Spanish Moss
Tillandsia usneoides

Family: Bromeliaceae (bro-mee-lee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Tillandsia (til-LAND-see-uh) (Info)
Species: usneoides (us-nee-OY-deez) (Info)

Category:

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Epiphytes

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us

Height:

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

Spacing:

3-6 in. (7-15 cm)

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade

Light Shade

Danger:

N/A

Bloom Color:

Chartreuse (Yellow-Green)

Inconspicuous/none

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Foliage:

Grown for foliage

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:

Non-patented

Propagation Methods:

From leaf cuttings

From seed; germinate in a damp paper towel

Seed Collecting:

Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed

Regional

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Fairhope, Alabama

Brea, California

Canoga Park, California

Hayward, California

Long Beach, California

Reseda, California

San Diego, California (2 reports)

San Pedro, California

Simi Valley, California

Spring Valley, California

Upland, California

Bartow, Florida

Big Pine Key, Florida

Boca Raton, Florida

Bradley, Florida

Daytona Beach, Florida

Deland, Florida

Deltona, Florida

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fountain, Florida

Green Cove Springs, Florida

Hollywood, Florida

Homosassa, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida (4 reports)

Keystone Heights, Florida

Lake City, Florida (2 reports)

Lakeland, Florida

Loxahatchee, Florida

Lutz, Florida (2 reports)

Naples, Florida

New Port Richey, Florida

Ocala, Florida

Ocoee, Florida

Oldsmar, Florida (2 reports)

Orange Park, Florida

Parrish, Florida

Pompano Beach, Florida (2 reports)

Port Saint Lucie, Florida

Saint Petersburg, Florida

Sarasota, Florida (2 reports)

Seffner, Florida

Tallahassee, Florida

Wauchula, Florida

West Palm Beach, Florida

Winter Garden, Florida

Dallas, Georgia

Hinesville, Georgia (2 reports)

Savannah, Georgia

Honomu, Hawaii

Kailua, Hawaii

Kailua Kona, Hawaii

Village Park, Hawaii

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Paulina, Louisiana

Centreville, Maryland

Moss Point, Mississippi

Natchez, Mississippi

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Gatesville, North Carolina

Newton Grove, North Carolina

Cincinnati, Ohio

Conway, South Carolina

Edisto Island, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Saint Helena Island, South Carolina

Summerville, South Carolina (2 reports)

Broaddus, Texas

Richmond, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

Suffolk, Virginia

Virginia Beach, Virginia (2 reports)

show all

Gardeners' Notes:

15
positives
4
neutrals
2
negatives
RatingContent
Positive

On Mar 6, 2015, longjonsilverz from Centreville, MD wrote:

I have some Spanish moss on a bald cypress tree here in Eastern Maryland. Surprisingly it has survived even the record breaking cold winter of 13/14 with temperatures down to near zero on several nights. Some pieces of it died, but the core was fine. When water touches Spanish moss it turns slightly green which is a good way to know if its still alive since dead moss stays gray when wet. The birds like to steal it to make nests so I am constantly replacing it since it doesn't reproduce fast enough in this area. There are some claims around the internet that Spanish moss once grew wild in this area, but I have no idea if thats the truth or not.

Positive

On Feb 28, 2015, Samuel_J from Savannah, GA wrote:

Hello; I live in Savannah, Ga, which is notorious for it's moss. I have an acre on the marsh, with 6, 200+ year old
oak trees. The moss hangs as low as 10-15 feet in a single clump. I also have pines and magnolias, which do not support the moss. It will get in the trees from a gust of wind, but does not grow. The moss does love my camellia's, and has a tendency to choke it, reducing the flowering quantity, so I keep them cleaned fairly close, with just enough left in for looks. It seems to have no negative effect on the oaks, other than trapping in moisture, which can slowly rot a branch, then making it a breeding ground for damaging insects. I have no problem with mites (chiggers) in my moss here on the marsh, but what I have deduced is that I also have no pigeons; only song birds.... read more

Positive

On Nov 24, 2007, sandiegojames from San Diego, CA wrote:

I have several chunks of this that I've hung around the yard, some of them stuck into other plants in hanging baskets, others draped over the trunks of plants like a tree fern. It's almost more like a decorative accessory than a plant, something that you can put anywhere you want a swampy bayou look. After several years of doing this, I haven't noticed any ill effects unless the "moss" grows faster than what it's draped over. If that's a problem I just pull the plant off and move it somewhere else.

I have several chunks draped over a pond, and the location has proven a magnet for hummingbird nests.

Positive

On Aug 15, 2006, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

Here in California, the difficulty is trying to grow it fast enough to keep up with birds who steal it to make nests out of it.

Positive

On Jan 2, 2006, greyyhawkk from Seattle, WA wrote:

A source I have found states that it takes up nutrients leached out (not used) by trees -Foliar Leaching, which is not harmful. It is Epiphytic not parasitic. Spanish Moss being a bromeliad and sometimes called an air plant, I would have intuited that it simply took nutrients from the air. Perhaps it does both? Oaks leach the most and pines leach the least. Which is why it is more common on Oaks and not common on pines. I noticed a comment about being more common on pines... I think that must be localized. If you research for scientific information on Tillandsia Usneoides or maybe traveled enough... it is most common on Oaks, Cypress, but not as common on Pines:

PS: I just received 3 bunches of Spanish Moss, ranging from 27 to 31 1/4 inches and will try to grow it indoors... read more

Positive

On Dec 4, 2005, SudieGoodman from Broaddus, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Zone 8b, shore of Lake Sam Rayburn, southeast, TX
Henry, wind blows my moss from tree before it starts spreading. You gave me an idea to hang it over fish tanks where the wind is not blowing so strongly.
I will use it in my pot plants, as mulch under azalea shrubs, etc.
We have a lot of Spanish Moss in our area.
Read how the name "Spanish Moss" derived. Very interesting. (It did not come from Spain) Go to Google for an interesting story on how it got it's name.

Best regards and happy mossing

Neutral

On May 13, 2005, zsnp from Pensacola, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

It is interesting that some oak trees in Florida are full of Spanish moss, yet others don't have it at all. I wish this thing would be invasive. I love the way it hangs on trees. :)

Positive

On May 9, 2005, JaxFlaGardener from Jacksonville, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

I grew up in NE Florida where the Spanish Moss hangs in great flowing "beards" from nearly every hardwood tree and I consider myself fairly observant of details. However, I had never noticed flowers on T. usneoides until yesterday when using Spanish Moss to stuff a new wire basket planter for my Staghorn Fern (Platycerium bifurcatum). I've uploaded some photos of the two small (approx. 1/4 inch), chartreuse green, waxy, tube-shaped flowers that I found on one sprig of the Spanish Moss that I was using to stuff the wire basket.

Positive

On Mar 31, 2005, DawnRain from Bartow, FL wrote:

I totally disagree with the last two comments. Trees are dying, that is true, but it has nothing to do with the Spanish moss. Likely, it's another environmental issue caused by modern times. When I grew up in the 50's, our trees were always heavily draped in Spanish moss. There was so much more of it in those days.

Then there was a die off, likely due to pollution from the phosphate mines, and I find it very sad that it does not grow as it used to. The diseases killing trees are because of introduced pests or pollution. The Spanish moss is not causing the harm. In fact it is just as often victim too. And that is sad for the creatures that had been dependent on it. DR

Negative

On Mar 30, 2005, jasonc from Parrish, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

I agree with Obi_wan for the most part. I've been told before if you leave it on the trees sooner or later it will take over and kill the tree. Now that doesn't mean it will literally kill the tree but it does get to the point where it is EVERYWHERE on the tree. I've seen alot of perfectly fine trees get it and become really dead looking from the lack of light....

Negative

On Mar 30, 2005, Obi_Wan from Lake City, FL wrote:

I have witnessed many trees sucked dry of their life due to Spanish Moss. But it's strange, the trees in Northern Florida seem to have a negative reaction to it while the Southern Florida trees seem to do OK. Whether the Spanish Moss is directly or in-directly responsible I have no idea but the evidence is abundant. If you have it (in North Fl.) your tree will die.

Positive

On Nov 9, 2004, TREEHUGR from Now in Orlando, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

There are several posts here that apparently aren't sure if Spanish moss can kill a tree or not. The fact is, Spanish moss is an epiphyte. It does not feed off the tree like a parasite or pest; it feeds from nutrients in the air. It likes to call trees home because they provide a shady spot where they won't dry out and will catch a lot of delicious nutrients, but it does not harm the tree one bit. It just so happens, you can find Spanish moss easily in Florida on older or mature trees. Kind of makes the tree look like it's got hairy armpits :) Spanish moss is useful for making beautiful wigs and toupees.

Neutral

On Jul 15, 2004, punaheledp from Kailua, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

See quite a bit in the neighborhood, usually in plumeria trees. My son brought a small piece home from a friend's and hung it in our plumeria, but it was not getting enough water there, so have moved it to a branch in our crown flower. Is it very slow growing, or does it just not like where it is? It's still alive after a year but not much bigger. I don't find it all that attractive when large, but it is interesting.

Positive

On Jul 14, 2004, aviator8188 from Murphysboro, IL (Zone 7a) wrote:

I live in zone 7a extreme southern Illinois and I have always been fascinated by the specimen during my trips through the south...I just wonder if it would grow here? Does anyone know where I could purchase some seed?

**Update** (Revised June 10, 2005):

I recently received some Tillandsia usneoides courtesy of a gentleman from southern Georgia. I have it growing in my Nandina domestica (since T. usneoides prefers to grow on evergreens). I'm going to see if it will grow in my zone 7a climate, that occasionaly experiences zone 6b winters. I will have reports in the spring of 2006.

Spanish Moss is an epiphyte, thus it doesn't feed of it's host plant (e.g. Quercus virginia, Pinus, Nandina, Lagerstroemia, Magnolia, etc.). Those Genuses are the most ... read more

Positive

On May 16, 2004, henryr10 from Cincinnati, OH (Zone 6b) wrote:

I am actually growing it here in Cincinnati. A gift from a friend in GA, it spent the winter in the greenhouse and actually grew about 6" this Winter. Now I have draped it over the ponds and water features outside and so far it is thriving. Great for a 'tropical' look in the garden.

In response to aviator:
It did very well outside here this summer in Cincinnati and, in fact, grew about 2' in length. I'm sure it would do well in your area. I just draped it over plants and tomato cages.
It is now wintering indoors.

Positive

On May 11, 2004, Monocromatico from Rio de Janeiro
Brazil (Zone 11) wrote:

I see that people associate the death of trees with the bromeliad. Well, there's no relation between the presence of Spanish Moss and dead trees. It just happens that the tree dies, but the moss just stays there as long as it can.

The Spanish Moss can indeed form a heavy cover on the tree branches, but it usually doesn't cover the leaves and leaf buds, so there's little competition between the epiphyte and the hoster. If a tree dies covered with Spanish Moss it's most likely because of some disease than the influence of the epiphyte.

The only bad thing this plant can cause is making the trees look ugly or sad, which is a matter of opinion. I recommend keeping this plant whenever you can. As said before, lots of birds use it to build their nests, not to mention... read more

Neutral

On May 11, 2004, foodiesleuth from Honomu, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

When I lived on the banks of the South Edisto River in SC there was a lot of Spanish Moss growing on the trees...they don't only live on oaks, they also liked to drape on pines, cypress and cedar.

I have seen some dead trees so covered with the moss that it could have been caused by it, but do not know for sure.

Believe it or not, at the end of the strands, if you look closely, you will see a tiny little star shaped bloom about once a year.

I loved using Spanish Moss to cover wreaths at Christmas and for many other projects.

Positive

On Aug 11, 2003, Kelli from L.A. (Canoga Park), CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

I am rather surprised that I am able to grow this plant outside in California. It hangs in a tree, which is a relatively humid location, and I soak it in water several times a week during hot and dry weather. The original clump had got big enough that I could divide it, so it is growing. It blooms, too.

Positive

On Aug 10, 2002, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Spanish moss, is indeed not a moss. It's actually a relative of the pineapple. Odd, but true. In years past, it was used as stuffing for mattresses and automobile seats. Also, in the past, doctors prescribed medicines extracted from Spanish moss to treat diabetes. Currently, it's mostly used in arts and crafts, by people, that is. It's used in the wild by many of God's creatures.

Positive

On Aug 10, 2002, PippiPat wrote:

Spainish moss is beneficial for many reasons. There are little Warblers, Northern Parula, a delighful little bird, that nests in the Spainiah moss. Here in Texas I have seen other very small birds nestle into the moss for protection from rainy nights. When lived in Va. we would mulch potted plants with the moss. It only grows in swampy damp areas and is really abundant in La. It will not grow in full afternoon sun, prefers morning sun and some partical shade, but creeks, swamps, party shady rivers is where it will be found. It also prefers oak trees, but if a healthy growth, beginning with an oak, may spread to underbrush etc.

Neutral

On Sep 24, 2001, Floridian from Lutz, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Not a moss at all, this plant is native in coastal areas from Virginia south to Argentina and Chile. Thought to have evolved in the Peruvian Andes it has the broadest natural geographic range of any bromeliad. Its strands are often many feet long, with gray, very slender stems and foliage. It hangs from trees and sometimes shrubs, taking moisture and nutrients from the air.