Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How to make Realistic Faux Moss DIY Recipe

Here is my DIY recipe for faux moss, that looks realistic, is weather-proof, and is cheap and easy. This fake moss recipe sticks to concrete, rocks and tree bark. I find that applying the mix thick, makes it look like moss. Smearing it thin, makes it look like lichen. I plan to use this faux moss recipe on many of my garden sculptures. I think it would help age my concrete Japanese garden pagodas, and help blend them in with the natural surroundings.

I love to create garden sculptures in the summer months. This summer, I have been working on a large faux bonsai tree for my Xeriscape Japanese garden project. The base of my faux bonsai dish is 3 feet in diameter, and is poured in concrete, to keep it from blowing over in our high mountain winds. I wanted something that would hide the concrete and look like soft green moss. I needed a moss that required zero watering, would stand up to our high mountain weather extremes, and most of all, would look realistic. After hours searching the Internet, I came up with nothing that fit my criteria. Real moss would die in the full sun. Preserved moss would never handle our Colorado winter weather extremes. One faux moss recipe, called for dryer lint. I do not use a clothes dryer, and I doubt that the stuff that collects in my shop-vac would make a good substitute. After a few days of scratching my head, I came up with a faux moss recipe that I think will fit all of my requirements.

Here is the concrete bonsai tree base almost completely covered.

Here is my faux moss stuck to rock

Here is my faux moss stuck to tree bark


Faux Moss Recipe:
1/4 cup white Elmer's Glue
1/4 cup green acrylic paint (water based)
1/4 cup water
sphagnum peat moss (the kind you use to amend your garden soil)
disposable latex gloves
a spray bottle of water (helps to dampen concrete, especially if you are working in the hot sun)

Start with a large plastic container, I used an old 16 ounce cottage cheese container. Pour in the paint, glue and water, and stir well. Then add the sphagnum peat moss, a handful at a time. Stir until mixed. Keep adding more sphagnum peat moss, until your mixture is the consistency of chocolate chip cookie dough.

Assuming that you have already put on the disposable gloves, just take your faux moss mixture and start applying with your fingers. I tried a paint brush and a trowel and found that using my fingers gave me the best look and control. The mix will be sticky, so using your hands you can apply this faux moss to horizontal or vertical surfaces. The mix will be dry to the touch in a couple of hours, and fully dry in a couple of days. If it looks like you are in for a hard rain, I would throw a tarp over your project, just until the mix is fully dry. Play with different application methods. If you find an application method that works better, please, let me know.

I never measure my glue, paint and water. I just pour what looks like 1/4 cup of each liquid into the mixing container. If the paint proportion is a little more or less, than the last batch, the color will be a little different. Since natural moss is never one solid color, I find that this enhances the realistic look. If you are the kind of person that likes to be exact, all your batches might look exactly the same color. You could then dry brush your faux moss, with different colors of green acrylic paint. This could look even better. I might have to give this a try.

The green paint I used, was a porch and deck, latex acrylic exterior paint. I had half a quart left over from another project. The color was at neon bright, yellow-green. At first, I thought it might be too bright a color. But, the dark brown color of the sphagnum peat moss, toned the color down to a lovely green.

The true test, will be to see how my faux moss stands up to next winter's weather. My faux bonsai concrete base has some dips and hollows that I know will hold ice. I am hoping, the worst case scenario will be, some faux moss patching next spring.

If you try my faux moss technique, I would love to hear about your results.

3 comments:

DarrenDriven said...

I'm interested in trying this, how did it hold up?

Stephen McGuire said...

What a great tutorial! Do you think it would be acceptable to use the same process indoors? Say on an accent wall?

Liana Turnbull Bennett said...

Hi Stephen,
There is nothing in my recipe that is toxic or would give off nasty fumes. So, using this for an indoor project would not be a problem. Indoors, it would not be subject to the weather and should last forever.
Moss does not normally grow indoors, but then it might look so uber cool, that no one even questions how you got moss to grow inside.
The only problem I can foresee is the lady who has to clean the house, might not be too thrilled when she has to dust the moss :)