Does Moss Need Soil? Detailed Guide

Moss does not require soil but does need stable support, moisture, and moderate shade to grow.

Moss is a type of plant that is often found in shady, moist areas, and unlike other plants, moss doesn’t use roots to grow and spread. Instead, it has threadlike structures called rhizoids that are used to anchor the plant to its growing surface.

Moss can grow at a tremendous rate and is usually found on things like rocks, roofs, lawns, patios, and even driveways. But, does moss need soil to grow?

NO! because moss is a non-vascular plant it doesn’t need soil to survive! However, that’s not to say you can’t grow moss in the soil, of course, you can! what we are saying is unlike vascular plants that need soil to survive moss does not.

To explain this in more detail let’s first talk about the reasons why moss can grow and survive without soil.

Why Moss Can Grow Without Soil

It’s a common misconception that moss doesn’t need any soil to grow, in reality, moss is perfectly capable of growing in soil, but it can also grow without it. So, why is that?

Well, moss is what’s known as a “bryophyte” which produces enclosed reproductive structures (gametangia and sporangia) and doesn’t produce flowers or have any traditional roots like other plants.

Bryophytes include not only mosses but also liverworts and hornworts as well! However, like plants, that absorb water and nutrients through roots, bryophytes rely on absorption through their leaves by photosynthesis.

This means that bryophytes can exist in habitats where there is very little soil, such as on rocks or tree bark. In addition to not having roots, bryophytes also don’t have seeds.

Instead, it reproduces by spores, which are tiny cells that travel through the air and settle in damp areas. When the conditions are right, the spore will germinate and start to grow into a new plant.

So, as you can see, soil isn’t necessary for moss to grow because of its unique structure and ability to reproduce without seeds. This allows moss to thrive in areas where other plants would quickly die off.

Anchoring Structures

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss

The old adage: A rolling stone does not collect moss; it indicates that moss needs stable and firm support to grow. The reason why it sticks well to rocks, especially porous and calcareous ones, to trunks, and especially to old or dead trunks. It also sticks well to tiles and roof tiles.

When moss grows it uses anchoring structures to climb across rough terrain. These structures have thin root-like growths called rhizoids that look very similar to root hairs of vascular land plants.

These rhizoids can attach to any surface and secrete a sticky substance that helps the moss stay in place. The fact that it doesn’t have a root system is what allows the moss to grow so quickly on vertical surfaces like trees.


There are two types of plants there are vascular and non-vascular. Plants that contain roots are called vascular plants and need to be planted in soil.

Yet, plants that are non-vascular means they have no vascular system and do not need to be planted in soil.

A plant’s vascular system consists of xylem and phloem, non-vascular plants basically lack these particular tissues, and although moss may appear to be a weed it’s actually classed as a non-vascular plant.

Vascular plants are also known for bearing flowers, green leaves, stems, roots, and branches. Yet, Non-vascular plants do not have these features and are mostly non-flowering plants like mosses, liverworts, or hornworts.

Can You Put Moss On Top Of Soil?

Moss can grow all over the place and this includes lawns! and as we know lawns are basically soil with grass yet moss is able to reproduce and grow simply by just laying on top of the grass.

So can you put moss on top of the soil? Yes, you can! in the same way, moss is able to grow on grass, “but again” the conditions need to be right.

Just remember that moss has no roots so there is no need to plant it. As long as the conditions are suitable moss will have no problem growing.

What Soil Is Best For Moss?

Moss prefers acidic soil, specific soil with an acidity of around 5 – 6 pH

When it comes to growing moss, the type of soil you use is not the most crucial factor. Instead, the surrounding conditions play a more important role in moss growth. Ideal conditions for moss growth are those that are damp and slightly shaded.

Too much moisture or too much shade can harm the growth of moss. Regarding soil preference, moss prefers acidic soil with a pH level of around 5-6. This is important to remember if you want to grow moss in a specific area, as adjusting the soil’s acidity level may be necessary for optimal growth

Does moss need drainage?

Moss is a type of vegetation that can grow in a variety of soil conditions. It is adaptable to both well-drained soils and soils that are consistently moist. Well-drained soils allow excess water to flow away, providing the ideal conditions for moss to grow and flourish. On the other hand, moist but poorly drained soils can interfere with grass growth, as the standing water can limit the roots of grass plants. This creates a void in the soil, which is then filled by moss growth. This implies that poor drainage can create favorable conditions for moss growth, leading to an increase in moss coverage in the landscape.

(source: Rutgers)

Final Thoughts

In the end, if your thinking about growing your own moss your better off just simply placing it in a damp area and letting nature do its work.

The best place to get moss (if you don’t have any) are usually in the Forrest and because moss has spores all you need to do is take a small patch, and place it in your garden, (again anyway that’s damp) and wait.

The best time to grow your moss is in the early spring when the ground conditions are still wet. trying this in the summer heat will be more challenging.

If you want to know more about moss don’t forget to check out our other article where we go into more detail, you can do this at the navigation menu top of this page.

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