Home & Garden

Humble moss proves a soothing and simple hit in the home

Yutaka Imada holds a moss terrarium in Chuo Ward, Osaka, Japan.
Yutaka Imada holds a moss terrarium in Chuo Ward, Osaka, Japan. Japan News-Yomiuri

If you consider moss to be somewhat unspectacular and somber, you might have to change your mind. Events show moss displayed in glass jars or the bonsai format, and stores are offering moss products for interior decoration. Moss, in fact, is now considered something that puts people at ease.

A three-day event in November at the Kyoto Botanical Gardens in Kyoto drew more than 3,200 visitors to see about 300 examples of bonsai and terrariums, buy illustrated encyclopedias and guides for beginners were on sale, and attend sessions on moss observation and workshops on making terrariums.

“This is one of the most popular events held here,” said Hisao Ogawa, an official at the garden. More than 3,000 visitors have attended each of the events held since 2013.

“Moss looks very beautiful with water droplets,” said Keiko Tazaki, 58, visiting the event from Oita. “I cultivate moss at home and feel comforted when looking at and touching them.”

Last summer, a store focusing on moss terrariums opened in Chuo Ward, Osaka. “Many people want to make a terrarium for interior decoration at home,” said Yutaka Imada, 35, the owner of Moss-Connect. Its daily workshop, hosting two to four people, is already booked until April, Imada said.

“It’s easy to take care of moss: Basically, all you have to do is spray water on them. In addition, the plant is strong and can grow anywhere,” Imada said. “Moss looks ordinary, but seem to stand firm and do their best — this is why, I believe, people feel comforted by looking at them.”

The growing popularity of moss is behind an increasing number of related products and books hitting the shelves. Vixen Co., an optical equipment maker in Tokorozawa known for its binoculars and telescopes, released a kit for observing the plant in 2016. It includes a small loupe magnifier, a guidebook and tweezers. The loupe, which has 10-times magnification, can be placed over a smartphone camera lens for taking photos. The kit sells for about $35, mainly at home electronics stores.

Bun-ichi Co. in Tokyo published a revised edition of a moss guidebook in September after its original edition, released in 2013, sold well. The publisher added extensive information, doubling the number of moss varieties to 100 and providing more detailed information on locations suitable for observing moss across the country.

“Moss is small and pretty, and its appearance attracts young people in particular,” said Kensuke Shimizu, 42, editor-in-chief of the section that compiled the guidebook. “More and more women enjoy climbing mountains, and it’s become easier to share photos thanks to smartphones and social media. I believe these factors have contributed to putting moss in the spotlight.”

To cultivate moss at home, Imada said, all that’s needed are soil and a container; fertilizer is not required. “As the plant doesn’t have roots, it absorbs water and photosynthesizes over its whole surface,” he said.

A soil called akadama-tsuchi is often used for gardening. Place the soil in a container, then place the moss on it. Moss looks nicer if you use tweezers to bury its base in the soil. It can also be cultivated on stones or roof tiles.

To water moss, use a spray bottle and spray the entire plant. How often you need to water depends on the type.

Sunagoke (racomitrium moss) and gingoke (silvergreen bryum moss) are among the varieties tolerant of dryness. These require watering about twice a week and should be put in a plate or a vessel without a cover. They can be exposed to direct sunlight, such as near a window or on a balcony.

Varieties that like humidity include tamagoke (bartramia moss), which needs watering about once every two days. If you put them in a vessel with a cover, you need to water them only once every one to two weeks, as it stays humid inside. Do not expose them to direct sunlight.

“To bring home moss growing on mountains and in other places, you should obtain a permit from their owners,” Imada said.