A moss pole will give your plant that much-needed support, as well as stimulate the natural environment tropical plants, are adapted to.
Using a moss pole will prompt climbing plants to grow larger healthier leaves as well as support the plant as they grow upwards. Aerial roots attach themselves onto the moss pole as the plant grows to anchor the plant. Plants can also be trained to attach to the pole using ties or strings.
In this article, we answer questions and remove doubt when it comes to using moss poles for your houseplants including how to make your very own with simple steps.
What is a Moss Pole and What is it used for
A moss pole is a cylindrical length of sturdy material wrapped with either coco coir or sphagnum moss. The pole is staked into the soil in potted plants which stand vertically, providing support for tropical and climbing plants.
Moss poles are used not just for support but to also enhance the aesthetics of plants allowing them to grow vertically rather than sideways or in a bending manner.
The poles mimic the natural habitat tropical plants are adapted to. This provides a welcoming environment for them to grow and as a result, the plants tend to grow more healthy producing more lush, green foliage.
Keeping the moss pole moist helps tremendously in mimicking a forest tree covered in moss where the moss is often very moist due to the humidity around it.
If the plants are to grow upwards, a light source should be placed above the poles for them to follow and grow upwards or the plants should be placed in a position that allows light from above.
Alternate light sources coming from the sides can cause them to still stretch out sideways.
Plants that Need a Moss Pole for Support
Plants that need moss moles are the ones whose natural habitat is in the tropical rainforest such as the Monstera genus of plants. However, if you have a plant that is leaning you can use a moss pole to help keep it upright.
Usually climbing plants and plants with aerial roots are best suited for moss poles.
These plants are:
- Monstera Adansonii
- Monstera Deliciosa
In their natural habitat, these plants are in a constant search for light. Larger trees tend to dominate the foliage leaving little or not light to hit the forest floor.
This lack of light can result in the leggy appearance exhibited in monsteras and other long-stemmed plants. We went into much detail about this in our post about what causes a leggy monstera.
Additionally, see how porch lights can affect your houseplants.
These plants have adapted to grabbing onto these trees, which are usually covered in moss, and climb their way to the top where they can receive light.
The light is then used to create food for the plant through photosynthesis.
Providing balanced lighting is crucial, and we have found an effective and durable artificial grow light on amazon that provides the right spectrum of light to get the job done. You can find it by clicking here.
Moss poles are made from durable materials including:
- PVC plastic,
- coco coir or sphagnum moss.
The stake is made of wood and shaped into a spike so that
- It can be easily inserted into the soil
- It can be inserted into another length of moss pole to increase the overall height
The wood has a diameter such that it can fit snugly into the top, inner part of another section of moss pole (made of PVC pipe). This makes them stackable.
PVC material –
The inner part (not wood). This forms the rigid backbone upon which the coco coir holds onto. Its hollow shape allows the stake wood to fit into and makes the moss pole stackable.
Coco Coir –
Everything in between the shell and the outer coating of the coconut seed is considered coco coir. It’s a tough brown fibrous material that can be woven into any shape including the one used to construct moss poles.
Sphagnum Moss –
Sphagnum moss and sphagnum peat moss (frequently known simply as peat moss) are often confused for the same growing material.
Peat moss is used by professionals and consumers to make growing media or to incorporate into a garden or landscape as a soil conditioner. This is also used for moss poles and forms a carpet-like moss material around the pole for plants to hold on to.
The weight of the moss poles is dependent on the number of moss poles used (stacked up together).
Usually, one section of the moss pole can weigh approximately 8 ounces. Therefore, using three of these can have a weight of 24 ounces or 1.5 pounds.
The height can range from 12 inches high onwards. Moss poles are stackable and can be joined snug to each other depending on the height of the plant they are being used for.
Moss Poles can have a general thickness of 1.5 inches to 2.0 inches in diameter depending on the manufacturer.
The thickest moss pole we have found was 2 inches from growing organics on amazon. You can find it by clicking here.
Moss poles can range from light brown to dark brown depending on the stage at which the fibers were extracted from the dried coconut.
Lighter color means that it was extracted when the coconut shell was not dried or aged. These are often more flexible compared to the more brown fibers because of their moisture content.
Accessories – What does it comes with
In most cases, moss poles, when bought, come with some means to secure the plant onto it as it climbs.
This can be tape or ties and are used to train climbing plants to hold on to the moss pole as they grow.
- Garden Ties
- Plant labels
What are the benefits of Using a Moss Pole
- Provides support
- Keeps plants growing upright
- Helps plants produce stronger leaves
- Prevents plants from sagging sideways
See our article on why plants grow sideways and how you can correct it.
Sphagnum Moss poles Vs Coco coir Moss Poles
|Sphagnum Moss Pole||Coco coir Moss Pole|
|Holds Moisture better||Holds moisture but not as good|
|Lasts between 2 – 4 years||Lasts between 4 – 6 years|
|Looks more realistic||Does not have that mossy look|
|Moss is less durable||Coco coir is more durable|
|Lacks aesthetics||Looks neat|
|Cheap and less common||Cheap and more common|
How Long does a Moss Pole Last
A moss pole can last between 4 and 6 years. This is because of the durable materials of which it is made. Coconut coir can last a long time with little disintegration to its fibrous structure.
However, moss poles can be easily broken if there is external interference.
For example, pets like cats can easily climb a moss pole and with their clawing action, dislodge the fibers or cut the string or net that holds it to the pole.
Another reason a moss pole can seemingly bend or break is if the plant they are supporting becomes overwhelmingly too heavy for the pole to support.
As a result, the pole may tend to bend or twist to the side.
If the pole has to break it will be where they are joined where the wooden stakes hold them together.
Most moss poles are preferred to be soaked or kept moist for the plant to absorb water. This can reduce the longevity of the pole by a year or two.
So expect the lifespan to be reduced to between 3 to 4 years in this case.
When should a Moss Pole be Changed
A moss pole should be changed every 3 to 4 years. Although they can last much longer, having them there for very long can eventually cause bugs and fungus to set in if proper care is not taken.
Monthly or quarterly application of organic pest control like neem oil can significantly reduce the onset of a fungus colony or bugs making the pole their home.
Best time to Add a Moss Pole
The best time to add a moss pole to a potted plant is when repotting. Repotting the plant will allow for the moss pole to be placed centered and down to the bottom of the pot after which the plant can be placed such that it can be wrapped around the pole.
The soil used to repot the plant should be a well-draining mix, usually a 50% potting mix, 40% cactus soil, and 10% perlite.
Also, during repotting, the pole or stake will not have the potential of breaking roots as if it were to be inserted next to a plant that had already established itself in a pot with soil.
Can a Moss Pole Bend
A moss pole can bend as the height increases. Shorter pieces can be more difficult to bend as the center support is very rigid at shorter lengths.
However, this may not be a good thing. Heavier plants or plants with heavy stems will tend to cause the moss pole to bend as they climb or are attached closer to the top.
The rigidity of a moss pole can be increased by tying a study length of wood on the side of the pole which extends to the entire length of the moss poles.
This will prevent bending and sagging.
However, if you intentionally want a moss pole to bend how you want it to, there are some options that allow it. In this case, the moss or coco coir is wrapped around a material that can bend or is more flexible.
There is some bendable moss pole that we have found on amazon that also looks great. You can find them by clicking here.
How High can a Moss Pole be
A moss pole can reach up to 6 feet in height without bending. It can go even higher but as the height increase so does its flexibility which causes it to bend. Above 6 feet, the moss pole may have to be secured by some other means to prevent it from bending and falling over.
You can see our post on what can cause plants to fall over and how to prevent it.
Moss poles are usually stackable when bought from a store which can be stacked to any height.
If you are making one for yourself the height can also be varied according to your needs and in such cases, you can use other means of reinforcements to help hold it upright when placed into a pot.
How to Keep a Moss Pole Moist
In addition to giving firm support to the plant, Moss poles also provide moisture to the plants.
Tropical plants like the monstera and other climbing plants will take a drink from the poles from their aerial roots along the stems of the plant.
A moss pole can be kept moist by providing a source of moisture to the pole which can keep its moisture content up over the course of time.
A continuous drip system or a wicking system can be used to supply a continuous stream of moisture over time.
Humidifiers also do wonders in this aspect because they increase the humidity around both the plant and moss poles.
The moisture from the humidifier will condense and form droplets on the moss pole and mimic a forested environment. The plants in turn will love it.
We have written a detailed post on how to keep a moss pole moist which gives insights on how to properly do it using several cost-effective methods.
What are the Downsides of Using a Moss Pole
The downside to using a moss pole is dependent on the sturdiness of the pole. If the pole is made out of weak material or is thin, it can bend or break easily. There can also be disruption in the soil and breakage of roots in some cases.
Here is a list of the not-so-favorable traits of a moss pole and their explanation.
Some moss poles tend to bend with the weight of the plant. This is especially true for moss poles that are of a smaller diameter.
Also as the height of the moss pole is increased the more likely it is to bend to the side.
This bending causes the moss pole to have an unsightly look as well as reduces the support needed for the plant.
Bugs like gnats and fungus love moist environments and can easily make a moss pole their home after some time.
An easy method of control is to spray the moss pole with neem oil or a mixture of neem oil and soapy water.
Neem oil contains Azadirachtin, which is the active agent that repels and kills bugs. It will reduce insect feeding and makes it harder for insects to reproduce. It will also reduce an insect’s ability to eat.
Can potentially disrupt soil drainage
Staking the pole into the soil can create a channel in the soil for water to run into.
To prevent this the stake or wooden part should fit snug into the soil.
Shaking the pole can cause the sides of the pole to have spaces which can cause water to run into the space when the plant is watered hence reducing the moisture content of the soil.
The Moss Pole Can Damage Roots
Staking the moss pole into the soil can cause some damage to roots. However, due to the small diameter of the wooden stake, the amount of root damage can be minimal causing little harm to your plants.
Moss Pole Alternatives
Although not as common, moss poles can also be made using sphagnum moss. This moss can give the moss pole a more realistic feel for the plant. Similar to forest trees which are partially covered in moss.
The sphagnum moss retains moisture well and can keep your climbing plant well hydrated while attached to it.
The overall appearance of the sphagnum moss pole may not be appealing as the ones made from the coco coir but it does get the job done.
Moss poles can also be made from dried palm barks. These are usually thicker and can develop their own moss over time as it is being watered.
A distinct advantage of moss poles made from tree barks is that they are thicker and more sturdy compared to their popular counterparts.
If your primary objective is to support the plant you should consider stakes or cages which do a pretty good job at holding up a plant.
For a better understanding of how you can create your own moss poles, you can check out our article on moss pole alternatives which gives 5 easy ways that you can create cost-effective support poles for your plants.
How to Make a Moss pole
Making a moss pole from scratch is a very fun project. The materials are readily available and cheap as well.
The plus side is that you can get a moss pole for almost all your plants with the materials you initially purchase and it will cost much cheaper than one bought at the store.
- PVC pipe
- sphagnum moss or Coco coir
- String or synthetic netting
- Wooden stake (optional but sometime necessary)
- Soak your sphagnum moss or coco coir in water.
- Cut a length of synthetic/ plastic netting to the length of the required circumference or greater..
- Spread the sphagnum or coco coir evenly over the netting
- Place the wood in the middle, over the moss
- Bend the netting with the moss or coconut coir over the stake, into a cylinder.
- Cut off the excess netting.
- Stitch up the cylinder with synthetic string.
- Remove excess moss and strings with scissors.
- To make a 2.5 inch diameter pole cut the netting to a width of 8 inches.
- The length of the netting is usually 4 feet.
- Use monofilament fishing string (these lasts a very long time)
- The synthetic netting will also last a long
- Avoid using hardware mesh as it will rust and break over time with moisture.