sphagnum moss as growing medium?

jackierooke(z5MI)April 27, 2010

I've been watching the "new easy bonsai method" on You Tube where he uses only sphagnum moss as his 'soil'. Any of you tried it? I'm thinking of using it when I repot a Walmart bonsai sago palm hubby bought me.

Opinions?

Jackie

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gardener_guy(6)

Hi,

Sphagnum moss is ok in the beginning. In the condition used as bonsai soil it could to be useful for bonsai development. But it has been associated with deadly fungal infections. Please read this site about the benefits and cautions on Sphagnum moss. http://www.bonsai4me.com/AdvTech/ATSphagnum%20Moss.htm

Regards,

Gardener Guy

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 9:45AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Jackie - A friend sent me the video. I think that guy is whacked. Sphagnum moss definitely has a place in bonsai culture, mostly in remedial applications, but it's unsuited for use as a stand-alone long term medium. You can tell by the way he treated and left the roots, how he handled the tree, and what he had growing around him that his knowledge and experience was very limited.

Al

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 10:27PM
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larke

But is doesn't invalidate the science behind it, that working too much, too often with SM can be dangerous (there are other sources for it as well).

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 5:01AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I'm not sure what you're saying?

Al

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 10:02AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Sago Palm (not the kind that feeds whole tribes in New Guinea, mind you...) is very toxic, I've heard.

I would only use pure moss as a growing medium for something like a Staghorn/elkhorn fern.

Bark is truly best for aboreal species, in my opinion.

Josh

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 10:58AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

"arboreal" - typo!

Didn't mean to imply "non-northern" ;)

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 11:00AM
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larke

Sphagnum can be deadly to work with (I wasn't referring to Sagos, of which I've had a few) if you read that link given earlier, because if you use it a lot, and there's a lot of it around (highly unlikely for the majority of us) it can get into your lungs and has in fact killed a few people.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 12:20PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I wrote this on the Fig Forum not long ago. You may find that it pots the "danger" of handling sphagnum moss into perspective. Some of the secondary info may or may not be on topic, but I think you'll find it interesting:

Yes, you CAN catch Sporotrichosis, which is a fungal infection, from handling sphagnum moss. It's often referred to as the Rose Gardener's disease, since thorn pricks are a common way of introducing the fungus - barberry and brambles like blackberry and raspberry are also known sources. The fungus is also (u>commonly found in soil, on flowers and shrubs, on wood products, timber, forest litter, and various other mosses, so it is almost certain it could be found in potting soils that include any of these products (most commonly do). The most common source of infection is the house cat.
It should also be understood that not all sphagnum moss carries Sporotrichosis. The Wisconsin Division of Health, Bureau of Community Health and Prevention (BCHP), investigated a 1981 diagnosis of Sporotrichosis found in two brothers employed at a garden centre in Wisconsin. The investigation revealed two additional cases of Sporotrichosis among the employees.

The garden center had sixteen workers make funeral wreaths during the Winter of 1980. The infected moss used was harvested from bogs located in central Wisconsin and was purchased from a single wholesale dealer. However, in an investigation of a local cemetery where 12 employees produced 2,000-3,000 wreaths per autumn using sphagnum moss purchased from the same Wisconsin supplier, no additional cases were noted. Again, use your own judgment, but it appears that the source of the outbreak was limited to just one bad batch of sphagnum from a wholesale dealer who had also supplied countless quantities of Sphagnum free of Sporotrichosis.

Bear in mind that the risk of Sporotrichosis is very small; in the US the incidence of infection is not precisely known but is estimated at only 1-2 cases per million people, and most of those cases are from sources OTHER than sphagnum. An estimated 200-250 cases occur per year, nationwide. Statistically speaking, it is far more dangerous to cross the road than to handle the moss.

I know you'll use your own good judgment and common sense when/if you use it, but it is an effective antifungal/antibacterial medium, acting against those strains/species of fungi/bacteria that cause problems when we are trying to root.

It's been used as a wound dressing for hundreds of years, and as a favored medium of experienced horticulturists for rapidly inducing roots in air layers and cuttings. Bonsai practitioners have long used it as intensive care for trees that have contracted root rot because they were grown in heavy mediums with excessive water retention, commercially prepared and packaged potting soil being a primary offender. Sphagnum moss has excellent internal water retention properties, however unlike sphagnum peat, in its live form it is able to retain its open structure and so is fast draining and well aerated.

Less well known is that Sphagnum moss contains a high zinc content in the form of a naturally occurring antibiotics/antifungals called Tropolene and Sphagnan. The anaerobic bacteria common in heavier soils that cause the decay that inhibit woody cuttings from rooting are nullified by the antiseptic properties of Sphagnum moss. Hence, pure Sphagnum (without the addition of any other organic material) is considered by most experienced horticulturalists to be as close to a perfect medium for root induction as you will find.

Al

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 12:58PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Very interesting!
I learn something new every day! ;)

I do favor the idea of plants that kill...or take over a small East-coast town...
I'd prefer spore from a distant, midnight Galaxy...but whatever...

Josh

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 1:13PM
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jane__ny(9-10)

Geez, I should be long dead. Have been using it for over 20 years in orchid growing. One should always be careful about breathing in dust from any growing media. Sphag is used by many to revive orchids suffering root rot.

Jane

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 10:52PM
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BONSAI9723

I am Dr. Gerald M. Levitt,the person under discussion here. I just had my book, "The Sphagnum Moss Bonsai Method, An Illustrated Handbook" published by McFarland. A lot of writers here seem to condemn me without any first hand knowledge of the sphagnum moss method. I have used it for 20 years and it works well for me and the thousands of fans all over the world this system has introduced to the world of bonsai. I urge you to read my book (you can order it at mcfarlandpub.com (do a search for "levitt" or see link below). I have had over 1.5 million hits on my videos and over 1500 regular subscribers who are notified of any new video I post. I will let the system and the results speak for themselves. I ask you to reserve judgement if you have no or little knowledge of the subject.

Here is a link that might be useful: McFarland-Sphagnum Moss Bonsai Method

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 10:01PM
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HecticNature(6)

hey dr levitt im so happy you responded cause i watch your videos and love your work dont let the criticism bother i think your definately on to something and am trying as we speak of course taking safety precautions which you had also put a video out to make sure your followers knew to be careful use gloves mask etc and i really respected that and respect you and are about to buy your book and one question i been tryin to find a way to ask you is do you have issues with fungus gnats with the sphagnum moss please respond if you can

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 8:26PM
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