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How to Grow Club Moss — Selaginella

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Selaginella–commonly called club moss or moss fern–is a mossy, fernlike perennial that grows in mounded clumps or upright with creeping branches. Selaginella has a delicate airy effect. It thrives in moist, shady conditions.

Selaginella are grown for their foliage. Selaginella is neither a true moss nor a true fern, but it has characteristics of both. It is taller and fluffier than real moss, so it is often take for a fern. It is a rhizomatous perennial.

Selaginella’s fernlike foliage will thrive in moist, shady conditions. Where hardy, Selaginella can be grown as a groundcover or in hanging baskets. Selaginella can be grown as a houseplant in cold winter regions.

Selaginella is a genus of about 700 evergreen perennials native from semi-desert to rainforest most in tropical regions worldwide but some are found in temperate and alpine regions.

Get to know Selaginella 

  • Plant type: Tropical perennial
  • Growing zones and range:  Zones 10-15
  • Hardiness:  Tender
  • Optimal growin temperature: day, 70°F (21°C); night, 50° to 55°F (10° to 13°C); the leaves will wither and the plant may die in hot, dry conditions. 
  • Height and width:  1 to 8 inches (2.5-20cm) tall and 8 to 12 inches (20-30cm) or more wide depending on the variety.
  • Foliage: Smal, moss-like tufts and long, creeping branched stems; scale-like leaves to 1/8 inch (3mm) long.
  • Bloom time:  
  • Uses:  Shady groundcover, houseplant
  • Common name: Club moss, moss fern. 
  • Botanical name:  Selaginella
  • Family name:  Selaginellaceae
  • Origin:  Semi-desert to rainforest usually in tropical regions worldwide

Where to plant Selaginella 

  • Light outdoors: Grow Selaginella in partial shade in a sheltered site.
  • Light indoors:  Low light, partial shade from northern or eastern exposure. Does well under artificial light, needing 14 to 16 light-hours daily. Spreading club moss needs limited light. 
  • Soil outdoors: Grow in moderately fertile, humus-rich, moist but well-drained soil, neutrual to slightly acidic.
  • Soil indoors: All-purpose mix. 

When to plant Selaginella 

  • Set outdoors  

Planting and spacing Selaginella 

  • Space  

How to water and feed Selaginella 

  • Water:  Keep the soil thoroughly moist. Mist Selaginella twice daily. Optimal humidity is 50% to 60%.
  • Feeding: Fertilize Selaginella every 2 weeks during growing season, with mild liquid fertilizer. 

Selaginella care  

  • Selaginella leaves will wither and the plant may die in hot, dry conditions.

Growing Selaginella as a houseplant

  • Selaginella needs limited light, a warm temperature, high humidity, and an evenly moist potting medium.
  • Selaginella will grow well in a dish garden or terrarium.
  • Fertilizer should be applied regularly throughout the year; use a all-purpose liquid fertilizer.

Selaginella pests and diseases  

  • Selaginella is generally insect free.
  • Leaf damage can occur if cold water is used to moisten the soil. 
  • Leaf spots and stem rot may occur.

Selaginella propagation  

  • Propagate Selaginella by cuttings taken in spring, layering, and spores.
  • Selaginella can be propagated by division; plant divisions in a peat-based soilless mix. 

Selaginella varieties to grow   

  • Selaginella kraussiana, spreading club moss. Grows in low mounds to 12 inches wide; bright green leaves that resemble scales grow along creeping stems; the stems root as they spread across the surface of the soil.  Cultivar ‘Aurea’ has a similar look but its leaves are golden green. 
  • S. martensii. Shiny, flesh green leaves borne on 12-inch (30 cm) stems grow erect, then arch in the lower half. 
  • S. pallescens, also listed as S. emmeliana, moss fern or sweat plant. Produces dense tufs of lacy fronds growing upright or horizontal; pale green leaves have white margins; stems to 12 inches (30 cm). 
  • S. uncinata, rainbow fern, peacock fern. Creeping stems to 24 inch (61 cm) long with metallic, blue-green leaves. 

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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