Moss poles can help you achieve the indoor rainforest you've always wanted. They provide your plants with the structural support and humidity they need for more growth and bigger leaves.
Huy Phan https://unsplash.com/photos/NicHoXksB9Q
How do moss poles help plant grow?
Moss poles are vertical, moss-covered structures inserted into plant pots. Plants are trained around them using twine or wire.
Tropical rainforest species like monstera or philodendron can benefit hugely from moss poles. Rainforests are competitive habitats where space, light, and resources are at a premium. Many of the plants here are epiphytic - they have adapted to climb up surrounding vegetation to reach towards the light. They do this by growing aerial roots, which are roots that occur above ground. The moss pole recreate the structures that the aerial roots would cling to in the wild, letting your epiphytics vine to their heart's content.
But moss poles are useful even for tropical plants without aerial roots, like the ficus elastica. These tall, vertical plants tend to lean over as they grow and the moss pole can be a useful fixture. Moss poles also allow you to keep the unruly stems of vining species like philodendron or satin pothos in check.
The easiest way to insert a moss pole into a pot is when you are repotting a plant.
Remove the plant from the pot and remove as much of the soil from the roots as you can.
Place the moss pole in the middle of the new pot and fill the pot halfway with soil.
Then, plant the roots gently around the moss pole, making sure the plant is snug next to the pole.
Fill up the rest of the pot with soil.
The plant should be encouraged to grow around the moss pole. To do this, wrap the stems or vines around the moss pole loosely, fixing them in place with gardening wire or twine.
As the plant grows, continue wrapping the stems or vines around the pole. If your plant is not a vining species and does not have pliable stems, just affix the stems to without circling it around the pole.
Maintaining a moss pole
Although moss poles retain moisture well you will need to top up the water content regularly. Do this by bottle-spraying the moss pole on a regular basis. This will keep your humidity-loving tropical plants happy.
Making a moss pole
Adam Valstar https://unsplash.com/photos/iYMSv8sf1uA
Although you can buy moss poles, they are very easy to make at home.
The most basic DIY moss pole is made by rolling a sheet of wire mesh into a column shape. Just stuff the column with spaghnum moss or coconut coir, using a stick to compact the material down.
Another way to make a moss pole is to wrap 3/4rs of a wooden pole in coconut coir liner - the material used to line hanging baskets. Fix the liner in place by winding a twine around the pole every 10 cm or so. When you reach the top, wind the twine back down to achieve a criss-cross pattern. Once you reach the bottom, tie a double knot at the base to secure.
Planting ferns in a moss pole
If you are making your own moss pole, you can use it as a soilless medium for growing ferns.
Stuff the wire mesh column partially with moss or coconut coir. Insert a couple of ferns by their roots into the moss along the length of the pole and fix them place by adding more moss or coconut coir. Coconut coir provides more nutrients, so use it for moss poles that will be used as a planting medium.
You can string the moss poles from a hook or bar for an interesting hanging display. Remember that the top of the moss pole will retain moisture more than the bottom. Plant moisture-loving ferns at the top of the pole and more drought tolerant species at the bottom. Water the plants by spraying with a bottle spray.
Replacing a moss pole
Once your plant outgrows the moss pole, it's time to replace it.
If the plant has been growing around a moss pole for a long time, it may take some time to disentangle it. Snip off any twine or wire fixing the plant in place and slowly unfurl the plant stem by stem. You can cut aerial roots without damaging the plant but keep stems in tact.