Don’t Leave Your Plants Naked! Try These Stylish Dressing Options

I’ve been in this industry for over fifteen years now and I have to say, I’m getting bored with using the same old gray Spanish moss as a top dressing. While there is nothing wrong with covering the exposed soil Spanish moss, there should be more options out there to give our plants the finishing touch.

Here are three stylishly different solutions for hiding dirt.

Reindeer Moss

Reindeer MossI am currently in love with Cladonia rangiferina, better known as reindeer moss. It’s spongy, soft and less costly to use than the traditional Spanish variety. For higher-end containers or dish gardens, my favorite is the lime green tinted moss. It gives the container a pop of color while still being neutral enough not to clash with most interior décor.

If you are looking for something bold, reindeer moss is a great option. It comes in a variety of eye-catching colors such as red, purple, blue or black to fit any creative design.


Another great top dressing alternative is Rockafiller landscaping rocks. Rockafillers, which are actually artificial rocks composed of recycled plastic, are made to mimic the smooth rounded stones found in river beds. They are available in seven natural colors and vary in size. The Rockafiller’s lightness is a huge advantage over the real thing. I’ll take carrying a bag of these babies over river rocks any day.

Rockafiller Bed


Although using natural rocks as a top dressing requires a little more strength, they still create different looks. Besides the popular brown hues of river rock, there are many more types available such as white marble, timberlite or granite.

There is a downside to using rocks as a soil cover. But luckily there is an easy solution. When there is a gap between the growing pot and the decorative container, the rocks can be too small to bridge that gap and instead fall to the bottom. This can be avoided with the use of a foam collar specifically designed to combat this issue. Another option is using a clear, strong adhesive to glue together small sections of rock that span the gap.

Glass Gems & Recycled Glass

For some good drama (besides the love triangle at work), use glass gems. They are uniformly round or oval and can be readily found at the dollar store. I like to stock up on several colors.

Recycled GlassRecycled glass is a similar option. It is available in a few different sizes, shaped like broken rocks and can be ordered in many different colors. If you are creating a large bed of recycled glass, placing a waterproof string of rope lighting under the rock layer will add a whole different dimension of drama. I first used this concept at a popular restaurant. The serene ambiance it added to the dining room had patrons often requesting the tables near the glowing rocks…which unfortunately created one problem. Besides leaving the restaurant full from a good meal, some also left with the “magical rocks” as a souvenir. So if you decide to create a recycled glass top dressing, you may want to add a clear layer of glue to prevent the glass from disappearing.

You can hide a plant’s ugly soil with any material your imagination comes up with, providing it doesn’t melt or collapse with water and isn’t harmful to people or foliage. Taking a clue from the atmosphere you are working with can lead to new ideas. For example, you can use corks at a wine bar, sea shells at an ocean-side hotel or even bright ornaments during the holiday season. The next time you start to pull out that Spanish moss, first take a look around. You might find yourself inspired to start the next big top dressing trend.

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

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