What is a Moss Wall, and how do you define it?

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Written By Jim J Neal

If you’re looking for an artful way to green up your living space without keeping plants alive, a moss wall might be the perfect choice.

A moss wall is like having a microcosmic primeval forest hanging in your living room. The lush, green tapestry invokes feelings of calmness and mystery. It’s also the hottest indoor plantscaping trend right now, says Jim Mumford, president and resident horticulturist at Good Earth Plant Company in San Diego.

“The colors, shapes and textures!” he says. “We were hooked after we made our first one. The possibilities for creating art using this natural product seem limitless.”

Whether you’re DIYing a moss wall at home or buying one made by a pro, here’s what you need to know to successfully bring nature’s cushy greenery inside.

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What Is a Moss Wall?

A moss wall is a hanging wall-art panel made primarily from preserved and dyed mosses and possibly other preserved plants, driftwood and dried mushrooms. The most common mosses are dyed reindeer moss (actually lichen), pole moss, mood moss and sheet moss.

The concept probably came from Scandinavia, but rumors also link it to Buddhist monasteries in Asia. More recently, it appeared on wreaths and crosses in German cemeteries before making its way as art in our homes in North America.

Moss walls are made from preserved moss (it’s no longer alive). Its water content has been replaced with a non-toxic glycerine solution so it still looks fluffy. Added food-grade dyes enhance color.

When done right, a moss wall becomes a sort of organic fabric that can look convincingly alive. “We had one client insist on having us trim a moss wall as she claimed it was growing,” says Mumford.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Moss Walls?

Moss walls are the rage now because they require little maintenance and can be installed in many places where living walls or potted plants aren’t practical. Some of their benefits include:

  • Require no light so they can be installed in dark rooms;
  • Require no water;
  • Only protrude two to four inches from the wall;
  • Help dampen sound;
  • Are lightweight for hanging;
  • Are pest-free;
  • Add a natural, beautiful biophilic element to interior space;
  • Are works of art like tapestries or paintings, with many possible colors and textures.

The cons of moss walls:

  • Cannot be used outdoors or in direct sunlight or they will scorch and fade;
  • Aren’t alive, so they neither give off oxygen nor absorb carbon dioxide;
  • Can be damaged or dry out with prolonged exposure to low humidity;
  • Sometimes will give off a strong odor when new, which dissipates in a few days.

“Some fire marshals have unfairly targeted moss walls as a fire hazard,” says Mumford. “But they are no more flammable than an oil painting. The moss has been tested using standard and accepted testing procedures and it passes.”

How To Make a Moss Wall

Making a moss wall can be an affordable and creative endeavor. You’ll need:

  • A backboard: This can be a wooden frame, corkboard, plywood, or anything else glue will stick to.
  • Glue: Wood glue, construction adhesive or hot-melt glue should all work. Test out your backboard/glue combo to make sure it will hold before getting too deep into the project.
  • Gloves: The moss contains dyes that might run as you handle it.
  • Preserved moss: You can buy this at most plant and craft stores. Just make sure it’s from sustainably grown and harvested plants and not wild-sourced moss, which can greatly damage the local environment.

To make your moss wall:

  1. Collect some inspiring images to inspire and plan your design.
  2. Choose a backboard.
  3. Sketch out your pattern.
  4. Glue each piece of moss to the backboard. Depending on how quickly your glue dries, you can spread the glue across the backboard and then lay everything down, or glue each piece as you go.
  5. Gently lay something flat and heavy on top to make sure the moss sticks as it dries.

How Long Does a Moss Wall Last?

Moss walls should last at least five years, and probably much longer under the right conditions. To keep a moss wall in optimal shape:

  • Keep it out of direct sunlight;
  • Don’t put it near heating or air conditioning vents, as the hot or cold dry air will hurt it;
  • Don’t hang it where it can be rained or splashed on, or the colors might run;
  • Maintain humidity between 45 percent and 65 percent, the most comfortable range for us humans as well.

“If the humidity drops low and it gets crunchy dry, just raise the humidity and it will fluff right back up,” says Mumford

Can I Make a Living Moss Wall?

Perhaps, but it’s a lot more complicated with a high chance of failure. Should it work, it would also require misting, which can cause mold and other problems indoors.

If you think you’re buying living moss wall panels, look at the fine print. Nearly all are not actually alive, even though they’re advertised that way.

Karuna EberlKaruna Eberl

Karuna Eberl
Karuna writes about wildlife, nature, history and travel for magazines, newspapers and websites including National Geographic, National Parks, Discovery Channel, Atlas Obscura and the High Country News. She’s also produced a number of independent films and directed the documentary The Guerrero Project, about the search for a sunken slave ship. She and her husband, Steve, wrote an award-winning guidebook to the Florida Keys and are currently completely renovating an abandoned house in a ghost town. She holds a B.A. in journalism and geology from the University of Montana. Member of OWAA, SATW.