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How to build and maintain a preserved moss wall: Detailed guide

Moss wall decor above pink couch
If you're looking for a unique way to bring some nature into your office space or your Homely Retreat, a preserved moss wall might be just what you need. In this detailed guide, we will give you tips, tricks and advice for building, growing, and maintaining your own preserved moss wall. From choosing the right moss species, to building the moss wall frame, we've got you covered.

Table of Contents

Task Overview

Time required:
Initial: 2 – 3 hours (1 – 2 hours maintenance per month)
Task difficulty:
Moderate
Cost guide:
$50 to $200.
Materials required:
* Scissors.
* Gloves.
* Spray bottle.
* Trowel.
* Mason jars.
* Pen & Paper.
* Stud Finder.
* Measuring Tape.
* Frame components (e.g. Plywood, Timber, Metal).
* Mesh for frame (e.g. Plastic, Felt, Organic Fiber).
* Large Bowl or Bucket of Warm Water.
* Strong Adhesive for Frame and Moss (e.g. Wood Glue).
* Glycerine.
* Methyl hydrate.
* Food coloring.

Safety Precautions:

  1. Pests or diseases inside moss: Although moss is not naturally harmful to humans, it is an organic matter and may attract insects or fungi (like mold) that could possibly be harmful to humans. Always make sure to clean and inspect any moss before using it for a preserved moss wall. Maintain your preserved moss wall in the right environmental conditions to help reduce the occurrence of mold, insects or diseases.
  2. Regulations on sourcing appropriate moss: Always check your local and national regulations before collecting moss from public areas. Collection of moss from a public space may be considered illegal, depending on your local and national laws.
  3. Construction and material safety: Always check your local and national regulations before making any structural changes to your private property or public property. Always ensure you have the appropriate safety equipment when using power tools.

Background information on preserved moss walls.

Below we provide a brief amount of information on some of the more frequently asked questions on preserved moss walls.

What is moss?

Mosses are a group of ancient non-vascular plants that have been identified in fossil records up to 330 million years ago. It is thought that mosses were one of the first land forming plants, which helped to turn earth into the complex community of organisms that it is today. 

Moss belongs to a division of plants known as “Bryophyta”, along with hornworts and liverworts. Bryophyta plants are different from vascular plants like trees and ferns, in that they do not have true roots, leaves or stems. Instead of having specialized systems for transporting water and sugar, moss absorbs important nutrients directly through their leaves or small anchor-like structures called rhizoids. There are an estimated 15,000 species of moss around the world. 

Although most moss typically thrives in dark, humid conditions, there are records of moss having been found growing in volcanic ash, submerged in water, at alpine elevations and even growing on the back of a particular species of beetle, which was used as a form of camouflage.

In a household garden, moss can very successfully act as a prevention for erosion, a low maintenance ground cover or lawn alternative as well as provide unique aesthetic value in garden pathways, green roofs or preserved moss walls.

What is a preserved moss wall?

A preserved moss wall is real moss grown or sourced from the wild that has been treated with a preservative, for example, glycerol. The preservative allows the moss to maintain its texture, while also significantly reducing its need for water. 

Preserved moss walls are often used in place of preserved moss walls for internal decor as there is less maintenance required and the reduced need for water means that the moss can be hung in large quantities and in unique locations.

For more inspiration on moss walls, check out our Inspiration Gallery and the “Moss-Wall” tag!

Green Wall at Semiahmoo Library. Surrey, BC

What is a living moss wall?

A living moss wall, which is sometimes referred to as a “vertical garden” or “green wall”, is a grouping of living moss which has been grown in a controlled environment and attached onto a  wall or other vertical surface. The moss is then watered and groomed to maintain an attractive look. 

Living moss walls can be attached to a frame of any shape or size to create unique, natural looking feature walls for both indoor or outdoor spaces. Living moss walls are more suited for outside conditions as the moss can become quite heavy when saturated with water.

For more information, see our full article on how to build, grow and maintain a living moss wall!

Are preserved moss walls safe?

Mosses are generally safe, in that they do not cause allergic reactions (like pollen) and they do not contain any poisons, toxins or irritants. They have even been shown to improve the air quality of the local area when grown indoors, under the right conditions. 

However, like all organic material, if not maintained or cared for, moss may come under attack by pests or molds (fungi). Molds may aggravate allergies if left to grow in confined spaces. Preserved moss walls that are grown indoors should be treated with care, like all house plants and should be regularly dusted and inspected for signs of pest infestation or mold growth.

Can any type of moss be used in a preserved moss wall?

No, not all mosses are suited to survive in the same environment as one another. Some mosses when exposed to the preserving chemicals may lose their unique coloring or may start to decay. Some of the most interesting moss species that can be used in an indoor preserved moss wall are:

  1. Cladonia rangiferina: also known as “Reindeer Moss” or “Reindeer Lichen”. This moss species has bright, branched green colored leaves that look similar to coral. 
  2. Leucobryum glaucum:  this unique looking moss can have bright green or a lighter gray colored leaves that has a distinctive cushion shape; hence the name “Pincushion Moss” or “Pillow Moss”.
  3. Dicranum scoparium: also known as “Broom Forkmoss” or “Mood Moss”. This moss grows in a bright green color and has leaves that can be described as light, delicate feathers. Dicranum scoparium is also very well suited for growth in terrariums.
Hand holding small moss sample

For more information, see our article: “How to select the right moss for your moss wall

What are the benefits of having a preserved moss wall?

There are numerous benefits to having your own preserved moss wall:

  1. Air quality: Preserved moss walls are known to help improve indoor air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and pollutants while releasing fresh oxygen.
  2. Reduce noise pollution: Creatively, Preserved moss walls have been used to help reduce noise from any adjoining rooms. 
  3. Aesthetics: Increasing numbers of cafes, bars, offices and homes have been making use of preserved moss walls to create natural and healthy looking feature walls. This cost effective strategy may be just what you need to increase that foot traffic for your business or help drive up the sell value for your home.
  4. Sustainable: A simple and low-maintenance option to help to reduce the carbon footprint of a building. Preserved moss walls also help to regulate a room’s temperature by absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night.
  5. Low Maintenance: A preserved moss requires significantly less care when compared to a preserved moss wall. The preservative helps to reduce the need for watering and sunlight exposure.

For more information on the benefits of moss walls, read: Scientific articles on the benefits of moss walls.

What does a preserved moss wall need to survive?

Mosses are incredibly hardy plants. As mentioned above, some species have grown to survive in even the most barren and nutrient poor environments. Even more so, when moss is treated with a preservative, they can live for many years with small amounts of care. Below is some tips to make sure your preserved moss wall lasts as long as possible:

  1. Temperature: Keep the temperature of the room between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit (15-21 degrees Celsius).
  2. Moisture: Do not expose the preserved moss wall to excess moisture. Unlike a living moss wall, preserved moss should not be exposed to excess water or humidity as this may cause the moss to discolor. Keep the humidity of the room between 30 – 60%. 
  3. Sunlight: Most mosses prefer lots of indirect sunlight. Do not expose the preserved moss wall to direct sunlight as this may cause damage and impact the look of the wall. An artificial light may help to keep the moss lively if placed in an area with no natural light source.
  4. Ventilation: Hang the preserved moss wall in a well ventilated area. Do not hang preserved moss walls in areas of high humidity or moisture, such as the bathroom, laundry or gym, as this may promote mold growth or discoloration of the leaves.
dark green moss wall art frame decor

Planning to build your preserved moss wall

In this section of the article, we will guide you through the process of planning your preserved moss wall installation. We cover the construction materials needed, tools required and how to choose and source the most appropriate moss to build your preserved moss wall.

Planning the frame of your preserved moss wall

Here we go through designing the size, shape and location for your living moss wall frame

a. Identify the location that you want your preserved moss wall to hang:

  1. Allow for a good amount of indirect sunlight, not too drastic in temperature changes, have a pretty consistent level of humidity and be well ventilated;
  2. Don’t hang the frame too close to any electrical components. Although you will be misting your preserved moss wall less often than a living moss wall, there is still a risk of water going inside your power outlet; and
  3. Most Importantly: the space chosen needs to be able to hold the weight of the preserved moss wall frame and plant material. Make sure that the space you choose to hang the preserved moss wall will be able to support this weight.

b. Measure the amount of space you need for the preserved moss wall:

  1. Grab a piece of paper, pencil, measuring tape and if hanging the frame on an internal wall, a stud finder.
  2. Draw a rough sketch of the space you want to hang the preserved moss wall, leaving enough room on the sketch to allow for writing measurements.
  3. Measure the height and width of the space you want to use and write the measurements on the sketching.
  4. If you do not already have somewhere to hang the preserved moss wall frame. use a stud finder to locate any internal studs within the space you want to hang the preserved moss wall and draw their rough locations on the sketch.
marking white room wall with pencil and measuring tape

c. Determine the design of the preserved moss wall frame:

  1. Decide how you want the preserved moss wall frame to look and what its purpose is. Do you want it to be a particular shape, size or style? Will it be a single frame or multiple smaller pieces? Will the moss all be uniform or will you use different species to create interesting and unique patterns?  
  2. Once you have decided on the design of the preserved moss wall frame, roughly draw the design onto the sketch paper, taking into consideration the stud locations for handing the frame.

For more inspiration on moss walls, check out our Inspiration Gallery and the “Moss-Wall” tag!

d. Calculate the size and shape of the preserved moss wall frame required:

  1. Using the sketch made as a guide, calculate the amount of material required for the frame. Most standard preserved moss wall frames will be square or rectangular shaped and made out of wood or metal. 
  2. Consider that if you are making a uniquely shaped frame, like a word or a number, you will need to calculate the size and placement of each frame to make the collection fit in the space you have available, look uniform and work well together. 
  3. One quick method is to use an old document or photo frame with a foam board backing.
  4. Preserved moss frames or panels can also be purchased premade to save time and effort.

To purchase pre-made moss frames, art or panels, check out the link below:

https://www.foresthomesstore.com/collections/plant-wall-art

Use the code “homely” on check-out to let us know our articles helped!


Choosing the right moss for your preserved moss wall

Below we provide tips on how to source your moss.

a. Common moss species used in preserved moss walls throughout the world

  1. Fern Moss (for example Thuidium species) – a small, delicate, bright green colored moss with leaves that look like ferns.
  2. Toothed moss (for example Plagiomnium species) – a moss that gets its name for its unique tooth like leaves. The vibrant green moss is soft to the touch and has a feathery appearance.
  3. Silver moss (for example Syntrichia ruralis) – This moss is also known as twisted moss, Rural Haircap Moss or star moss. It has deeper, darker green colored leaves and its stem has unique hair-like components called “setae” that allow the moss to adhere to its surroundings well.
Ladies hands holding moss
Image Credit: Lucy Serafi, CC BY-SA 4.0 – “https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0“, via Wikimedia Commons

For more information, see our article: “How to select the right moss for your moss wall

b. How to safely gather your own moss

Prewarning: Make sure to check your local laws and regulations on harvesting flora from the wild; in some areas this may be illegal.

Before starting to hunt for wild moss, make sure you have a location in mind, as well as a pair of gloves, a trowel and some lidless mason jars or storage containers.

  1. Find the right area to start your search; Most mosses love moist, dark, humid locations. Try looking under shady trees near lakes, rivers, or ponds.
  2. Collect the moss by wearing the gloves and using your trowel to collect samples of the moss and the attached soil in your containers. Gather enough moss until your containers are full.
  3. When you return home, rinse the moss to help remove any bugs, or unwanted material. Leave the moss in the jars until you are ready to attach the moss to the frame – but not for too long – less than a week should be fine.
Cupped hands holding green moss sample

c. Where to purchase moss for your preserved moss wall

Finding moss may be difficult if you are located in a dry or arid environment. But don’t stress; below we will show you where you can purchase moss to attach to your own custom made frame:


To purchase pre-made moss frames, art or panels, check out the link below:

https://www.foresthomesstore.com/collections/plant-wall-art

Use the code “homely” on check-out to let us know our articles helped!


How to build a preserved moss wall

Below we take you through a step by step method of building your preserved moss wall. We cover the preparation involved, constructing the frame and attaching the moss to the frame for hanging.

Prepare to build the preserved moss wall:

Preparation is the key to success!

How-to-preserve-moss-1

a. Gather your tools & materials

To build your preserved moss wall, you will need to gather the tools and materials mentioned at the start of this article. You may not need all of the tools required if you have pre-purchased some of the components of your preserved moss wall as discussed earlier in this article. But if you don’t want to scroll up, here is what you need:

  • Scissors.
  • Gloves.
  • Spray bottle.
  • Pen & Paper.
  • Stud Finder.
  • Measuring Tape.
  • Frame components (e.g. Plywood, Timber, Metal).
  • Mesh for frame (e.g. Plastic, Felt, Organic Fiber).
  • Large Bowl or Bucket of Warm Water.
  • Strong Adhesive for Frame and Moss (e.g. Wood Glue or nail gun).
  • glycerine
  • methyl hydrate
  • food coloring

b. Clean and preserve the moss

  1. Wash your moss under running water if you haven’t done so already. This will help to remove any unwanted bugs, dirt or debris before going on your wall. 
  2. Gently squeeze the moss to remove any excess water and lay it on a flat surface for a couple of hours to help water escape. Don’t let the moss sit for too long or it may become too dry.
  3. Grab your bucket, glycerine, methyl hydrate and food coloring out to a well ventilated area. Mix 1 part methyl hydrate with 2 parts glycerine and add to 3 parts of warm water – this should make a complete mix of 3:3 preserving agent to water, with enough liquid to cover all of your moss. You can add in your chosen food coloring to help preserve the moss color. Make sure to separate any uniquely colored moss into its own bucket if you are adding food coloring.
  4. Saturate all of your moss in the preserving agent for at least 2 hours, or better yet, overnight. Place something heavy over the top of the moss to ensure that it doesn’t float above the preserving agents. During this time you can continue to the next section and begin building your preserved moss wall frame.
  5. After allowing the moss to soak in the preserving agent, remove the preserved moss and while wearing gloves, gently squeeze any excess liquid from the moss. Lay the moss on a flat surface covered in paper towels until it is completely dry. This process may take a couple of days!
How-to-Preserve-Moss-3

Build the frame of your preserved moss wall:

Follow these instructions to begin building your preserved moss wall.

a. Put the frame together

  1. Using the frame materials chosen, use an adhesive to stick the frame together. Follow the sketch and plans you had drafted earlier to ensure that you have the right sized frame for your wall.
  2. Allow the adhesive to stick and gently test that it is built together strongly. To ensure the strength of the frame, you can finish it off with a nail or staple gun.
Wood Pine Texture Carpentry Tool Edited 2020

b. Attach the mesh to the frame

  1. Cut the chosen mesh to size to fit the newly built frame. Allow a little bit of excess mesh to adhere to the sides of the frame adequately. About 1-2 inches on each side should be enough.
  2. Attach the cut mesh to the frame using the strong adhesive. To ensure that the mesh has stuck to the frame, use the nail or staple gun.

Attach the moss to the frame:

Once the frame is built, you need to attach a mesh, so the moss has something to adhere to.

  1. Slowly and gently attach the moss to the mesh, starting with the larger pieces first, and finishing with the smaller finer pieces to fill in the gaps. You can use scissors to cut and shape the moss to suit the frame. Use adhesive to help the preserved moss stick to the mesh.
  2. If you are using different species of moss, try grouping them in different patterns to give your preserved moss wall a unique look. 
  3. Lay the whole preserved moss wall flat with the moss facing upwards for several hours or overnight to allow for the moss to settle into the mesh.
  4. Gently prod the moss and frame to ensure that nothing is moving or falling off.
  5. Optional: Apply a clear coat of varnish or spray on lacquer to the preserved moss wall to help seal and prevent any dust buildup or moisture ingress. Be careful as too much sealant may darken the color of your moss!
  6. Hang the preserved moss wall and witness the beauty that you have created!
140-Wall

How to maintain and care for your preserved moss wall

Below we guide you on the basic steps required for maintaining your preserved moss wall. 

For more details on how to care for and maintain your moss wall, read our article!

Maintain appropriate temperature, light and humidity

If you read our instructions above, your preserved moss wall should be hanging somewhere that provides the moss bright but indirect light, a temperature of 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit (15-21 degrees Celsius) and a low humidity of 30 – 60%.

Although your moss has been covered with preservatives to help extend its life and reduce its reliance on the external environment, keeping your preserved moss wall well maintained will ensure it looks colorful, vibrant and wont need replacing.

Remove dust, pests or stains

Get up close and personal with your preserved moss wall every now and then to inspect it for dust, pests or any spills. You will not need to spend very long maintaining your preserved moss wall. Regular dusting should keep it looking fresh throughout its life span. 

In Grünfutter. Alexandra checking if the moss is actually alive. It was not. At first I thought it was :-)

To purchase pre-made moss frames, art or panels, check out the link below:

https://www.foresthomesstore.com/collections/plant-wall-art

Use the code “homely” on check-out to let us know our articles helped!


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