About Sphagnum Moss
sphagnum moss drying out
Sphagnum moss comes from bogs and is harvested, compressed and imported for use in the floral industry. There are many graded levels of sphagnum moss. The quality of sphagnum moss is relative to the length of the strands, how fluffy each strand is, and how much debris is packaged in with the moss. Lower quality moss obviously costs less. The sphagnum moss that is used by the floral industry to line hanging baskets and package seedling plants for transport is typically of a much lower grade than we would choose for use as a moss to grow orchids in.
Are there different types of Sphagnum Moss?
In the growing of orchids we are looking for top quality sphagnum moss with long, fluffy, open strands and good capillary action for moisture. In Taiwan, the largest exporting country of Phalaenopsis orchids, virtually all Phalaenopsis are grown in Sphagnum moss. In cooler climates and in cultivation in the home, sphagnum moss can present some challenges with over watering. The good news is, sphagnum moss as an orchid medium is highly adaptable. Packed tightly in a pot it will retain a lot of moisture. Packed lightly in a pot it will dry out rapidly. But here is where the quality of the moss really comes in to play. Standard floral-quality sphagnum moss, available from nurseries and box stores and even sometimes advertised as 'moss for orchids' is often not suitable for growing orchids. Orchids grown in this lesser grade of sphagnum moss will not thrive as they could in a higher grade of moss as this moss compacts and quickly becomes sodden in all but the most arid environments.
For orchids we recommend AAA New Zealand Sphagnum Moss only. The quality AAA New Zealand Sphagnum Moss is higher, and it is cleaner/fluffier. These two products will be labeled as such, the lesser grades of sphagnum will often be labeled as 'moss for orchids', 'organic moss' or simply 'sphagnum moss'.
What about Peat Moss?
It is important to clarify the difference between sphagnum moss and sphagnum peat moss, also called just 'peat moss'. Sphagnum peat moss is not the same thing as sphagnum moss. In a sphagnum bog the sphagnum moss is the living moss that floats on the top of the bog. Sphagnum peat moss is the dead moss that falls to the bottom of the bog. Upon harvesting, the top layer of live sphagnum moss is taken first and then the bottom layer of peat moss is harvested. Peat moss is then processed into a soil amendment that is also a media used with orchids but it is markedly different in appearance and texture. Much of the sphagnum moss and sphagnum peat moss we see here in nurseries and big box stores comes from Canada.