Gardening Magazine

Getting Misty Over Spanish Moss

By Gardenamateur

Here's a good example of how hard it is to see the tiny flowers of our Spanish moss. Every year, around early November, our Spanish moss bursts into bloom. We know that, and so at this time of year I go looking for them. But the first time I looked over our Spanish moss this year, I didn't see any. I wasn't looking hard enough.

It turns out that this season's flowering hasn't been a great one, but I was wrong — the tiny flowers were there, but they weren't as numerous, that's all.

Getting misty over Spanish moss

Standing back a few feet from the plant, they are so hard to spot. You need to look for little flecks of green. The flowers themselves are about a quarter of an inch (4-6mm) long and wide, perfectly formed, green petalled with a maroon base, and a very very tiny little fleck of yellow pollen in the centre, just like all the big flowers in our garden.

Getting misty over Spanish moss
Now, I do have a theory about why the Spanish moss's flowering is so meagre this year, and I think it's because of disturbance. For the last few years, we've draped our Spanish moss all over our Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' (and yes, it does look a bit spooky). 

Sadly, this year the Grevillea started to die off, due to a fungal rot within its trunk and branches. And in a big storm, big parts of it fell over. 

So, instead of removing the grevillea, we have trimmed off all the dead and dying bits, propped it up with metal stakes and a bit of strategic binding here and there, and it's now a bare-branched framework for our Spanish moss. 

It won't last forever. It might not even last a year or more, but Pammy and I love our Spanish moss and so we're happy with this temporary fix, and long may it last! Of course it's the first thing friends comment on when they step out into our backyard.

This year, instead of enjoying yet another blissful 12 months draped over the same, familiar branches, every last part of the Spanish moss has been disturbed and rearranged. And that's my theory to explain why its flowering has been so modest.  

Getting misty over Spanish moss

Our clumps of the stuff thrive here, and there is one useful tip I have for anyone wondering how to grow it. Water it often. Yes, water it often with a fine mist.Spanish moss thrives in humid zones of the warm, wet parts of southern USA, Central America and South America, and so I try to replicate those steamy conditions with regular misty sprays of water. I have one of those hose attachments which have a dial, so you can easily change from a shower, to a mist, to a jet of water, and so on. And our Spanish moss loves its misty showers.A friend the other day said "we've always called that an air plant" and they're right, but that leads people to think they don't need to do anything whatsoever to these plants. In a sense they're right, as Spanish moss will soldier on fairly well in a mild, well-rained-on climate like Sydney, but with regular misting the stuff multiplies like crazy.

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