Sphagnum moss vs Peat moss – Main Differences

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Two different types of the same plant are called sphagnum moss or sphagnum peat moss. They can be interchanged like peat moss. Each module can be used in a different way.

This article will explain the differences between Sphagnum moss vs Peat moss We also provide some gardening tips. Let’s also consider how they are collected, and what sustainability means.

Sphagnum moss vs Peat moss Differences

Sphagnum Moss can grow on the soil’s surface or in swamps. This living plant can thrive in humid climates. It is commonly grown commercially in the wetlands of New Zealand and Canada.

Sphagnum moss’s growth cycle can last from 5-to 6 years. Therefore, it is important to harvest the moss regularly to maintain a steady supply. It can be collected and dried for use in greenhouses, gardens, and reptile bedding in Terrariums.

Peat moss, also known as sphagnum or sphagnum peat moss, is a partially decayed dead sphagnum and other organic material that has settled within the swamps. It could also contain other plant material or dead insects.

Organic materials sink to the bottom over thousands of years in a natural process called “compressed peat moss”. The rate of decomposition is very slow without air, which can slow down the process.

Sphagnum moss vs Peat moss Properties

The properties of sphagnum-moss are:

  • Neutral pH
  • Water-retention
  • As a growing material, it is flexible and soft.
  • Long-fibered
  • Pure moss, no other material
  • It can be used as a seed starter, to line baskets, or as additional growing material in pot soils.

Peat moss properties:

  • It is high in tannins and acidity
  • Water can be as high as 70%
  • It is naturally compressed and sold as bales.
  • It contains a mix of organic materials such as moss, decaying plant matter, and dead insects.
  • It is used to make potting and gardening soils

Sphagnum moss can be used to start seeds, or for lining baskets that will house orchids. It can also be used to make potting compost or garden potting soil.

Peat moss, also known as sphagnum peat moss, is commonly sold in compressed bales and sacks. They can also be dried and ground for use as potting or gardening soils.

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Indoor plants propagation with sphagnum moss

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Because it can hold 20 times its weight in water, sphagnum moss makes a great propagator. Sphagnum moss also prevents root rot by providing excellent airflow. It makes it easier for healthy roots to grow, which require the correct amount of nutrients, oxygen, and water.

There are two types of sphagnum moss: (1) long-fiber and (2) ground moss. Both are the same moss, but long-fiber moss is its natural form and ground moss has been finely chopped. Everybody has their own favorite use.

When hydrated, sphagnum moss expands and shrinks when dried. To hydrate sphagnum, add water to large containers. You will see the moss expand, so ensure that there is plenty of room. After it has grown to the desired size, leave it alone for 15 minutes.

When the roots reach a length of a few inches, you can move them to another medium to allow for longer growth.

Peat moss for gardening

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Peat moss can be used to improve soil quality in potting soil and raised flower beds. Because it retains water well and prevents nutrients from being washed away, peat moss is highly recommended for dry areas. It can alter the soil’s acidity and may need to be neutralized.

Tips to prepare peat soil for your garden.

  • Apply two parts soil to one part peat as a soil enhancer. To distribute the garden soil well, mix it thoroughly.
  • Your preferences will determine the mix used for seed starters. Mixes for soilless use peat moss with equal parts vermiculite or perlite. They also contain small amounts of lime and fertilizer to improve plant nutrition and pH. You can adjust the ratio to suit the specific crop’s needs.

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Peat harvesting is sustainable

Peat moss takes thousands of years to develop. Harvesting involves the excavation of marshes, which can destroy the potential regeneration of the marshy environment. It is therefore not sustainable.

The University of Vermont estimates that about two-thirds of all wetlands worldwide are composed of peat. Only seven percent of this has been used for agricultural purposes. Only 0.02% of peat is harvested in Canada each year, which amounts to about 1 million tons. Nevertheless, around 70 million tons of peat are produced each year naturally.

Studies show that it takes between 5 and 20 years for the ecosystem to recover from being depleted of collected bogs. Every 15-25 years, peat forms a 1-inch layer.

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To access the swamp, the companies first harvest the living snail plant. They then dry the swamp to vacuum up the peat. The peat is then dried again, screened, and compressed into bales. This is what is sold in shops.

The UK encouraged households and commercial growers alike to adopt more eco-friendly alternatives in 2010. This is done to preserve the habitats and animals of rare plants and animals in peatlands and to prevent flooding in surrounding towns and cities.

Peat, when dried before harvesting is complete, releases approximately 400,000 tons of gasoline per year. This is equivalent to what 100,000 cars produce each year. Long after harvesting is over, the carbon in swamps continues to be exhaled.

To manage and control the environmental effects of peat harvesting, laws and regulations were established. However, consumers are encouraged to look for alternatives.


For the propagation or cultivation of houseplants, sphagnum moss may be replaced with leca or pumice.

As a soil enhancer, coir, coir mat or wood fiber, or composted bark, can be substituted for peat moss. Coir is made from ground coconut shells and is often considered a trash product.

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Frequent questions

Sphagnum being called peat moss?

It is because people don’t know that sphagnum is the genus of moss species. Because the main material in a peat moss bog is made from the sphagnum, which grows above the marsh, it’s sometimes called “sphagnum peat” moss.

Is it possible to use peat in place of sphagnum?

Everybody has their preferred use. Peat moss can be used to amend gardening soil and is preferable for propagating plants.

Is sphagnum moss renewable or not?

Contrary to what companies claim, it is not true. Despite regulations being established regarding the maximum amount of peat that can be harvested, swamps are not likely to regenerate because of the slow natural process of producing peat.

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