Moss isn’t just unsightly. It indicates a problem with your soil and can stunt the growth of smaller plants. To learn how to get rid of moss in my plant pots, I did some research. Here’s what I found out.
You can get rid of moss in plant pots by removing them physically or letting them burn in the heat of the sun. You can also use some organic or chemical moss killers to get rid of the moss. You can prevent the moss from regrowing by keeping the soil free from dampness.
How Do I Get Rid of Moss in My Potted Plants?
Moss is an interesting pest that many gardeners have to deal with. Contrary to popular belief, moss is not a type of mold or fungus. It’s a non-vascular and flowerless plant.
It’s a relatively uncomplicated type of vegetation. But, it has a knack for growing in some weird places. Moss doesn’t have a deep root system like other plants. As a result, it can spread just about anywhere.
You might find it growing on the side of your house, on your roof, and all over your pots.
All it needs is a cool, moist, and dark place to thrive.
The best way to get rid of moss is by addressing the underlying root cause of its growth. We’ll get into that in a bit.
For now, let’s look at some ways to get rid of existing moss infestations.
The easiest and most obvious solution is to physically remove the moss by hand. While this might seem like it would be a difficult task, it’s easier than you think.
You see, moss does not have traditional roots like the plants you’re familiar with. Instead, it has tiny growths called rhizoids. The rhizoids act like roots. They can collect water and deliver nutrients to the moss.
However, the rhizoids are so fine that they barely penetrate the soil. In fact, moss that grows on the side of pots is so delicate it falls off with just a bit of agitation.
To remove the moss, use your hand to lift off sections. If it’s growing on the soil or around the plant, use a gentle hand. The moss shouldn’t affect the plant, but you don’t want to cause any undue stress.
For moss that’s growing on the sides of the pot, you can use a brush or small scraper. A brush can ensure that you’re getting every last bit of root and reduce the likelihood of regrowth.
Killing the Moss
Once you remove the moss, there’s a good chance that it’ll grow back. Moss forms from spores that easily spread with the wind. Physical removal is not going to do anything to get rid of those spores.
Luckily, you can kill the moss to reduce regrowth. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is by exposing the moss to its natural enemies: heat and sun.
Moss thrives in the cool shade. If you can, consider moving the pot to direct sunlight. Make sure that your plant can handle it before you do this.
The sun and heat will inhibit growth, making your moss problem a thing of the past.
Your second choice is to use a moss killer. Moss killers can work in several ways. Some will kill the spores that result in growth. Others will deprive the moss of moisture, causing it to dry up and die.
Either way, moss killers are highly effective.
What are the Different Moss Killer Options?
If you’re wanting to go the moss killer route, you have a couple of different options. Like pesticides and fungicides, applying a moss killer can be a delicate job.
The last thing you want to do is harm your plant. So, you’ll have to consider the health of your plants and how the solution will affect them. Generally, you can split moss killer products into two categories: organic and chemical.
Organic moss killers are generally quite safe for you and your plants. Whether you make your own solution or buy one at the store, you should be able to apply them to all of your potted plants without any issues. This includes herbs or crop plants.
An organic moss solution works a lot like herbicides. They contain ingredients that occur in nature. That means no lab-made chemicals.
Once applied to the moss, it will disrupt the biological processes it needs to grow. It damages the cell walls, causing the moss to lose moisture and die off.
There are many organic solutions out there. Some will utilize salts to draw out water while others will use natural acids.
While effective, you do have to worry about how you apply organic moss killers. These products can be non-selective. If you’re not careful, it could harm any plants in the pot as well.
Chemical moss killers are very effective. But, they’re not appropriate for plants that contain vegetable or herb gardens. They will, however, get rid of moss in flower beds.
There are tons of products on the market that you can use. Each one will tackle your moss problem differently.
Some solutions might contain FeSO4, also known as ferrous sulfate. When diluted with water, the sulfate will strip the moss of its nutrients. The moss will turn brown and slowly die off.
Many big-name products contain zinc sulfate monohydrate. This chemical is usually the solution for roofs and decks. If you apply it correctly it won’t harm your plants.
But don’t overdo it. Too much zinc can be toxic for plants, resulting in stunted growth. Runoff can also cause some environmental issues.
If you have a pot that’s supposed to have thick vegetation, you could use a moss killer with ammonia sulphate. This chemical is most appropriate with lawns, as it promotes the growth of the target plant to deprive the moss.
Finally, there’s glyphosate. A common ingredient in weedkillers, glyphosate is a hit or miss. Sometimes it works on moss. But other times it’s ineffective.
Use glyphosate-based moss killers as your last resort.
How Do You Make Homemade Moss Killer?
Before you run out and buy a moss killer product at your local garden center, there are some homemade solutions you can try.
The following solutions are easy to make and use ingredients you probably have lying around your house. Plus, they’re safe.
Baking Soda Formula
Sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda as you might know it, can dry out moss to kill it off. It’s a short-term answer to your moss problem. But, you can use it as often as you need.
Baking soda is safe for plants. You can sprinkle it on your potted plants as is. However, a sticky spray solution will give you more control over how you apply it.
To make this formula, you’ll need:
- 1 tablespoon of baking soda
- 1 gallon of water
- 2 tablespoons of oil (olive or canola works best)
- A quarter of a teaspoon of natural castile soap
Mix all of these ingredients together in a spray bottle. Shake the bottle frequently to ensure that the ingredients don’t separate.
You can spray the moss down or even apply it to the plant’s foliage.
Dish Soap Formula
Believe it or not, dish soap does a fantastic job of eradicating moss.
Be careful about the type of soap you use here. Traditional detergents have fragrances and other chemicals that could potentially harm your plants. To be on the safe side, stick to all-natural soaps.
Castile soap, for example, won’t harm your plants. It’s a vegetable-based soap that’s chemical-free and biodegradable.
All you need is about 1 gallon of water and about 4 tablespoons of soap.
Create your soapy mixture and apply it to your pot to kill the moss.
Vinegar and Salt Formula
This formula utilizes several ingredients to effectively kill moss. Vinegar and salt are the two biggest components here.
The salt and vinegar will burn the moss plant. Once again, exercise caution here. Vinegar and salt don’t discriminate, so you can easily harm the plants in your pot if you’re overzealous with the application.
For this formula, you’ll need:
- 1 gallon of water
- 1 tablespoon of vinegar
- 1 pound of salt
- About 4 tablespoons of castile soap
There’s no exact amount for the soap. You can add as much as you want as long as it does not exceed 20 percent of the finished mixture.
The soap will help the mixture cling to the moss, which may help kill it faster.
Why is Moss Growing in My Potted Plants?
Moss grows in potted plants for the same reason it grows anywhere else. It has the opportunity and the right conditions to flourish.
As I mentioned earlier, moss thrives in cool shady areas. It’s also a sign that there’s something wrong with the soil.
Usually, well-prepared soil will have no problem draining water. It can easily get rid of excess moisture to stay relatively dry. Problems pop up when the soil is unable to drain adequately.
Ever wonder why moss grows on pavers or sidewalks? It’s because those surfaces do not drain water. The water just sits on top of the surface until it evaporates, creating the perfect environment for moss to spread.
Once those moss spore capsules make their way to a waterlogged surface, they’ll quickly grow.
The same thing can happen in your potted plants. Usually, moss affects compacted soil that doesn’t drain properly. The soil might lack aeration or have higher concentrations of clay that prevent water from seeping through.
It’s common to see moss in infertile soils, too. Moss thrives in acidic environments with a lower pH balance. It can still grow in alkaline soils. But, it will spread faster when things are more on the acidic side.
The reason for this comes down to how plants absorb nutrients. In acidic soils, the bacteria that decompose organic matter becomes less active. As a result, organic matter starts to accumulate and bind nutrients that your plants can’t take advantage of.
The nutrient that accumulates most? That would be nitrogen. The higher the nitrogen content, the greater the soil acidification.
Like all plants, moss needs nitrogen to grow. The issue with acidic soil is that your plants aren’t absorbing the nitrogen as much as they should. So, moss can use it instead and take over.
Is Moss Bad for Potted Plants?
Moss can be an eyesore. Once it starts growing on your pots, it can take over and cover your entire container garden.
But, is it really all that bad for your plants?
This may come as a surprise, but moss isn’t always a bad thing. Moss is an opportunistic plant, but it’s not aggressive.
Despite what some gardeners think, it’s not like traditional weeds. It doesn’t harm established plants at all.
Moss can actually benefit your garden in some situations. It’s often the first type of plant to grow in rocky conditions. Over time, it may break up the soil and improve its fertility.
Not only that, but moss works wonders to prevent soil erosion. Those tiny root-like rhizoids hold onto soil particles and keep them in place.
The only real issue with moss comes with small or young plants. If you’re growing seedlings, moss can easily smother your baby plants.
But even then, the moss doesn’t kill the plant as a weed would. Because moss lacks roots, it can’t steal nutrients and deprive your plants of all the good stuff in the soil. Instead, it blocks sun exposure and overcrowds the pot.
Ultimately, moss is more of a cosmetic issue than anything else. It’s not a huge issue for your plants, but that doesn’t mean that you have to let it grow. You’re free to remove it as you want.
Remember, moss is usually the product of poor soil conditions in your garden. Use it as a sign that the environment is not conducive to your plants and make the necessary changes to improve your container garden.
When is the Best Time to Get Rid of Moss?
You can treat moss at any time to get rid of it. But, if you want to make sure that it doesn’t come back, timing is everything.
The lifecycle of moss is very unique. The plant produces sporophytes, which then develop capsules. These capsules are very tiny, but they play a major role in the spread of moss.
The capsule is responsible for producing spores, which are the equivalent to seeds in a flowering plant. Once the capsule dries up, it opens up to release the spores into the world.
This is how moss ends up in strange places. The moment those spores settle in a moist spot, a brand-new growth cycle will commence.
The trick to getting rid of moss around your property is to kill it before it has a chance to release the spores.
Usually, this happens later in the year. Most moss plants will mature and spread their spores sometime around the autumn or winter season.
So, the best time to kill the moss is when it’s actively growing. Get rid of the moss early in the year when it’s still relatively cool to ensure that the moss hasn’t reached the reproduction phase just yet.
Of course, you can kill moss any time you find it. You don’t have to wait to address the problem.
Moss can live up to 10 years depending on the species. It’ll continue releasing spores year after year, so don’t wait to get rid of any established moss you see.
It’s also important to get rid of the dead moss after you kill it. Not all mosses will die right away just because they don’t have moisture.
Some species will simply go dormant until they have the opportunity to rehydrate. These hard-to-kill mosses need physical removal to ensure that they don’t come back.
How Do You Stop Moss From Growing?
Thanks to the way that moss reproduces, there’s a good chance that it will come back. It’s very difficult to get rid of moss permanently. However, you can take steps to stop moss from growing.
To do that, you’ll have to eliminate all of the environmental factors that moss loves.
Raise pH Balance
Moss can grow in just about any soil. But, it prefers acidic soils.
By raising the pH balance of your soil, you might be able to stop or slow down the growth of moss. To do this, you’ll have to amend the soil with some additives.
Wood ash and limestone are a great way to safely raise the pH level. Test the soil frequently and give it time. Effective pH changes can take years to accomplish. But, the results will be worth it.
Improve Soil Quality
If soil compaction is to blame for your moss problem, you can easily fix the problem.
Soil aeration is simple. All you have to do is work the soil a bit with a shovel. You can even use your hand. The goal here is to make the soil looser so that air and water flow through more efficiently.
Clean the Pot
For particularly troublesome moss issues, you may want to give the pot a good cleaning. Terracotta pots are usually very porous. Moss spores can easily hide in those pores to produce new growth later.
Remove the plant and the soil before you start cleaning. Then, use a simple vinegar solution to clean the pot thoroughly.
If you want to go the extra mile, you can use bleach or other sanitizing solutions. Just make sure to rinse the pot out thoroughly before adding another plant.
Treat with Moss Killer Regularly
Sometimes, the best way to stop moss from growing is by killing it every time it starts taking hold.
You can apply a moss killer even if you don’t see noticeable growth. It can take care of spores before they have the opportunity to start developing into a new plant.
To be on the safe side, stick with organic moss killers if you plan on doing frequent treatments.
Here are some of my favorite container gardening tools
Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helps you with your gardening needs. I’ve listed some tools below that can help you with container gardening. These are affiliate links so I’ll earn a commission if you use them.
Gardening Gloves – I find the Pine Tree Tools Bamboo Gardening Gloves really good for both men and women. It’s made from bamboo so helps absorb perspiration. They are also comfortable and fit very well.
Containers – You know picking the right container is crucial for your container gardening. I’ve written a detailed post on the best containers you can choose from. If you’re happy with a plastic container, you can check out the Bloem Saturn Planter.
Watering Can – This is a must-have tool when you’re growing plants in pots or grow bags. It helps to water the potting soil without splashing on the foliage. The Kensington Watering Can is stylish, strong, and can provide precision when watering potted plants.
Trowel – Garden Guru Trowel is my favorite because it’s durable and comfortable to use. My gardening friends really love having a trowel because they use it for digging soil, mixing fertilizer, moving seeds, leveling out the soil, mixing compost or mulch, and also dividing tubers
Bypass Pruner – I really like the Corona Bypass Pruner because it’s durable and gives a clean cut that helps plants recover faster. If you’re looking for something cheap, get the Fiskars Bypass Pruner that is really good as well.
To see an extensive list of the best container gardening tools gardeners recommend, check out this resource that I made for you.
Kevin is the founder of Gardening Mentor, a website that aims to teach people to grow their own food in a limited space. As a self-taught gardener, Kevin has spent several years growing plants and creating gardening content on the website. He is certified in Home Horticulture and Organic Gardening by expert gardeners from Oregon State University.