Philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum) growing up a moss pole. Photo: www.crocus.co_.uk
Moss poles are great products for houseplants that climb via clinging aerial roots, mostly aroids (plants in the philodendron family) like Swiss cheese plants (Monstera spp.), philodendrons (Philodendron spp.), pothos (Epipremnum spp.), arrowhead vines (Syngonium spp.) and some anthuriums (Anthurium spp.), plus some orchids (Vanilla spp. and Vanda spp.). Just insert the premoistened pole into a pot with a young specimen, attach the climbing stem to the pole initially, keep it moist and from then on in the plant will root into the moss pole all by itself as it grows upward.
So far, so good. But the problem is finding a moss pole that really works!
I ordered some coir-covered (coir is coconut fiber) poles from India that looked great, but they held no moisture whatsoever and it was impossible to get plant roots to fix onto them. Then I tried a moss pole, again bought on the Internet, that was covered in “preserved moss” (dead moss soaked in glycerin and died green). Same story: it held no water.
I next resorted to making my own moss poles by wrapping sphagnum moss around a section of plastic stake (PVC pipe would also work) using florist wire (you could also use fishing line) to hold it in place. The final result was great: sphagnum moss holds water readily and the plants root right into it. The problem is wrapping sphagnum around a stake . Sphagnum just doesn’t hold together on its own, so fixing it around a pole requires a lot of florist wire (fishing line) and a lot of time.
Instead, I now make my moss poles the easy way. Here’s how:
1. Gather the materials: 60 to 90 cm (2 to 30 feet) wide hardware cloth (wire mesh), dried sphagnum moss, bucket, wire cutter, flexible wire (florist wire, for example) or twist ties, pliers, work gloves, bamboo stake, potting soil, large pot, climbing plant.
2. Soak the sphagnum moss in a bucket of tepid water while you work.
3. Wearing gloves (to avoid cutting yourself on the cut wire), clip a 20 to 25 cm (8 to 10 in) width of hardware cloth using the wire cutters.
4. Roll the hardware cloth into a cylinder, using wire or twist ties to hold it together.
5. Use pliers to tuck the cut ends of the hardware cloth inside the cylinder so you don’t risk cutting yourself on them in the future.
6. Remove the moss from the water and wring it out.
7. Fill the cylinder with moist sphagnum moss, packing it tightly using the bamboo stake (or some other long tool) to push it down.
8. Place the pole in the pot.
9. Fill the bottom of the pot with moist potting mix and tamp down to hold the stake in place.
10. Unpot the climbing plant and set in the pot near the pole.
11. Fill in all around the plant and the pole with moist potting mix and tamp down so the pole is held solidly.
12. Fix the stems of the plant to the pole with twist ties or flexible wire. (You’ll be able to remove them later when the plant roots into the pole.)
13. When you water in the future, moisten the pole as well as the potting soil.
From now one, as the plant grows, the aerial roots that form at the nodes of its stems, attracted by the humidity of the pole, will grow into the moss of the pole and the plant will climb on its own.
There! That was easy, wasn’t it?