grow in moss. They can even survive growing in a medium containing just moss.

However, that doesn’t mean you should plant cactuses in those plants only—at least not in the long run. But why? Well, that has to do with the natural habitat both plants grow in.

Succulents’ Natural Habitat

Naturally, succulents grow in arid and semi-arid areas. The soil in those places is sandy and dry. That makes sense since these regions receive little rain throughout the year.

Generally, arid regions get less than 10 inches of rain throughout the year. Similarly, semi-arid areas receive between 10 and 20 inches of rain. That’s why cactuses don’t tolerate soggy soil or need regular watering.

Moss Natural Habitat

Moss, on the other hand, grows in rainforests or anywhere with enough moisture and partial shade.

Because mosses lack true stems, roots, and leaves, those green plants grow on tree surfaces for support.

As you can tell, succulents and mosses thrive in completely different environments. So, planting cactuses in moss-rich soils might not provide optimal conditions for healthy growth.

Still, a small amount of those green stemless plants in the potting mix can benefit your precious succulents.

Read more: How Cold Can Succulents Tolerate?

Types of Moss for Succulents

As mentioned earlier, succulents get little rain throughout the year. To survive, cactuses need to make the most of the rainwater they get. Once it rains, the shallow roots rapidly absorb water and store it in the fleshy stem.

However, if the soil is too sandy, water runs down fast. As a result, the plant won’t get sufficient water and nutrients, eventually dying.

That’s when organic matter, like sphagnum, peat moss, and coco coir, comes in handy. While they help increase soil infiltration, both soil components retain water well. Consequently, the shallow roots have enough moisture and nutrients to absorb.

The question is this: what’s the difference between sphagnum moss, peat moss, and coco coir?

Here’s a detailed explanation of each organic matter option:

1.   Sphagnum Moss

Close up of Sphagnum moss

Sphagnum moss is one of the most common moss types used in indoor plant potting mixes. Even store-bought succulent soil can contain the former plant in its components.

Let’s take a close look at sphagnum moss’s properties!

Origin

As the name implies, sphagnum moss comes from plants in the genus Sphagnum. Those plants build over the surface of swamps and bogs. They grow up to 12 inches in the wetlands and form clumps.

Those chunks of green plants are harvested and dried. And the result is pure sphagnum moss, free of other dead organic material.

Texture

Sphagnum moss has a fibrous, fine texture. Additionally, the plant is green but turns light brown when it dries.

Although sphagnum moss has a thin structure, it can still absorb water up to 20 times its weight! For that reason, adding it to the potting mix ensures your succulents are well-hydrated without the soil getting too moist.

Nutrients

Because sphagnum is harvested while still alive, the moss doesn’t contain much decomposing organic matter. You’ll usually need to combine it with compost to enrich the soil for indoor plants.

The good news is that succulents don’t need high organic matter content to flourish. Additionally, sphagnum moss provides nutrients that can support succulent growth. Those include:

  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorous
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron

pH

Most succulents and cactuses prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil. Fortunately, most sphagnum mosses are neutral, having a pH of 7.

However, they can become slightly acidic as they decompose in the soil, which makes this moss an excellent soil amendment for succulents.

2.   Peat Moss

Peat moss

While this might be surprising, peat and sphagnum moss are different. Sure, both soil amendments come from the same plants, but they differ in many aspects.

Here are the differences between peat and sphagnum moss:

Origin

Like sphagnum, peat moss also grows in swamps and bogs. However, the plant grows under the water’s surface.

The stemless plants form dense clumps on the ponds. As a result, various organic matter, like twigs, insects, and other plant debris, gets trapped in the fibrous plant.

As time passes, the moss and other organic materials decompose, forming peat moss. The plant is then harvested from the wetland and dried so that you can use it in potting soils.

So, peat moss isn’t always pure dead sphagnum. Other decaying organic matter can also get into the mix.

Texture

Once dried, you can’t usually tell the difference between peat and sphagnum moss. Both are brown with a fine fibrous texture.

Additionally, both mosses are lightweight, which explains why they drain water well. However, before drying, peat moss is more squishy and resembles turf, while sphagnum has long fibers.

When it comes to water retention, peat moss is slightly better than sphagnum moss. The former plant can hold more than 20 to 50 times its weight in water.

The problem is that succulents prefer dry soil. So, make sure not to go overboard with the peat moss, as too much moisture can kill your precious plants.

Nutrients

Peat also contains similar minerals to sphagnum moss. However, unlike sphagnum moss, peat is rich in organic matter. That makes sense since peat moss has a mix of several decomposing organic materials, like insects and plant debris.

Although peat moss has more nutrients than sphagnum, it still provides trace amounts. So, you might need to treat the soil with fertilizers or add compost to ensure your succulents are well-fed.

pH

Peat moss makes an excellent soil component if you want to acidify the soil, thanks to its high content of tannins and humic acid. In fact, Canadian peat moss has a pH range between 3 and 4.5, making it strongly acidic.

3.   Coco Coir

Coco Coir

Although coco coir isn’t a moss plant, it still provides similar properties to the soil, like sphagnum and peat moss.

Here’s a detailed explanation of coco coir and what it does to the soil:

Origin

As the name implies, coco coir comes from coconuts, particularly between the husk and the inner shell. The fruit shells undergo a retting process to obtain the fibrous material.

For those who don’t know, the former process involves cutting and burying coconut shells in soil. There, the microorganisms start dissolving cellular tissues, eventually separating the middle fibrous layer.

Texture

Coir has a bristly, fibrous texture thanks to its high content of lignin and cellulose. The former two fibers make most of the plant’s cell wall and provide structural support.

Plus, those fibers absorb and store water. That explains why coco coir can soak up the water with ease—even better than peat moss.

Nutrients and pH

Coco coir provides a significant amount of potassium and phosphorous. It also contains trace amounts of nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, and iron.

When it comes to pH, coco coir is slightly acidic to neutral, with a pH range of 5.2-6.8.

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Wrapping Up

When thinking about moss for succulents, you only have two options to choose from: sphagnum and peat moss.

The above two soil amendments drain well, retain water, and provide trace amounts of nutrients. You can also use coco coir instead of moss. While the former is a plant by-product, it still possesses similar characteristics to sphagnum and peat moss.

Whichever option you choose, just remember not to add too much of those soil components into the potting mix, as they can hinder succulents’ growth.