Have you ever seen how stunning Spanish moss is? The mesmerizing thing about this epiphyte is how it can grow in large masses, resembling a tremendous beard. If you are a beginner gardener, you may think that this is technically a type of moss, given it has vascular tissue and can grow to significantly large sizes.
The interesting fact is that because it is an epiphyte, it doesn’t have a root or any attachment to the ground – Spanish moss grows upon other plants. And although it is not the only plant that does this, it surely has something unique about it.
With its dense grey-coloured clump and rootless foliage that freely dangles down from the trees onto which this air plant, Spanish moss is a stunning clinger. Whether it grows on old trees or dead ones, the Tillandsia usneoides plant thrives nonetheless. It only needs to get the necessary shade and humidity from that tree.
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You might be wondering what rootless means. Rootless plants don’t have an attachment to the ground and any type of soil, and as is the case with Spanish moss, their roots attach themselves to the chosen tree’s branches or trunk. An essential and noteworthy mention is that the Spanish moss or ‘old man’s beard, as it is also known, is the fact that it is unable to parasitize the tree on which it is attached.
This means that the Spanish moss will not at any point use the tree’s nutrients or harm it in any way. It simply uses it as a host, without needing anything from it to survive, other than shade and the humidity created. Is this a fascinating aspect of Spanish moss? We surely think so!
This stunning plant can grow as long as almost 20 feet (6 meters). But don’t feel intimidated by this! Spanish moss can have a smaller length, and it can actually be a fantastic houseplant. Or, if you have a significantly large garden in your front or backyard, you can allow it to grow more.
It will surely catch anyone’s eye, either way. What’s more, taking care of Tillandsia usneoides is not too challenging. As an air plant, you don’t have to plant it in any particular soil. Whether grown indoors or outdoors, you must ensure it receives indirect lighting. But more on how to plant and grow it later in the article.
If you are thinking about adding Spanish moss to your houseplant collection or garden, you cannot go wrong with this decision. It is easy to maintain, and its weeping leaves of a green silver tone will undoubtedly add something unique to the entire aesthetic you have created so far.
Keep reading to discover more about this fascinating plant, known as Spanish moss, long moss, old man’s beard or wool crepe.
Quick Facts Table
|Epiphytic plant (air plant)
|Spanish beard, Old Man’s Beard, long moss, agavepalo, hay, wool crepe, itla-okla (tree hair)
|Mexico, Argentina, southern Chile, Caribbean, Virginia to Texas
|Dense grey clump that dangles from trees
|Relationship with Trees
|Non-parasitic; uses tree only for support
|Up to 20 feet (6 meters)
|Requires indirect lighting, humid environment
|Splitting or cutting a festoon and rehanging it
|Pelegrina tillandsia (spider), boll weevils, spider mites, chiggers
|Usage in History
|Used as upholstery stuffing, for bedding and clothing, and in Voodoo dolls
|Despite its name, it is native to the American continent and got its name from French explorers
|Bromeliaceae (Same as pineapples and succulents)
|Does not require soil; grows in the air
About Spanish Moss
- The Spanish moss – better defined as an air plant – is actually a bromeliad and it is part of the same family as pineapples and succulents: Bromeliaceae.
- Despite it being known as “Spanish moss”, the plant is native to the American continent and not Spain. This is an understandable and common misconception for anyone who hears of this air plant for the first time.
- Spanish moss has many other names, so it isn’t just generally known as Spanish moss. Many people refer to it as Spanish beard, Old Man’s Beard, black or long moss, agavepalo, hay, or wool crepe. The indigenous name for Spanish Moss is ‘itla-okla’ which translates to ‘tree hair’. So, if you see any of these names, you will know that it is another way of saying Spanish moss.
- It is said that the plant got the name of Spanish moss, despite not being native to Spain, thanks to French explorers who compared the plant’s appearance to the conquistadors’ remarkable beards. This explains another common name for this plant – the Spanish beard.
- Spanish moss grows natively in Mexico, Argentina southern Chile, the Caribbean, but also along the coast from Virginia to Texas. Because it is an adaptable and versatile plant, it has also been introduced to Australia and Hawaii.
- Another place where you can admire Spanish moss is along the coast in Georgia, where this mesmerizing plant can be found hanging from trees, bushes, and all sorts of structures.
- Spanish moss or Tillandsia usneoides is an epiphytic plant, which means it is an air plant. Because of this, the tree onto which this plant attaches is never harmed in any way, as the Spanish moss doesn’t steal any resources. So, it isn’t a parasitic plant. However, too much Spanish moss on a living tree might reduce the amount of light its host receives, but this issue can easily be solved by rearranging or pruning the moss.
- Tillandsia plant family consists of more than 500 species, with the Spanish moss being one of its members.
- Given its dense and sort of tangled leaves, the Spanish moss can be effectively used as stuffing for upholstery in pieces of furniture like beds, armchairs or car seats.
- As mentioned above, Spanish moss had many practical uses, most of them being quite common up until the 1960s. This plant was often used by Native Americans to make comfortable bedding and to make clothes. Spanish moss was a great stuffing alternative to wool because it wasn’t attractive to moths. Its popularity was reduced when synthetic fibres were introduced.
- Interestingly, Spanish moss was used for some less peaceful objects such as fire arrows and as Voodoo doll stuffing.
- In nature, Spanish Moss is an excellent nesting material for many types of birds such as Warblers and Baltimore Orioles. Seminole bats and other species of Florida bats use Spanish Moss as shelter as well as rat snakes. Although the idea of finding bats in your Spanish Moss might seem frightening, you shouldn’t worry about them too much because bats are actually important members of the ecosystem. They are natural pest controllers and they can eat huge amounts of mosquitoes, which are truly annoying pests.
- The ideal types of environments for Spanish Moss include mangroves, rainforests, swamps, and near waterways. This makes Spanish Moss an ideal plant for bog gardens and pond gardens.
- Good companion plants for Spanish moss include ferns, azaleas, hostas, liriope, blue-eyed grass, and pretty much all shade-loving plants, trailing plants, and pond plants that thrive in similar environments.
Spanish Moss Features: An Overview
- This plant’s appearance cannot be mistaken with any other plant grown in home gardens or houseplant collections, given its weeping foliage of a silver-grey colour.
- The Spanish moss blooms in late spring or autumn. The blooms have a yellow-green or pale blue shade and produce a specific scent.
- The tiny blooms of Spanish moss produce seedpods that turn brown as they mature. These seedpods contain tiny seeds that function quite similarly to dandelion seeds. When the seedpods open, the seeds travel through the air and attach themselves to suitable hosts.
- The leaves of Tillandsia usneoides have an elongated shape and a natural tendency to grow together and curl until the foliage appears tangled. Because the plant’s leaves grow in abundance, forming a full and dense aesthetic, the light just barely comes through them. So, having Spanish moss in your garden will undoubtedly create enchanted and unique scenery.
- The foliage of Spanish Moss is covered with minuscule grey scales that store water until the plant is able to absorb it. The tissue of Spanish moss can store an impressive amount of water that will help the plant survive droughts. After rain or after being watered, the tissues of Spanish moss plump up and the plant seems more green. As the water is being absorbed and used by the plant, the colour starts to change to a silvery grey.
- The Spanish moss doesn’t technically have roots, so this plant doesn’t require soil, and it doesn’t have to be planted in a pot or directly into the ground in the garden. It leaves and grows on air.
- Spanish moss does best in bright yet indirect light, and it relies on raindrops and the humidity in the air when grown naturally. Its length can reach as much as 20 feet (6 m).
- When buying Spanish moss from nurseries and other sources, it is very important to check whether the plant is truly alive. Healthy Spanish moss is silver-green, while unhealthy plants can be brownish or silver-grey.
- Spanish moss is a non-toxic plant, so you can grow it safely anywhere. It doesn’t make good livestock food because it has very little nutritional value, but it can be beneficial to many animals.
Growing Spanish Moss
If you are a beginner gardener, you may ask yourself at this point how to effectively grow Spanish moss if the plant doesn’t require soil. The answer is easy – you can help this plant grow on itself. This means to provide the plant with something to grow on.
If you want to grow Tillandsia usneoides indoors, it will need just about any type of structure to grow successfully. If you have a patio, its overhand is an excellent option. But if you want to grow Spanish moss in your garden, it will thrive on a tree or shrub. If you cannot provide this, then a fence or trellis is also a good alternative for growing this stunning epiphytic Bromeliad.
It is important to mention that Spanish moss can be quite sensitive to air pollution. Expert gardeners advise that these plants won’t grow in places with major pollution. Another important aspect to consider when growing Spanish moss is that this plant thrives in humid conditions, so you can try to grow it in a bathroom or a kitchen.
- Preserved Spanish Moss: Ideal for covering soil or dressing container plants, bulbs and orchids, this Spanish Moss also makes a great natural fill for gift baskets
- Many Uses: Washed and cleaned to remove dust and small particles, this moss is ideal for planter liners, plantable birdhouses, wreaths, and as a soil topper or potting medium
- Home and Garden: We carry a wide array of natural mosses and lichens including Spanish, sphagnum, reindeer and mountain moss, sheet moss and moss balls; Perfect for florals, decorative baskets, gardens, houseplants, terrarium habitats, and more
- Sustainably Sourced: Our products are sustainably procured and never toxic; We take great care to partner only with companies that make environmental responsibility a priority
- Natural Elegance: Whether you're bringing new life to your living space, enriching your garden for spring, or designing a centerpiece for a special occasion, it all starts with heart
- Best Material: Royal Imports dried moss is Naturally Preserved to maintain its fresh appearance. This natural Spanish moss contains best extra- long, plump fibers to enhance any garden, pot or craft project. The cohesive and hairy fibers are durable to withstand repeated watering yet still keeps that natural look alive.
- Top Picks: This preserved moss has undergone an intense process of thorough washing and cleaning in order to remove dust and small particles from within. This unique attribute makes our moss the cleanest, safest and easiest to work with.
- Uses: Royal Imports natural brown moss is very popular with fresh flower arrangements as well as silk or dried floral designs. It is also commonly used to cover soil in gardens and house plants.
- Trends: Preserved moss is ideal for lining baskets and covering window boxes. It adds a pretty touch when used with orchid plants and succulent terrariums. It is also great for decorating a garden party and adds a finishing touch to any craft projects.
- Features: This box of preserved natural Spanish moss comes packed in a bulk case of approximately 3-3.5 LBs of plump hairy moss. It would cover a flat area of approximately 25 square feet.
- Long-lasting Preserved Moss!
- Beautiful long strands of Spanish Moss
- Washed and Cleaned to Remove Dust and Small Particles
- Ideal for Covering Soil and Dressing Potted Plants
- Great for Special Events, Home Decor and Craft Projects
Last update on 2024-01-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Planting Spanish Moss
As mentioned earlier, Spanish moss cannot be planted like many other plants. Due to it being an epiphytic plant, meaning it doesn’t require soil to grow, planting Spanish moss can be considered unusual. This happens because this plant doesn’t need soil but good airflow.
Spanish moss is an epiphytic plant that prefers to grow on older trees instead of young ones. This might sound quite surprising and there is a good reason for it. The main sources of nourishment for Spanis Moss consist of dust and moisture that is present in the air.
As a result, a mature tree or an old one will be shedding dead cells making them ideal hosts for Spanish moss. Spanish moss prefers to grow on bald cypress and oaks, but it will grow on pretty much any type of tree if the conditions are right.
So, if you decide to plant Spanish moss – which essentially means to provide something to grow on, ideally a tree – you should keep in mind that you may need to prune it from time to time. You can do so by cutting off the ends. A noteworthy mention would be to do this rarely and not cut too much. You only do this to encourage more rapid growth.
In terms of lighting needs, Spanish Moss will thrive if you grow it near a window with bright indirect light. This plant grows natively in rainforests and in the forest understory where it doesn’t normally get a lot of direct light, so it won’t appreciate too much direct light.
Watering Spanish Moss
When Spanish moss grows naturally, latching onto trees to let its weeping foliage dangle down, the plant grows on air alone, not needing to take root, and takes its necessary water intake from rainfall or humidity in the air. But when grown indoors or in a private garden, its natural water sources may not be enough. In this case, you need to water it quite regularly, but not too much or for too long.
Unlike other bromeliads, which prefer more watering, the Spanish moss doesn’t need as much. So, Spanish moss should especially be watered when it is completely dry. You can soak it from the top with a hose, or you can dunk it in a bowl of room temperature water. This ensures your Spanish Moss receives the humidity it requires, but you should avoid doing this if the temperatures are low and the plant might stay wet for too long.
Regular misting is also a good approach when it comes to Spanish moss and, you can also add a diluted liquid fertilizer to add some nutrients. To make sure that misting was effective, make sure drops of water start to form at the end of the foliage.
In general, Spanish Moss is considered a very resilient plant that can go up to two months without water. This means that you don’t have to worry about your moss when you go on vacation. However, you shouldn’t keep it dry for too long. Underwatered Spanish moss will turn grey or brown, and when this happens, it might be too late to save it.
Propagating Spanish Moss
Propagation of the Spanish moss is, in fact, not a complex action. Shortly put, you can easily do so by splitting or cutting a piece of a branch, commonly referred to as a festoon, from the Spanish moss plant currently grown. Then, you simply re-hang it, helping the plant attach to the support chosen. In the wild, festoons are carried by birds and used as nesting material but they continue to grow and become full plants.
So, propagating Spanish moss is not at all a complicated action. Once you do the aforementioned method, the separated strand of this air plan will grow, forming new dense foliage, provided it has the same needed conditions you offered to your current Spanish moss.
Spanish Moss Pests and Diseases
Talking about pests and diseases is never fun but it is very useful. Spanish moss isn’t a sensitive plant and it doesn’t really have any natural predators. It is, however, a great home for all sorts of wildlife.
Pelegrina tillandsia is a spider that lives in Spanish moss and, although it might look a bit scary, it is not dangerous to humans. Boll weevils, spider mites, and chiggers are other examples of insects that might find Spanish moss quite attractive.
Some historians think that the popular saying ‘don’t let the bedbugs bight’ might be associated with the use of Spanish moss as stuffing. But, botanists aren’t convinced and according to them, Spanish moss isn’t particularly attractive to bed bugs, but only to Pelegrina tillandsia, which is a hopping spider.
So, with or without bedbugs, if you are growing Spanish moss indoors and wish to ensure that no insects will inhabit it, you can apply organic insecticidal sprays.
The Spanish moss that falls on the ground will attract frogs, and many birds will use strands of Spanish moss to create nests. This might be a bit of an issue when you want to start growing Spanish moss in your garden because birds might be tempted to steal it. But overall, Spanish moss is a pest-resistant and disease-free plant that won’t require too much effort on your part.
Who wouldn’t want to grow Spanish moss in their gardens? Whether outside or as an addition to your houseplant collection, Tillandsia usneoides or Spanish beard, will look stunning. There is no doubt that this plant has the ability to turn heads, even though it isn’t necessarily a plant that requires much attention or has too many growing requirements.
The Spanish moss can be a statement plant with its silver-coloured weeping leaves that attach to tree branches and trunks. It gives almost a medieval rather dramatic aesthetic, so this alone is an eye-catcher.
The fact that the Spanish moss is a low-maintenance air plant that doesn’t harm the tree it attaches to or weight down its branch makes it such an ideal option for your garden. Not to mention you can also add it to your houseplant collection. However, in this case, its size will be significantly smaller. Either way, the Spanish moss can – and will – still have an impact. You will surely love seeing its weeping silver-grey foliage dangling down.
Have you started your journey with Spanish moss? Tell us more about this in the comments!
Spanish Moss FAQS
What causes Spanish moss to grow on trees?
Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is an epiphytic bromeliad, which means it grows upon other plants, typically trees, for physical support. It doesn’t derive nutrients from the trees but rather from airborne dust, rainwater, and debris. The reason it grows on trees is to gain access to better sunlight and air circulation, which it requires to thrive.
Can you grow Spanish moss in the UK?
Yes, Spanish moss can be grown in the UK, but it would likely need to be indoors or in a greenhouse, especially during colder months. The UK’s climate can be too cold and wet for Spanish moss, which prefers a more humid and temperate to warm environment. If growing outdoors during the warmer months, ensure it’s in a sheltered area with indirect sunlight.
Is Spanish moss easy to grow?
Yes, Spanish moss is relatively easy to grow, provided you give it the right conditions. It requires indirect sunlight, good air circulation, and a humid environment. It doesn’t need soil, as it absorbs nutrients and water from the air. Regular misting can help it thrive, especially in drier conditions.
Where does Spanish moss grow?
Native to the southeastern United States, Central America, and South America, Spanish moss is commonly found draped over trees in humid environments, especially oak and cypress trees. It’s often seen in swamps, coastal plains, and other wetland areas.
Does Spanish moss grow in Europe?
Spanish moss is not native to Europe. However, it can be grown there, especially in controlled environments like greenhouses. Some enthusiasts might cultivate it in their gardens or homes, but it’s not widespread in European forests or natural landscapes.
Is Spanish moss good for anything?
Absolutely! Spanish moss has been used for various purposes over the years:
- Crafting and Decor: It’s often used in floral arrangements, wreaths, and other crafts due to its unique appearance.
- Mulch: When dried, it can act as a mulch for gardens.
- Bedding: Historically, it has been used as stuffing for mattresses and furniture. However, if used in this way, it should be processed correctly to remove any pests.
- Wildlife: It provides shelter for various small creatures, including spiders, bats, and snakes. Several bird species also use Spanish moss for nesting material.
- Medicinal uses: Some traditional cultures have used Spanish moss for its medicinal properties, although scientific backing for such uses is limited.