Irish Moss, Scotch Moss
Ground covers, Perennials
Dense, green, carpeting growth makes this look like moss; but its tiny white flowers prove otherwise. Of two different prostrate plants of similar appearance, Sagina subulata is the more common. The other is Minuartia verna caespitosa (usually sold as Arenaria verna or A. v. caespitosa). Both of these European natives make dense, compact, mosslike masses of slender leaves on slender stems. But M. verna has tiny white flowers in few-flowered clusters, while S. subulata bears flowers singly and differs in other technical details. In common usage, however, green forms of the two species are called Irish moss, while the golden green form of Sagina (S. s. glabrata ‘Aurea’) is called Scotch moss.
Both Sagina and Minuartia are best as small-scale groundcovers. They’re useful for filling gaps between pavers. In cool-summer gardens, they can seed themselves and become pests.
Unlike true mosses, these need good soil, good drainage, and occasional feeding with controlled-release fertilizer. The dark green forms take full sun in mild climates; the golden form needs partial shade. All take some foot traffic and tend to hump up in time; control humping by occasionally cutting out narrow strips, then pressing or rolling lightly. Control snails, slugs, and cutworms. Cut squares from flats and set 6 in. apart for fast cover. To avoid lumpiness, plant so that soil line of squares is at or slightly below planted soil surface.
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