Maybe you’ve been trying to make do with supporting your ever-growing plants with bamboo canes, bits of twine, or even a mishmash of cocktail sticks.
This is a great temporary fix, but when your plants get really giant, there is one suitable support that will stop your plant hobby from becoming hell.
Enter the moss pole. Without it, large plants will trail, which is a good look in itself, but not when they’re crawling across the floor because they’re too big for hanging baskets, or worse, the stems break completely.
Here’s everything you need to know about moss poles, from how to make them to how to get the best out of them.
Let’s take a look.
Why Should You Make Your Own Moss Pole?
Readily made moss poles are usually disappointing. They are always shorter than they should be, and tend to be very expensive when you consider the price of the materials and the little time it takes to make them.
Luckily, it doesn’t take a lot of money, time or materials to make your own moss pole. The end result is also better quality than what you’ll find for sale, so there’s no disadvantage to making your own.
It also helps that you can extend the moss pole as you need it, so your plant won’t outgrow it as it gets bigger.
Moss poles are a good idea in any case because they have an interesting effect on your plants. Plants will take advantage of the support (as you might imagine), growing into the moss pole, which also helps mature the growth faster.
In the case of pothos, and even some philodendrons (see also Philodendrons VS Pothos: What’s The Difference?), the support encourages the leaves to fenestrate, developing distinctive splits like that of a Swiss cheese plant.
Making your own moss pole will only take about half an hour of your time, and it will be well worth it in the end!
Plants That Will Appreciate A Moss Pole Support
Any plant that likes to climb will take full advantage of a moss pole. You’ll soon notice that the leaves that mature while the plant is growing on the moss pole will be much bigger than those grown before it.
Some examples of plants that are generally happier when grown up a moss pole for support include:
- Any type of Monstera species (see also 15 Amazing Monsteras To Grow), including the Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa), the Swiss cheese vine (Monstera adansonii), and the silver Swiss cheese plant (Monstera siltepecana).
- Pothos plants, such as the golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
- Climbing forms of Philodendron, including the infamous Pink Princess.
- Indoor Jasmine, and pretty much any other climber you can think of.
Another benefit of growing your plants up moss poles is that you can attach epiphytes to the top of the pole, mimicking their natural environment of growing on other plants.
How To Make A Moss Pole Using 4 Materials
It’s not an extensive list, and you can get the materials you need pretty readily, either online or in shops.
Here’s what you need before you start:
- Sphagnum moss (responsibly sourced)
- 100ft of plastic coated garden twist wire (preferably with a cutter included in the reel)
- ½” 19 gauge PVC coated hardware mesh (the coating is a must, as you don’t want it to rust!).
You can use it in any size, but it’s easier to start with 2 feet x 5 feet, or 3 feet x 5 feet.
- A good sharp pair of scissors, secateurs, or wire cutters, whatever you happen to have.
How To Make A DIY Moss Pole
Rehydrate The Sphagnum Moss
The first step is to rehydrate the sphagnum moss by soaking it in water. You don’t need to have it swimming in water, just a minute or two is long enough.
You can use a plastic plant tray or saucer for this if you don’t want to dirty your sink, adding some warm water.
Go easy on the moss to start with. It can be tricky at first to estimate exactly how much moss you need, and you can always add more, so you don’t end up with too much soggy moss and nothing to attach it to!
The good news is that you can always put some more moss in to soak, as it only takes a minute.
Shape The Mesh Into A Rough Cylinder
If you’re using one of the recommended sizes above, you’ll be able to make several moss poles from the same mesh, which will definitely make things a lot cheaper than buying one outright.
You can use other sizes, but one thing you definitely need to make sure is that the mesh is coated in a material that won’t rust (such as PVC), as the moss in the pole should be damp for the majority of the time.
Very carefully, manipulate the mesh with your fingers so that it forms a cylinder. You can do this by rolling it.
It’s worth noting at this stage that it is very difficult to make a very thin moss pole, and much easier to make a thicker one.
Cut The Mesh To Size
Once you know how wide you want the pole to be, cut it to size using your strong scissors, wire cutters, or secateurs.
Leave The Mesh Open
While it’s tempting to shut the mesh at this stage, it’s a lot easier to leave it as an open cylinder at this point, so you can add the moss easily without having to stuff it in there.
Add The Damp Sphagnum Moss To The Mesh
Make sure you squeeze the moss, so it’s not soaking, and start packing the pole with moss. Do this from end to end, and don’t be afraid to add too much.
In fact, it’s better to stuff it completely, as with time the moss will eventually degrade, so the more you pack in now, the better.
Use The Wire Twist To Close The Cylinder
Once you’ve completely packed the cylinder with moist sphagnum moss, it’s time to close up the cylinder.
Grab your plastic coated wire twist, and work from one end of the moss pole to the other.
It’s worth tying the wire around the ends of the cylinder before you cut it from the roll, as this will keep the ends tighter, and you won’t have to fight so much to close it.
Leave long ends on each knot, so that if you ever have to reinforce the pole for a bigger plant, this will make it much easier.
You don’t need to do it along every part of the pole, around every 6 inches is enough to keep the moss pole together.
Add The Finished Pole To A New Pot And Add Your Plant
To make it easier for yourself (and to avoid damaging your plants) pop your fantastic new moss pole in the bottom of a plant pot with nothing else in it.
Grab the plant that needs some support, and plant it up in the container, tying the plant in to the moss pole, so it can take advantage of the moss pole’s support straight away.
Finally, fill in any spaces with your chosen compost, firming it in if needed, and you’re nearly there.
You will want to tie in the plant’s stems at several points, to help encourage the plant to grow up the pole, and to give it more support.
If there’s any aerial roots on your plant, it’s a good idea to tie the area just below them, too. If your plant doesn’t need any extra support, then you’re done!
However, if your plant is heavier and your moss pole looks a bit puny, there are a couple of sections further down that will help.
Alternative Materials You Can Use For A Moss Pole
If you don’t want to use wire for the outer part of the moss pole, you could use hardware cloth instead, which does the same thing.
When tying in your plant, you can simply weave the shoots into the holes rather than using plant ties, or, use garden string.
Whichever method you use, be very gentle, as you don’t want to cause any damage to your plants.
Tips To Get The Best Out Of A Moss Pole
How To Extend A Moss Pole
If your plant is already outgrowing the moss pole, you’ll be glad to know that you can extend it without much trouble at all.
You’ll need the same materials as before, and a measuring tape, or a good eye, as you’ll need to measure the diameter of your existing moss pole.
Ensure that the extension to the moss pole will be the same diameter before cutting the extra off your hardware mesh.
Shape it into a cylinder, the same way you did with the original moss pole. Instead of packing it and sealing it, you’ll want to place it on top of the original moss pole, making sure that they overlap at least a couple of inches or so.
To make life easier, secure your moss poles together now where they join, before you attempt to put in the damp moss.
Once they are secure, add the damp sphagnum moss. Pack it pretty tightly, especially at the bottom of the extended pole.
Start closing up the extended part of the pole as you pack the moss inside, tying the ends every 6 inches or so.
When the extended part is fully closed and packed with damp moss, take another look at where it joins the original pole. If you feel it needs it, add some more ties to make sure it stays together as one pole.
If the whole thing feels a little wobbly, you can also use the tips below to help reinforce the moss pole to make it extra secure.
How To Strengthen Your Moss Pole For Giant Plants
If you have a Swiss cheese plant that is huge and needs more than what your moss pole can give it, don’t despair! The good news about a DIY moss pole is that you can make it as strong as it needs to be.
You will need an extra material: some plastic coated stakes (4 feet or 6 feet tall, whatever matches the size of your moss pole).
Alternatively, if you don’t want to use plastic, you can use bamboo canes that you can lash together and cut to size. (If you have a bamboo plant in your garden, even better).
It’s a very simple process, and won’t take you long. Use more of the twist wire roll you got earlier, and tie the stake into the moss pole.
To reinforce it further, you could do this along the ‘seam’ of the moss pole that you twisted shut, so that the opening stays shut, and your stake stays in place.
If you’re making a stronger moss pole and haven’t started yet, you could add it to the inside of the mesh instead of the outside.
Always plant a moss pole into a new pot and then add the plant. Don’t try to insert a moss pole into a container with a plant already in it, as you can damage the roots.
Don’t expect your moss pole to be completely stable in the soil straight away, as it can need the extra anchorage of the plant roots.
It’s a good idea to water your moss pole when you water the plant because of the sphagnum moss, but let it at least partially dry out in between watering. Don’t let the pole completely dry out, though, as it will be harder to rehydrate it.
You will need to tie in or weave in the growing shoots into the moss pole to keep the plant anchored to its support.
When your plant gets to the end of the moss pole, you can propagate the tips that get higher than the pole itself, or you can extend the moss pole. The choice is yours!
Moss Poles: Other Things To Consider
There are some other things to be aware of when it comes to moss poles and plant care. Here’s what you should know.
Moss Poles And Moisture
You should aim to keep a moss pole damp at least most of the time.
Don’t keep it soaked, as this can cause problems, but aiming for it to be damp helps encourage the roots of your climbing plant to grow deeper into the pole.
It also means that the plant’s roots don’t have to fight to get there, as it’s easier for them to grow into damp moss.
You can let the pole dry out for a little while, but try not to give it too much of an extended dry spell. It’s a good idea to wet your moss pole every time you water the plant itself (see also How To Make A Self-Watering Moss Pole).
Moss Pole Alternatives
If you don’t fancy the idea of a moss pole, there are lots of other options you can go for. To be completely plastic-free, use bamboo canes (which you can cut to size, or lash together as needed).
You could even use dry sticks (this works better outside than for houseplants, as you don’t want to introduce disease), but if your plant produces aerial roots, a moss pole is best.
Do You Need A Moss Pole For A Swiss Cheese Plant?
Not necessarily, but you will eventually find that your Monstera plant will flop or lean to one side, or start trailing rather than standing upright.
So it is important to give it some form of support. For the likes of Monstera deliciosa, typically the plant we mean when we talk about a Swiss cheese plant, it’s helpful to make a moss pole before the plant needs it (see also How To Care For Monstera Deliciosa).
It means that you can propagate the plant easier when it gets too large for your space, but the plant will also be healthier, too.
That’s not to say that you can’t have a giant version of a Swiss cheese plant trailing, but you will need a lot of room to support it!
Moss poles are a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to keep your plants growth supported and sustainable, avoiding plant stress.
If you make them yourself (which only takes around half an hour, less if you’re used to doing it), you can make it to the exact size and shape you need, testing its strength and adjusting it where necessary.
It also means that you can extend the pole when the plant starts to outgrow it, and you’ll already have all the materials you need to hand.
Plants that have moss poles for support generally grow much better than vining or climbing plants that start to trail because they have nothing to climb up, and you’ll see a big difference in the leaves.
The foliage of a well-supported plant tends to be much larger, and will mature much faster, helping fill out your houseplant jungle with very little effort on your part, and your plants will be much happier for it.