Spanish Moss is like nature's garland, and thinking of it may bring images of this unique plant draping over Live Oak trees in the US South to mind. But what actually is Spanish Moss? Spanish Moss is a member of the tillandsia (air plant) family and you may be surprised to learn it's neither Spanish, nor a type of moss.
What is Spanish Moss?
Spanish moss is a unique type of air plant that does not have roots. Despite the misconception that Spanish Moss is a parasite, it actually is not, instead getting its nutrients from air and water in the environment. Spanish Moss is an epiphyte, meaning it is a plant that grows on other plants, but only uses the other plants for support, and does not take any nourishment from it.
Despite the name, Spanish Moss is not actually from Spain. Spanish Moss is commonly found in the Southern US, Central America, and other warm and tropical locations.
Spanish Moss is not a moss, either! It is classified as a bromeliad, which puts it in the same category as succulents, pineapples, and other tropical plants. Spanish Moss can flower, and sometimes the floral blooms are quite fragrant.
How is Spanish Moss Used?
Spanish Moss was once used quite widely for everything from stuffing furniture to insulation. Because it did not attract moths like wool did, it was favored as an ideal upholstery stuffing until the advent of synthetic materials in the 1960's. Spanish Moss was also used for making string, weaving, for mulching, and its sponge-like properties made it ideal for keeping things cool.
Today, Spanish Moss is typically used for crafting, in plant arrangements and as home decor. Live Spanish Moss makes a beautiful houseplant, and dried Spanish Moss adds texture and interest to plant terrariums and displays.
How do I Care for Spanish Moss?
Spanish moss is quite low maintenance, and you can care for it in the same way you care for your other air plants. It likes a weekly watering, and you can also mist your Spanish Moss with water if it ever looks too dry. You can also fertilize your Spanish Moss with a specially formulated air plant fertilizer.
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They need daily sunlight, but avoid direct sunlight for your Spanish Moss. They prefer indirect or filtered light. If your Spanish Moss begins to turn black, it may be a sign of too much bright light.
Finally, be sure your Spanish Moss has adequate air flow so that it's strands have good access to the air around them - that's how they feed themselves, after all! If you take these simple steps to care for your Spanish Moss, you can expect it to grow 10 - 20 cm yearly and be a thriving and healthy addition to your indoor houseplant collection.