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Sphagnum Moss

Sphagnum Moss: A Nepenthes Best Friend!

There’s nothing quite like the sight of healthy sphagnum moss covering the benches in a Nepenthes greenhouse! The fluffy mounds of bright green contrasts beautifully with all the colorful pitchers popping out. The pots eventually become engulfed, making it feel like you’re in a jungle!

We can’t imagine life without sphagnum moss! It’s definitely one of our favorite things EVER! Not only does it look pretty, but Nepenthes love growing in it and it’s a great indicator of your conditions. Usually, if the moss is happy so are the Neps:)

Nepenthes growing with sphagnum moss at Redleaf Exotics.
Sphagnum covering our benches.
Red Sphagnum moss growing with Nepenthes at Redleaf Exotics.
A colorful mixture of sphagnum moss at our nursery.

WHAT IS IT?

Pronounced sfag-num, it’s a genus of moss consisting of around 380 species and produces distinct branching stems that range in color from lime green to deep red. It has a wide distribution across the northern hemisphere and some parts of the southern hemisphere. When it breaks down it forms peat moss, which can be found in almost many garden centers as a soil amendment.

Sphagnum moss growing at Redleaf Exotics.
A close up of the branching stems.

THE BENEFITS OF GROWING IT.

1) Sphagnum is a great indicator for how prime your conditions are. If the moss is healthy, compact and showing good color, this is a sign that your water is healthy and light levels are bright enough.

2) It holds a ton of water! It keeps humidity around the Nepenthes and acts as a buffer for the grow environment. The more moss, the higher the humidity. If you see the tips turning white, it’s time to mist or water it because the air may be too dry.

3) Sphagnum moss dislikes water high in salts and minerals. It will certainly let you know if your water has nasty stuff in it! It will quickly decline if there are significant levels of contaminants like chlorine and heavy metals in your water . Although Neps can handle a little hard water, they really grow their best with distilled or RO water. If the moss starts going down hill, check your water!

4) IT’S BEAUTIFUL! Healthy sphagnum mounds are a jaw-dropping sight and it’s sure to get those serotonin levels jumping! Even in small pots, a light dressing of sphagnum makes the Neps stand out and adds to the beauty of your specimens.

tropical pitcher plants growing with sphagnum moss.
Sphagnum moss growing on our benches.

LET THERE BE LIGHT!

This is key to compact mounds with great color. If the light is not strong enough, it will grow lanky and usually become dark green in color. The red types will blush a beautiful bronze color in strong light. For indoor growers, growing with LED lights tends to bring out the deeper reds in the more colorful species. Usually 6-8hours of bright light does the job. In summer, we use 70% shade cloth to cover our greenhouse. This keeps things bright and cool.

Nepenthes at Redleaf Exoitcs.

Water is the most important element for prime growth and overall health. Sphagnum likes consistent moisture. We water our greenhouse every morning and use misting to keep it moist at all times. It’s only WET right after watering and too much water can cause algae and slime mold to grow, especially if the light isn’t strong enough.

Pure water!

TD- READER
A TDS probe. TDS stands for total dissolved solids and refers to the amount of salts and minerals in a solution, usually water. It’s measured by PPM or parts per million.

We use an RO unit to purify our water. Our PPM is usually around between 6-14 on normal waterings. Personally, we don’t like it to go above 50ppm. We change our RO filters once it rises above 30ppm. To check our purity, we use a TDS reader. It’s a simple hand held device you probe into your water source and it gives you an instant reading. There’s even a chart on the back that shows the water ratings.

Whether you’re using tap or RO water, it’s essential that you test your water! Pure water will keep your Sphagnum moss smiling and lush!

TDS-reader-for-Nepenthes
TDS reader chart from HM Digital.

AIR CIRCULATION

One of the most overlooked things when growing plants is the air circulation. Because sphagnum holds a lot of water, it can quickly grow mold and fungus if there isn’t enough air movement. We use circulation fans and large exhaust fans to move our air. Everyones conditions are different and the key is as much airflow as possible without lowering the humidity and drying things out.

TEMPERATURE

Sphagnum can survive in temperatures ranging from 55 – 85 degrees fahrenheit. We’ve noticed that it obtains more color and compactness in cooler temperatures. Above all, It grows just as good in our lowland greenhouse as it does in the highland.

Sphagnum-Nepenthes
Sphagnum loves growing in hanging baskets where air circulation, misting and light are prime.

FERTILIZING… TO MENTION OR NOT TO MENTION.

Sphagnum and Neps can grow well without fertilizer, but they definitely shine when it’s done correctly. Fertilizing is a touchy subject when it comes to growing Nepenthes and Sphagnum. It’s important to study up and get very familiarized before attempting to fertilize. We will touch lightly on what we do here at Redleaf Exotics.

First of all, running and dowsing your Sphagnum and Neps with fertilizer can cause more harm than good! Take it slow and experiment. During our growing season, Sphagnum seems to love a bi-weekly application of Maxsea at 70PPM. Once the darker winter months approach, we hold off until the longer spring days return.

We fertilize directly into the soil and the following day we make sure to flush the pots completely so that the water drains straight out the bottom. This gets rid of any left over nutrients that can otherwise build up and harm your moss and Neps.

BE CAREFUL AND TAKE IT SLOW! LESS IS MORE IN THIS CASE.