Moss Pole For Plants: Why, How, And When To Use

If you’re a houseplant enthusiast, like I am, you may already be familiar with moss poles. If not, you might be curious as to what they are and whether or not you need one. If so, you’ve come to the right place!

While they’re not the only game in town, as I’ll later explain, moss poles combine the moisture-retaining benefits of sphagnum moss and the stability of an upright structure to facilitate the healthy growth and development of large and/or vining houseplants. 

In this article, I’ll be discussing how moss poles for plants work, the wide variety of indoor flora that benefits from them, and how to install them correctly for maximum functional and visual effect. 

Why You Should Use A Moss Pole For Plants?

Moss poles offer a similar environment to what our plants would find in the wild. Which is typically the moist, mossy bark of tall, upright trees.

Lush Pothos or Philodendron vines hanging down from atop bookcases, shelves, or macrame plant hangers, are a common and beautiful sight. 

Some might say, the longer and more luxurious, the better. Visually, perhaps. But, biologically, that’s not necessarily so.

Vining plants are quite happy with their leaf-filled limbs hanging down to a certain point. But, the longer those vines get, the more gravity pulls on them, causing strain and stress.

By relieving this pressure with the upright support of moss poles:

  • Leaves, vines, and aerial roots receive supplemental moisture
  • Plants grow faster with easier, upward access to sunlight
  • Denser-growing foliage with more pronounced patterns results from more efficient photosynthesis.

What Plants Need A Moss Pole

Not every houseplant requires a moss pole. For example, tall Snake Plants (sansevieria trifasciata) and bushy Spider Plants (chlorophytum comosum), as well as others, present growth habits that don’t require upright support.

Plants that most benefit from these will be climbing Monstera cultivars, vining Pothos and Philodendron varieties, and any other tropical aroid that displays a long, pendulous growth habit.

However, there are non-vining species that will also benefit from the extra support that moss poles provide, especially while young.

Adding one to top-heavy Fiddle Leaf Figs (Ficus lyrata), large Crotons (Codiaeum variegatum) and Rubber Trees (Hevea brasiliensis) will encourage a strong, upright trunk as they develop. 

Do Plants Get Attached To Moss Poles

I tend to get attached to my plants. But, do my plants get attached to me or what do I offer them, in the same way? Probably not, but their roots sure do like to hug those moss poles.

Aroid plants sprout new roots from nodes that appear in the spaces between the leaf stems, along each vine. Moss poles that are kept sufficiently moist will stimulate aerial roots to grow and seek out places to anchor themselves. In this case, the sphagnum moss (or coco coir) in your moss pole is perfect.

Either wrapping around it or nuzzling into it, aerial roots will attach themselves to the pole, thereby providing improved stability for the entire plant.

When Do Plants Need A Moss Pole 

Climbing plants will need extra support when their tendrils reach 2-3ft in length. Whether you’re planning on introducing a moss pole to a newly obtained plant or one you’ve had for a while, the best way to do it, without harming the sub-soil root system, is to report it. 

Repotting allows you to place the root ball and the lower stake of your moss pole into the new pot, together. Then, you can cover them with fresh potting soil and begin training. This same process should also be followed with young, indoor trees.

Simply inserting the stake of a moss pole into an established root system could cause severe damage and expose the plant to disease and pest infestation.

Support

In the wild, aroid houseplants would be comfortably draped over rocks and sturdy tree branches. Or climbing up balmy, textured tree trunks, as they reach for the filtered sunlight that streams through an overhead canopy.

Sadly, we can’t have a temperature-controlled conservatory in our homes to perfectly mimic this kind of environment. What we can do is offer them stable surroundings that support the kind of growth they’re hard-wired for.

Just like people, when plants are in comfortable, familiar surroundings, they thrive and grow beautifully.

Yet, the benefits of moss poles aren’t limited to aesthetics. Large plants trained on moss poles tend to have a thinner profile. Allowing them to thrive in smaller spaces, like a studio apartment or a small balcony.

Climbing

The roots that sprout along the stems of aroid plants will reach out for the moisture in your moss pole and eventually nestle into it. Mature roots, together with simple and easy-to-apply ties, form a secure yet gentle brace upon which new growth can form and continue upward.

The beauty of this “training” period is that it’s temporary. Over time, plants will learn how and where to climb on their own, using their roots and stems.

How steep the learning curve is will vary from plant to plant and is typically in line with the growth rate of each species.

Yet, from the beginning of training, you’ll begin to see leaves emerging that are larger and more vibrant in color, with more defined patterns and veining. 

How To Use A Moss Pole For Plants

Introducing a moss pole while repotting is the absolute best way to protect roots. However, if you’re comfortable with nestling the stake through the roots without damaging them, you can try that.

Once your moss pole is securely in place, you can begin attaching the lowermost stems to the pole.

The best options for this depend on the durability of your plant. Soft, nylon ties or jute twine are better for delicate Pothos and smaller Philodendron cultivars.

Large Monstera and Philodendrons varieties will tolerate stronger fasteners like floral wire or even zip ties.

No matter which you choose, they must all be snug enough to hold those stems in place. Yet, close enough to allow for easy movement through them.

Training A Plant To Climb A Moss Pole

The goal of training is to get your plants to recognize the moss pole as a beneficial surface to adhere to.

This recognition is what triggers them to seek it out on their own. Proper attachment is critical, as this direct surface contact is how your plants learn what to do.

A Moss Pole
Avoid using metal staples as pole ties

Again, soft string or nylon ties are best for delicate plants. Floral wire (cut to size and bent in a “U” shape) or zip ties can be used for sturdier plants.

I don’t recommend using metal staples. These can rust and potentially transfer that rust to your plant.  

Attach stalks and stems to your moss pole, with even spacing. This provides balanced adherence and a uniform appearance.

Moss Pole Basics

By following these basic instructions, your plants will thrive in a growing environment that more closely matches what they experience in their natural habitat.

  • Consider using a moss pole for vining plants that hang down beyond 2-3ft, as well as for oversized houseplants with top-heavy foliage.
  • Introduce a moss pole when repotting, to protect roots.
  • Remember that plants will eventually adhere to the moss poles on their own.
  • Use attachment devices that allow for easy movement and growth through them.
moss pole staple
Keep the moss pole moist

Beyond these points, there are still some important questions. How do you maintain adequate moisture in moss poles? Should the size of your moss pole be proportionate size to your plant?

Let’s take a look at each of these, individually.

Soaking The Moss Pole

Many houseplants are tropical in nature and typically prefer moist soil and relatively humid conditions.

Moss poles are designed to enhance these conditions, relieving you from constantly having to spritz them.

Basic moss poles can be watered when you water your plant. By simply pouring the water over the moss pole, the sphagnum will get rehydrated as the water travels down toward the soil and roots.

Self-watering moss poles have a central reservoir that you can fill to keep the moss moist.

The only time you would need to soak it is when first installing it. Right out of the box, moss poles will be bone-dry and plants need a little extra water after repotting, anyway. 

How Thick Should A Moss Pole Be

For maximum effectiveness, the thickness of your moss pole should accommodate the mature size of your plant.

It may be tiny when you first acquire it. But, given a moss pole’s features, plants will grow and reach maturity faster.

Standard moss poles come with a thickness range of .5” – 3.5” to accommodate a variety of climbing plants.

Pothos plants and smaller philodendron and monstera cultivars do well with moss poles that are around 2” in diameter. The mature size of large indoor plants and trees will do better with a thicker pole.

If you’re making your own, the number of sphagnum moss layers can simply be increased or decreased based on the current size of your plant as it grows.

How Tall Should My Moss Pole Be

The height of your moss pole should also support healthy growth. But, you wouldn’t want to buy a 6ft tall moss pole for your baby Philodendron Hastatum.

Luckily, many moss poles start with a 12” height and a built-in option to extend. As your plant grows in height, new poles can be added to the top for the increased climbing room.

But, what if you want to introduce a moss pole to your oversized Monstera Deliciosa? Then, 4-5ft tall moss poles would be perfect.

Some taller moss poles are pliable and can be bent in interesting ways to support your plant and be visually appealing. Given this flexibility, these can potentially be used with plants of any size.

What To Use Instead Of A Moss Pole

At the top of this article, I mentioned that while moss poles are regarded as the best support options for your plants, they aren’t the only ones.

The following DIY alternatives have also been used:

  • Inexpensive wooden stakes
  • PVC pipe left over from previous projects
  • Bamboo canes
  • Metal pipes or stakes

How do these compare with moss poles? Unfortunately, wooden stakes begin to rot over time and PVC/Metal stakes can leach hazardous chemicals into your soil and harm your plants. 

Bamboo canes are functional, but they don’t provide the moisture and humidity features that trigger plants to adhere to them.

However, there are two effective alternatives to sphagnum moss poles that are both functional and effective.

Coco Coir Pole

Coco coir is an impressive substitute for sphagnum moss. It’s a more durable material and therefore lasts longer. 

This sustainable material retains moisture and provides humidity in a similar fashion to moss while inviting aerial roots to nestle into it.

Coir poles also come in a variety of sizes. With some having extension features and flexibility for different shape preferences.

Coco coir
Coco coir pole

Coco coir comes from the inner husk of coconuts and has certain inherent properties like high salt content, phosphorus, and potassium.

Excessive amounts of these elements can have a detrimental effect on your plants. So, these should be leached out (with heavy rinsing) prior to use.

Once these are reduced, your coir pole will encourage the same kind of lush and healthy growth as standard moss poles.

Herin Endless Circle Bamboo
Grow climbing plants across interior walls using decorative trellis

Trellis

Trellises offer fantastic opportunities for you to get creative and make your plant supports a fun and appealing part of your home’s decor.

They’re also fun DIY projects. In the image above, needlepoint rings were fastened together to form an interesting, wall-mounted lattice.

Moss and coco coir poles focus more on function than form. Yet, they have an attractive look when positioned correctly in the pot.

Trellises come in a wide range of shapes and styles. Some you can hang on a wall and let your pothos vines float through it, while others sit right in the pot.

The only “cons” are that these serve a limited, supportive function for smaller plants. If you don’t mind continued training, spritzing, and watering, then let your creative juices flow!

Citation

RHS – Indoor foliage climbers

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.