How To Make a Moss Dish Garden
Moss dish gardens allow you to get up close and personal with a lush green landscape. Our step-by-step instructions get you started, and 6 dish garden designs with complete plant lists give you inspiration for your own creation.
Miniature Moss Garden Basics
This miniature moss dish garden includes Brachythecium rutabulumand moss, Dicranum scoparium moss, reindeer moss (Cladonia spp.) plus an ebony spleenwort fern (Asplenium platyneuron) and stone accent for visual interest.
Our step-by-step instructions show you how to make a miniature moss garden; we also give you ideas for different containers and plants.
Related: 15 Spring DIY Garden Ideas
Step 1: Gather Materials
You'll need a drill with ceramic bit, pea gravel, fern, skewer, spoon, surgical clip, well-draining potting mix, accents, clippers, moss, landscape fabric and ceramic dish.
Step 2: Drill a Drainage Hole
Pour water on the dish, enough to just cover the bottom of the dish. The water will settle the dust and cool the drill bit as it heats up. Begin drilling at a 45-degree angle to create a groove and stablilze the drill bit. Slowly turn the drill upward until it is flush with the dish and there is a hole through the center of the dish. Then wash the dish.
Step 3: Create Your Base
Line the dish with the landscape fabric to prevent rock and potting mix from clogging the drainage hole. Top the landscape fabric with a thin layer of pea gravel.
Step 4: Fill Your Dish
Layer well-draining potting mix on top of the pea gravel. Then lay the groundwork, like your stone accents and your fern. Use a kitchen spoon to dig holes for your plants, if necessary. Lay moss and lichen on top of the potting mix by firmly pressing down. Start with the largest piece and work your way down in size.
Step 5: Cut Moss to Size
Use clippers to trim large pieces of moss, but the moss should still be a little larger than the space allotted so the edges can be tucked in.
Step 6: Finishing Touches
Tuck the edges of the moss into the dish. A bamboo skewer works well for tucking, but any tool will do. For a clean look, use a surgical clip to remove leaf debris.
Garden care: Water thoroughly and press mosses down to make good contact with one another. To encourage the moss to attach, begin a two-month regimen of watering deeply every week, misting between waterings; adjust frequency depending on rainfall and time of year.
Where to put your garden: Keep it in a shady spot on your deck, patio or garden with conditions that mimic those of mosses living in nature: indirect light and rainwater. You can supply the water or mist if nature isn't cooperating. It's OK to bring your dish garden inside for short periods of time, but it will do best outdoors.
Pedestal Dish Moss Garden
Dicranum scoparium, Dicranum scoparium with saprophytes and Plagiomnium cuspidatum mosses make their home in this pedestal dish alongside dwarf mondograss (Ophiopogon japonicus) and striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata).
Petite Birdbath Moss Garden
This small birdbath became a miniature landscape with the addition of ebony spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron), bluet (Houstonia caerulea), mosses Dicranum scoparium, Luecobryum glaucum, Polytrichum commune, Plagiomnum cuspidatum, Hypnum imponens, Climacium americanum and Thuidium delecatulum, and Parmelia lichen.
Moss Bowl Garden
An oversized glazed bowl bursts with Dicranum scoparium, Luecobryum glaucum, Thuidium delecatulum and Anomodon rostratus mosses. Non-moss accents include hosta 'Blue Mouse Ears' and ebony spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron).
Tree Trunk Moss Garden
This tree trunk cavity holds the mosses Dicranum scoparium, Polytrichum commune, Bryoandersonia illecebra, Climacium americanum, Thuidium delecatulum, Anomodon rostratus and Entodon seductrix. For contrast, the trunk also includes resurrection ferns (Polypodium polypodioides), Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata), downy rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera pubescens) and ebony spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron).
Lush Vintage Box Moss Garden
A vintage livestock feed box has been transformed into a lush moss garden with the addition of Luecobryum glaucum, Campylopus introflexus, Thuidium delecatulum and Entodon seductrix mosses and Parmelia lichen-all contrasting with the showcase plant, a 'Tamukeyama' Japanese maple (Acer palmatum dissectum). The box is underplanted with striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) and ebony spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron).