If your climbing plants are taking over your counters and shelves, it might be time to install a moss pole!
Moss poles mimic natural supports like trees and encourage plants to grow vertically. They’re usually covered with a material called sphagnum moss. The textured surface of sphagnum moss helps aerial roots to latch onto the pole. Water from the moss then provides these aerial roots with nourishment.
Installing a moss pole for your climbing plant is a great way to give it stability and sustenance. But for a moss pole to work, it needs constant watering. This is where a self-watering setup comes in handy.
All you need to make your own DIY self-watering moss pole is a piece of PVC pipe, sphagnum moss, a plastic bottle, a fine needle, gloves, and some string.
Read on for the best tips about how to construct, install, and maintain your self-watering moss pole!
Are Moss Poles Self-Watering?
Moss poles are a great way to provide a constant supply of nutrients to your plant. This helps your plant grow bigger because the nutrients don’t have to travel all the way from the soil to reach the uppermost leaves. Moss poles also help create a wet environment for humidity-loving vine plants like pothos and monsteras.
So to reap the most benefits of a moss pole, it needs to be constantly wet.
But a moss pole by nature is not self-watering. Sphagnum moss does not retain moisture for long amounts of time, so moss poles require constant watering.
The simplest way to ensure your moss pole stays wet is by misting it. But mist evaporates quickly. And let’s be honest, it can get tedious misting your plant every day! That’s why we recommend designing your moss pole with a self-watering system.
How to Make a Moss Pole
Making your own self-watering moss pole from scratch is easier than you’d think! Unlike store-bought poles, you can customize yours to be as long and wide as your plant needs.
What You’ll Need
- PVC Pipe (1/2 inch to 1 inch wide)
- Sphagnum moss
- Plastic water bottle (1 liter)
- A fine needle
Step 1 – Soak the Sphagnum Moss
Sphagnum moss comes dry, so you’ll want to soak it for about 20 minutes. Bone dry sphagnum moss will not absorb water efficiently, so this initial hydrating stage is important!
Tip: Use gloves when handling sphagnum moss. Although very rare, sphagnum moss can carry harmful fungi.
Step 2 – Cut Your PVC Pipe
PVC pipe usually comes in 10 ft (3 m) sections. Depending on the height of your plant, you’ll need to cut it down. If the pipe is too tall, your plant may topple over.
Step 3 – Attach Moss to Pipe
Bind the sphagnum moss to the PVC pipe and secure it with the string.
The easiest way to do this is to work from bottom to top. Add handfuls of sphagnum moss and wrap it with string, then continue upward until the whole pipe is covered.
Step 4 – Root Pole in Soil
Next, secure the moss pole into your plant’s soil. Make sure it’s rooted deep enough that it won’t come loose.
Step 5 – Poke Holes in Water Bottle
Use the needle to gently poke holes in the cap of your water bottle. 2-4 small holes should do. This is what will allow the water to slowly drip out.
Step 6 – Secure Bottle to Top of Moss Pole
Fill your bottle with water and secure the cap. Place the bottle upside down on top of your moss pole so the water drips downwards.
Secure the bottle in place with string, tape, or wire if necessary.
- If the water bottle is too heavy, only fill it halfway so it doesn’t topple your moss pole.
- Use twist ties or string to secure your plant’s branches to the moss pole. This will train the plant to grow vertically. Keep the twist ties in place for about 6 weeks, or until the aerial roots firmly attach to the moss.
- Make sure your pot has drainage holes. This will prevent an excess of water which can cause root rot.
- Refill the water bottle once it is empty. Usually, it takes 1-2 days for all the water to pass through the tiny holes. This timeframe may vary depending on how big your bottle is, and how many pinholes you add. Don’t leave the bottle empty for too long or else the moss pole will dry out.
How Does a Self-Watering Moss Pole Work?
So what exactly does this contraption do?
Gravity helps the water slowly drip out from the pinprick holes in the bottle. The water then saturates the moss pole inch by inch.
As long as you constantly refill the water bottle when empty, the moss will stay continuously moist. This can help improve humidity levels for your plant. It will also provide a steady supply of water and nutrients for the aerial roots to access.
How Tall Should a Moss Pole Be?
For a moss pole to be effective, it needs to grow as your plant does. Keep all your supplies at hand, because you will need to add to your self-watering moss pole over time!
This can be done by simply adding another moss pole on top as an extension. You can attach this extension with tape or bind it to your existing moss pole with string.
In general, a moss pole should be about 1-2 feet taller than your plant. Although moss poles are very stable, they can bend once they get too tall. If this starts to happen, you can tie on a sturdy wooden stick for support.
Moss Pole Alternatives
Coco coir is a fibrous material from the inside of a coconut. It’s a popular alternative to sphagnum moss and can be bought in convenient sheets. It retains moisture similar to sphagnum moss, and it’s mold-resistant too.
The big downside to coco coir is that it contains high amounts of salt. This is problematic because salt absorbs water and takes vital nutrients away from your plant.
To avoid this, buy only high grade coco coir, and rinse it well before use.
Bamboo canes are a popular alternative to moss poles because they are widely available at most gardening stores, and they’re inexpensive.
Bamboo is soft enough to easily cut to size, but still firm enough to provide adequate support for your plant. The downside is that bamboo doesn’t retain water or provide nutrients.
Wooden stakes are an easy way to provide support for your plants. Most of us have scrap wood lying around that can be used to prop up stems in a bind. Wood also blends in well and provides a natural look.
The problem with wood is that it is pliable and prone to bending, cracking, and warping in the sun. Wood is also more susceptible to rot unlike other materials like PVC pipe and bamboo.
Avoid treated wood, since it contains chemicals that can leach into the soil and harm your plant.
Do Moss Poles Grow Mold?
Although not common, it’s possible for a moss pole to grow mold. Anything that stays wet for an extended period is prone to mold. The good news is that the mold that forms on moss poles is usually not harmful to you or your plants.
Mold thrives in high humidity. So if you notice mold on your moss pole, you need to improve ventilation in the area. Mold also likes the darkness, so try moving your plant to a brighter area of your home.
How Do You Keep Moss Poles from Rotting?
Since our moss pole is made from PVC pipe, the structure itself should not rot. This is only a concern if you use wooden stakes.
However, sphagnum moss is an organic material, and organic materials do decay over time. Your sphagnum moss pole should last about 2-4 years. After that point, you can construct a new pole and cover it with fresh sphagnum moss.
Be gentle when you untangle your plant from the old moss pole. You may even need to snip off some of the aerial roots. Just don’t cut any of the stems and your plant should be fine.
Constructing your own self-watering moss pole is a fun project, and only requires a few inexpensive materials. All you need is a piece of PVC pipe, sphagnum moss, a plastic bottle, a fine needle, gloves, and some string.
The PVC pipe gives your plant stability and structure. Meanwhile, the drip bottle will provide the moss with constant moisture for the plant’s aerial roots. This gives your plant the nutrients it needs to produce bigger and more beautiful foliage!
If you have climbing plants at home, help them grow bountifully with the aid of this simple but effective self-watering moss pole!