Buying Preserved Moss: What to Look For

It’s no surprise that preserved moss products are taking the plantscaping industry by storm. Preserved moss sits at the perfect intersection of live and artificial plants. Real plants that need no watering or maintenance? Yes, please. 

While preserved moss brings a new and exciting element to the biophilic design toolkit, it can be challenging to choose the right product. With many new moss products hitting the commercial market, there are a lot of options to choose from. A little research will ensure your moss product is responsibly made and will perform as expected.

Sustainability

Sourcing is a question often overlooked when it comes to moss. Many preserved botanicals are sourced outside of the US. When buying preserved moss, it is often unknown whether the materials are being harvested in a sustainable and responsible way. This is particularly worrisome with slow-growing reindeer moss, which is a critical food source for moose, caribou and musk ox populations in arctic regions. Sustainable harvesting should be done in a patchwork grid with no more than 20 percent picked at a time, and areas should be left to re-grow for 4 to 5 years before being picked again.

Toxicity

Can your moss vendor tell you what chemicals and dyes went into the preservation process? Was the processing done in the US or in the country of origin? Ideally vendors should be using natural preservatives, dyes and adhesives that emit no VOCs. If a vendor claims their product is non-toxic and VOC free, ask for proof. Stuff happens – pets or kids might pick off a piece of moss and eat it. Keep liability low with products that are safe.

Odors

If you’ve worked with preserved moss before, you’ve noticed that it has an odor. Some products are worse than others and can be quite offensive upon unboxing. One vendor told me to spray their moss art frequently with Febreze to improve the smell. Really? Odors should fade quickly and naturally as the botanicals and adhesives cure. Ask your vendor about odor, how long it lasts and whether it has been an issue on any past projects.

UV Protection

UV light fades preserved botanicals over time. Moss and other preserved botanicals should have a coating of UV protectant to keep colors vibrant. Expected lifespan of the materials is something your vendor should know. Look for products with a lifespan of at least 5 years. Or even better – find a product with a warranty so you have recourse if the color fades quickly.

Humidity and Moss

The average annual humidity here in Denver is 36.8% – it’s dry! What does that mean for moss? It depends on what type of moss you are using. 

Lichens like reindeer moss love humidity and will stay soft and supple in environments with humidity above 55%. For dry environments, misting is needed to keep reindeer moss from drying out and becoming brittle. 

Misting can be a hassle and negates the “no maintenance” aspect of preserved moss. Preserved mosses that are not lichens perform best in lower humidity environments (below 50%). Pieces that mix lichens and moss can be challenging to maintain due to the different humidity needs of the botanicals.

Buying preserved moss seems like a home run. It’s easy to design with, installation is simple and it requires little or no maintenance. Preserved moss and related products will continue to become more available as it increases in popularity, and customers depend on plantscaping professionals to choose the right products for resale. When you find the right vendor, build a relationship with them that goes beyond a financial transaction. Your products represent your company, and should reflect your corporate values and mission.

Mehgan Laveck is the owner of Rocky Mountain Living Walls, a biophilic design company based in Fort Collins, CO. Mehgan started RMLW in 2016 after a long career as a project management professional in construction and IT. Green walls are an outlet for her innate creativity and her passion for biophilic design. Mehgan grew up with a strong appreciation for nature, riding horses with her family in the mountains of Asheville, NC. She moved west to pursue graduate studies in theoretical math at Colorado State University and never looked back. These days, you can find her trailblazing in her industry – sharing the benefits of living walls, preserved moss walls and other biophilic design trends

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