Moss planted w/ Bonsai (fertilizer burns/kills moss)

bonsai_moss(zone 5b northE.)March 19, 2005


Anyone else have problems when fetilizing their bonsai trees & the fertilizer kills/burns/browns their moss?


I've used special bonsai fertilizer 10-10-10 slow release pellets, and have also used 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer.........and I always go real easy on the amount, so I know for a fact that I'm not fertilizing my bonsai trees to much.

Obviously the moss thrives and loves to be misted with plain strait water, but when I fertilize my bonsai trees, the beautiful mounds of moss planted in the same pot turn a burnt gold brown color. I always try to avoid the moss, but at times, it's impossible to avoid some of the fertilizer getting into the moss.

I haven't identified the moss, but it is the real small miniature compact mound type you see near alpine level, and grows wild here in zone 5b northeast usa in dirt.

I always make sure that I collect moss from areas that have similar soil to my clay/muck/sandy bonsai soil for easier adjusting. I also only collect moss where it gets good sun exposure - this way I know the moss is sun tollerant, doesn't demand shade, and won't burn in the sun.

I only have problems when the fertilizer gets to close to the mounds of moss.

************Any suggestions? Anyone else experience the same problem?

Thanks so much to all in advance.

David in zone 5 b

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Broken_Pots(z5 IL)

I think this is one of the reasons pro-bonsai-ists with lots of plants put the moss on the 'for display' plants one or two months earlier rather than keep it on all the time. I discovered this little secret from talking to the Bonsai keepers at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Doesn't help those of us who like to grow and display at the same time!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2005 at 3:09PM
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Justine_London(5b-6a On.,Can.)

I'm glad to have seen this posting! I just came inside from surveying my garden and WOW I've got two or three different types of moss growing in my yard, so I am thinking of "bonzai-ing" an outdoors mini-azaelia and I want to put some of my moss in/on the rock I wish to include. Now, since azaelias like it acidic, do you folks think the moss might do better under the acidic conditions? Thanks in advance for any ideas on this query. great, gardening, to, all, Justine

    Bookmark   March 22, 2005 at 1:12PM
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Regarding moss doing better under acidic conditions--depends on the moss. :)

Regarding moss on bonsai... mosses in general tend to do well in low-nutrient situations. So to some extent fertilizer burn in inevitable. I think you can lessen it quite a bit, though, by using mosses that do well with pollution, road runoff, etc. IOW, city mosses. A couple that I know can do well in regularly-fertilized pots are Bryum argenteum and Funaria hygrometrica. Bryum argenteum is also sometimes called "sidewalk moss". If you see a moss growing in the cracks of a sidewalk, it's probably Bryum argenteum. Funaria might be harder to find. The main place I'm familiar with it from is in greenhouses, where it volunteers quite readily in wet sunny areas. It's also on the north sides of some buildings here in Las Cruces. In any case, I'd guess that mosses collected in the city are going to be a much better bet than anything collected out in the wild. If it's growing in the city, you already know it can take some abuse.

Patrick Alexander

    Bookmark   March 22, 2005 at 2:29PM
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bonsai_moss(zone 5b northE.)

Thanks for all the great advise.

Simple fix - I've inserted slow release 10-10-10 bonsai fertilizer pellets into the soil and AWAY from the clumps of moss. So far, for the past 10 days, the moss is doing great, and the fertilizer is reaching my trees that are slowly waking up from their winter nap.

As long as the moss is spread out in clumps with open spaces for pellet fertilizer, everything should be fine. This way the pot won't get saturated with moisture, and the trees roots can breathe and get fertilized.

The type of moss I use doesn't like the grainy bonsai soil, so I've put muck dirt under each clump.

With the cold damp 35 F degree nights, and the warm 50 degree days, my moss is thriving like crazy (as long as I spray-mist it with water every day).

I've collected about 5 square feet from our property.....I found so many new species of moss that I never knew they grew around here.

What I'm doing is using slabs of 24" x 12" slate, and creating micro-environments with some bonsai, driftwood, rocks, various soils, and the most important part - MOSS.

I'll post some pictures in the gallery by this weekend.

David in zone 5 b

    Bookmark   March 30, 2005 at 6:31PM
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Moss is like a filter, capturing soluble salts, etc., as water travels through it. That's how it survives on solid rock! When you apply fertilizers, dilute and finish with a clean flush. Something else to consider is the temperature and growth season of the moss. I have good response to organic fertilizer when the temperature is cool and the moss is growing. When it starts getting warm, no more salt of any kind!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2005 at 8:49PM
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