Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Irish Moss, Pearlwort
Sagina subulata

Family: Caryophyllaceae (kar-ree-oh-fil-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Sagina (sa-JI-nuh) (Info)
Species: subulata (sub-yoo-LAH-tuh) (Info)

9 vendors have this plant for sale.

30 members have or want this plant for trade.

View this plant in a garden

Alpines and Rock Gardens

under 6 in. (15 cm)

6-9 in. (15-22 cm)
9-12 in. (22-30 cm)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
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)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

Click thumbnail
to view:

By mystic
Thumbnail #1 of Sagina subulata by mystic

By Ulrich
Thumbnail #2 of Sagina subulata by Ulrich

By palmbob
Thumbnail #3 of Sagina subulata by palmbob

By Lilypon
Thumbnail #4 of Sagina subulata by Lilypon

By kniphofia
Thumbnail #5 of Sagina subulata by kniphofia

By growin
Thumbnail #6 of Sagina subulata by growin

By WaterCan2
Thumbnail #7 of Sagina subulata by WaterCan2

There are a total of 15 photos.
Click here to view them all!


9 positives
4 neutrals
6 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Geherty On Mar 24, 2014, Geherty wrote:

This is a tough little plant! It's perfect for ground cover in our planting beds, it's evergreen, and never needs mowing/trimming. We water it regularly (just a daily spray with the hose) and it thrives in our southwest desert climate throughout the year. They are exposed to full sun and get no special treatment at all. We have planted both plugs and transplanted our own seedlings with very consistent results. We were sure to harden off the seedlings before transplanting for a week or more. Also, when the transplants are still small (one inch diameter), the birds will eat them. We constructed little cages from wire mesh and covered them until they spread a little beyond 3 inches in diameter, or until the birds gave up on them. We love the look, function, and maintenance-free qualities. It's well worth the initial set-up.

Negative john_hosie On Jun 6, 2012, john_hosie from Gaithersburg, MD (Zone 6b) wrote:

OK. Both Irish Moss and Scottish Moss, which are essentially just different colors of the same basic plant. There is no doubt that, in the right environment it looks fantastic. The problems I've had with it are related to getting it to survive. As others have said, it does great in areas with more shade. This is the usual thing for real moss, so I am not surprised. But the thing that is a real problem with it is its roots. They weave around eachother, forming a dense mat. Not bad in the ground, but I was trying to use it in bonsai pots. The roots so dominate the pot that they choke out everything else. In a bonsai pot, where there really isn't a lot of space for roots to start with, this smothers the trees and kills them. Happened with about a dozen Japanese Maples this winter, as well as half a dozen conifers. Man, the moss looked great in the spring, but the trees died.

Neutral rodey On May 14, 2012, rodey from Freeport, MI wrote:

I could not grow this plant - UNTIL - I tossed some into a deep shade area of the garden. I didn't expect much to come of it and honestly ignored it.

This spring I cleaned out the garden bed and much to my surprise not only was my little irish moss spreading, it was in bloom!

It's planted in gravelly loam with the only water coming from rain and dew. I do not water it or really even give it any care at all.

It definitely does not like sun, even though they say it can handle it. For those with little success, try deep shade with poor soil!

Positive etherealsunshin On Jul 20, 2011, etherealsunshin from Wyanet, IL wrote:

I have started some Irish Moss from seed between stepping stones in a very shady area (maybe an hour of light at sunset) and it takes vigilant watering for it to become established, but the two patches from seed are tough, if not robust, and have come back after the last two winters (-20, zone 5). They tolerate the heavy clay, but do not thrive, and got some sand mixed in last summer when I put in a brick patio nearby, which didn't help the soil. I started some nursery plants on that same side and lost them due to underwatering and general neglect.

Last year, I started some nursery plants (3" pots) between stones on the opposite side of the house (SE exposure, 2-4 hours of sun) and stayed on top of weeding and watering--they just want a slight drink every couple days when it's hot, or a deep water weekly in spring and fall if it's dry. These patches took off (especially when it's cool and moist in the spring) and I was able to cut 1" plugs from the healthiest patches to help fill in the bare areas--these plugs have spread to 5-6" in the past two months.

I've also had problems with browning from the center. I haven't tried surgery yet, but I think when the plants are really spreading out and putting on new growth, the center gets bunched up and mounds--this separates the mat from the soil in the center and the center area can't get enough water. I'm going to experiment with watching for the mounding/browning and cut out a crescent-shaped piece from the center, allowing me to push the entire mat down flat to the ground again (and plant the extra piece in a bare spot!).

These can be a PITA to weed, as I have grass and clovers that still pop through the areas the Irish Moss has spread to, and make sure you make a couple passes with your mower pointing AWAY from your Irish Moss, as clippings get caught up on top of the mats and starve them for sunlight.

They'll look great when they're finally filled in and already look darn cute after a good weeding, but I imagine they'll take a little more maintenance than average over the next few years with the micro-weeding and watering in hot weather.

These plants overwintered well with no winterizing on the SE exposure--just a few small brown spots this spring, but I covered my seed starts (exposed to NW) with straw two winters ago and they were the greenest thing in the yard the following spring.

Worth the effort here for the inimitable aesthetics!

Positive freki On May 27, 2011, freki from Hamilton
Canada (Zone 5b) wrote:

Deeper rooted than it appears. From a single planting 2 years ago I now have several thriving patches, in well drained, rich soil, full sun. As soon as it hits full shade it stops. Survives well in an exposed location in 5a. Lovely textural contrast in perennial bed, non invasive.

Negative Osteole On Apr 15, 2011, Osteole from Lamar, AR (Zone 7a) wrote:

I have not been successful growing this plant. I've tried half-day sun with well drained soil, frequent watering.

Neutral TFE On Jul 15, 2010, TFE from Incline Village, NV wrote:

I have planted Irish Moss in a stone path. In some places, it is doing great. In others, it seems to turn brown from the center to the outside. Don't know what's causing it. Overwater? Probably not, as we live in a very dry mountain climate.

Positive willmetge On Jun 6, 2010, willmetge from Spokane, WA (Zone 5b) wrote:

I had this planted in a hot dry area at my last house and it did very well. It is now planted in full (but bright) shade in a moist area among hostas and is doing equally well. Seeds around a bit, but is easy to remove. One seedling showed up on a nearby rock path and seems to hold up well to moderate foot traffic. Very versatile.

Neutral jess1055 On Jul 7, 2009, jess1055 from Broomfield, CO wrote:

I'd like to plant Sagina Subulata seeds in a sunny rocky border in Denver, Co. Is it possible in the summer or should I wait? Also, the soil quality isn't the greatest, am I wasting my time? Thanks to all!

Positive Grey_Sterling On May 11, 2009, Grey_Sterling from Menifee, CA wrote:

I didn't expect it to do well, but it is flourishing where we have it. It is on the NW side of the house in partial-shade, in a corner that stays damp most of the day. Hopefully it survives the long, hot summer. :)

Positive jshriver On Jun 27, 2008, jshriver from West Newton, MA wrote:

I live in the Boston area, and this is my first year growing Sagina subulata. I got three plants mail order. They arrived in a variety of conditions (from poor to reasonably healthy) on 4/12/2008. Over the last couple of months I have nursed them all to health. The healthy (initially planted in partial sun) has about doubled in size. I can't speak to overwintering yet. Soil here is naturally clay, though I have amended it heavily. The other two which I planted in full sun and full shade both appeared to be less than ideal. I have transplanted them to partial sun, and they seem happier. Moderate sun and lots of water till established seemed to work for me. Which makes sense to me because the root system is really shallow.

Negative Gabrielle On May 2, 2008, Gabrielle from (Zone 5a) wrote:

This is a beautiful plant that I have tried on many occasions, but it always dies when I put it out. I have tried it in multiple places, all with different growing conditions, but it was not happy anywhere. I have a small pot of it that I over-wintered to try one last time. If it survives (and thrives) I will change to a positive experience, but I am not holding my breath.

Negative Malus2006 On Mar 8, 2008, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

Tends to die on me - no matter where I tried to grow it, it keep dies back. In public gardens, they tend to develops bare spots and become unsightly if replanting and high care are not taken for this species. I live in zone 4 so hot weather may not be the cause but watering and drainage might be a problem.

Negative matt1988 On Sep 5, 2006, matt1988 from Dublin, OH (Zone 5b) wrote:

I have tried this plant in both morning sun and almost full sun. It does not do well. If I keep it watered it holds it's own, but if I go a few days without watering it dries up. I am thinking of moving it to full shade.

Neutral ladygardener1 On May 16, 2006, ladygardener1 from Near Lake Erie, NW, PA (Zone 5a) wrote:

This plant has been growing for me 3 years. Helps with a very small area between the garage sidewalk and the patio, where it can get stepped on.

One thing that I notice the seed pods; tiny soft balls, will get stuck in my dogs fur in the feet and beard. I pick them out so the hair won't get matted.

Positive ineedacupoftea On Sep 6, 2005, ineedacupoftea from Denver, CO wrote:

A great vascular-plant alternative to true moss. (Hey, it blooms!) Sun is best. -Thicker and shorter.
Good things:
Ablolutely ideal background/mulch for small, but brightly colored bulbs such as galanthus, crocus, scilla, Frit. michailovskyi, and even fall leaves!
Great weed-discouraging green-mulch.
Very effective between stone pavers, between rocks, and your other creative ideas.

My tip: Don't get too creative and think that a patchwork or checkerboard of the species and gold-cultivar 'Aurea' will be nice: they mix with eachother and lose any appeal!

Negative pburch On Jan 25, 2004, pburch from Houston, TX wrote:

Spreads nicely in winter, disappears in summer, eventually dies out. Our climate is probably too hot for it.

Positive GntlKnigt1 On Sep 14, 2003, GntlKnigt1 from Tinley Park, IL wrote:

Have grown both Scotish and Irish moss in a window box with northern exposure. Needs SOME protection to overwinter (I put the window box next against wall outside building during the winter.)

Positive naturepatch On May 6, 2002, naturepatch from Morris, IL (Zone 5b) wrote:

Nice mossy carpet groundcover. Looks great with other small plants. Does not seem to have any problems. Spreads nicely, but not invasively.


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

Birmingham, Alabama
Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Berkeley, California
Cool, California
Manhattan Beach, California
Menifee, California
Clifton, Colorado
Keystone Heights, Florida
Cherry Valley, Illinois
Machesney Park, Illinois
Mount Prospect, Illinois
Plainfield, Illinois
Tinley Park, Illinois
Wyanet, Illinois
Ewing, Kentucky
Gaithersburg, Maryland
Manchester, Massachusetts
Waltham, Massachusetts
West Newton, Massachusetts
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Howell, Michigan
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Honeoye Falls, New York
Sag Harbor, New York
Raleigh, North Carolina
Baltimore, Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio
Cleveland, Ohio
Columbia Station, Ohio
Fremont, Ohio
Mill City, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Redmond, Oregon
Albion, Pennsylvania
Conway, South Carolina
Greer, South Carolina
Jackson, South Carolina
Clarksville, Tennessee
Haltom City, Texas
Kaysville, Utah
Syracuse, Utah
Mc Lean, Virginia
Newport News, Virginia
Camano Island, Washington
Kirkland, Washington
Spokane, Washington
Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Ellsworth, Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin

We recommend Firefox
Overwhelmed? There's a lot to see here. Try starting at our homepage.

[ Home | About | Advertise | Media Kit | Mission | Featured Companies | Submit an Article | Terms of Use | Tour | Rules | Privacy Policy | Contact Us ]

Back to the top

Copyright © 2000-2015 Dave's Garden, an Internet Brands company. All Rights Reserved.

Hope for America