Planet Houseplant’s Beginner Guide to Moss Poles

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

I hate moss poles. If you have one that actually works, they need as much care as the plant itself. However, there’s no denying that a moss pole is a must-have if you want to grow big, beautiful vining plants.

Or you can cheap out and get a coir pole and attach the plant to it, but you don’t get the same benefits as a proper moss pole. No shade to this method though – it’s usually what I do.

philodendron golden dragon
le sigh

Different types of moss pole

I’m to refer to all of these as moss poles, because that’s what they’re commonly referred to, even if they’re not technically moss.

There’s no best moss pole – pick one that suit your lifestyle and how you want your plant to grow.

I’m going to start with my favourite.

Kratiste poles

Kratiste poles are quite new. They’re made in the Netherlands from potato peel waste and miscanthus giganteus which is a bamboo-like grass.

I LOVE them. I want them for all my climbing plants and I already have seven.

Benefits:

  • They’re environmentally friendly

They’re made from waste materials and are completely compostable. The only plastic is the clips that you attach your plants with, and you could 100% use something else if you’d prefer

  • They look better than a coir pole

They look the most like a tree trunk out of all of the support options. If natural is your aesthetic, this is the pole for you.

  • Aerial roots can attach to them

My Syngonium was on a Kratiste pole for a WEEK and I got this:

syngonium aerial roots attaching to kratiste pole

A few weeks later, we have this:

syngonium aerial roots attaching to kratiste pole
  • 0 maintenance

You don’t need to water them. You just let them be. I am BUZZING

  • They’re stackable

You can get little things to join them together. The only issue here is that they’re always out of stock.

  • They’re good value for money

They’re not cheap at £8.99 per 90cm pole, but they’re a good price for something that will provide support without you having to constantly dampen it.

  • They’re really lightweight

This is great because it means you can put them in a small pot with a small plant (to get it trained young!) and it won’t fall over.

philodendron verrucosum on a kratiste pole

Disadvantages

  • I don’t know how long they’ll last

If they’re biodegradable there’s a chance they’ll degrade in the soil. As long as I can get a couple of years out of them, I’m ok with that

  • They’re currently not *that* easy to get hold of

I’m lucky enough to be able to get them at my local garden centre, and a few online shows like Grow Tropicals sell them. I don’t think they’re available in the US yet but I’ll try to keep an eye out for any news on that front.

Also, the things that help you attach the poles together are always out of stock, but you could always silicon them together or something!

  • They won’t lead to a very developed root system

One of the great things about proper sphagnum poles is that the aerial roots can grow into the pole and keep growing. When it’s time to chop and prop the prop part is already done – you just need to chop.

Kratiste poles are too solid for this to happen BUT the aerial roots do attach on their own. I saw a review online where the aerial roots had continued to grow pretty long but only a couple of inches were actually attached to the pole.

If you’re after a moss pole specifically to develop your plant’s aerial roots into a proper root system, then you won’t like Kratiste poles. But if like me, you just want your plants to climb without much input from you, you’ll love it.

Coir pole

Coir poles are the things that crop up when you google ‘moss pole’. Coir isn’t moss (it’s the hairy bit from the outside of a coconut I think) but often when people are talking about moss poles (especially people that aren’t *that* into plants, this is what they’re on about.

I use them, they’re fine, but they’re basically a fancy plant stake, rather than an actual moss pole.

coir pole

Benefits

  • They’re cheap

If cost is an issue, then these are great. You can usually pick them up in your local garden centre (in my experience that’s the cheapest way to buy them) for under a fiver depending on the size.

  • Zero maintenance

This is the biggie for me – you don’t need to water them.

A lot of people might be thinking ‘er, yeah, you need to keep them moist to get the aerial roots to adhere’ but I honestly think it’s a waste of time. It’s extremely difficult to rehydrate coir once its dry and the aerial roots drop off every time it does dry out.

Don’t bother. Just use it as a stake and attach the stem with whatever you choose. I have a guide for attaching plants to moss poles here. I like greening pins because they’re cheap and look the most seamless, but many people prefer garden ties because they’re a bit more gentle.

Issues

  • The aerial roots don’t attach

Coir is NOT a material that aerial roots want to grow into. It’s too dry and dense but doesn’t provide a stable surface. Aerial roots will adhere happily to something moist like moss or something solid like a wall. Coir is slam bang in the middle of these and aerial roots don’t know what to do.

  • They’re impossible to keep moist

Unless you live somewhere VERY humid or can spray it down thoroughly daily, then I wouldn’t bother.

Don't get me wrong - plenty of people do keep these moist BUT I suspect these are the same people that always have a tidy home and organise all their work parties. 

And that's not me. 

If you vacuum under the bed regularly, you could probably keep a coir pole moist. I don’t, and I can’t. Time isn’t the issue (the pandemic showed me that!) – it’s all about inclination.

  • They’re not the most aesthetically pleasing thing ever

I don’t mind them, but my home is a fixer-upper that’s yet to be fixed up so I worry more about the lack of floor coverings and less about what my plants are climbing up.

Hard plastic fillable pole

Love these, they’re a great compromise between making your own pole and a coir pole.

They look like this:

moss pole

They come empty, and you can fill them with moss yourself. I buy the dry stuff that you rehydrate (like coir) and then just stuff it in.

Benefits

They take a lot longer to dry out than coir, but they do need rehydrating fairly regularly. Moss is a bugger for becoming pretty hydrophobic if it’s left to dry out for too long so a daily spritz* is fine, or a weekly soak.

*they don’t NEED to be misted daily BUT if you aim to do it daily then you build the habit, but if you forget it’s not the end of the world.

  • They stay up in leca

Coir poles are useless in leca.

I have my Marble queen Pothos in leca attached to one of these. Now, it’s not EASY to keep them upright in leca but they can do it.

The trick is to only add them to a plant that is well established in leca (and has a lot of leca attached to its roots) so the moss pole and the plant kind of…keep each other up.

Or use silicon to attach the pole to the inside of the pot – this is a great option that I’ve never done. I don’t know why. Laziness probably.

Repot the plant, put the pole in (silicon it if you have some – aquarium sealant works well) then arrange the plant and leca around it. I like to have the moss pole in the centre and rotate the plant so that it grows around the moss pole.

If you want to cover the moss pole, you may need to chop and prop a few times and then plant the probs back in and attach them to the pole. A couple of vines won’t be able to do all the work!

The aerial roots can grow into the moss

This is the main reason that a lot of plant people choose moss poles over coir poles. If you keep the moss moist, the aerial roots of the plant can grow into the moss pole.

But why the heck is this desirable? There are a few reasons:

  1. The plant can grow bigger, because it has a bigger root system
  2. Having multiple root systems can increase the turgor pressure in the plant, increasing the speed of growth and stopping the plant leaves from curling.
  3. You’re essentially continually air-layering the plant, so when it comes to chopping and propping, you already have rooted cuttings. Aerial roots growing into moss will develop soil roots, so you can put the cutting directly into soil, pre-rooted.
  • They’re stackable

Plant outgrown its pole? You can just click another one on top of the first one. SUCH a good idea, and not something you can do with moss poles.

  • They’re probably the cheapest if you only want a couple (they’re sold in pack of four for about £20)

Issues

  • Again, not the prettiest
  • They take more maintenance than a coir pole
  • They don’t always come with a spike at the bottom, so getting them to stay upright can be a nightmare
  • Once the moss dries out, it can become hydrophobic and then you may need to soak it to rehydrate it

Homemade moss pole

Moss poles aren’t that hard to make if you’re DIY-inclined. If you go over to YouTube then you’ll quickly realise that a LOT of plant YouTubers DIY their moss pole.

All you need is chicken wire (or something similar), zip ties, and moss. You can also buy plastic moss pole cases, but they were quite expensive so I didn’t bother.

Benefits

  • You can make them as big as you like
  • If you make them large enough in diameter, you can sit a plastic cup in the top. Make a few teeny holes in the bottom of said cup and fill with water. The water will trickle out slowly and moisten your moss pole. The most compelling reason to DIY your pole, in my opinion!
  • Probably the cheapest way to make a lot of moss poles.
  • As beautiful or ugly as you want – there are tonnes of different meshes you could try.

Issues

  • I mean, it’s just a hassle, isn’t it? For someone on the salary of a self-employed writer, I sure love to throw money at the issue!

Thin plastic moss pole

I’ve only really seen these on HakunaMaPlanta’s channel but they look so good! They look like 3D printed moss poles that you buy flat-packed, and then you just fold them into shape, like origami, and fill them with moss.

I can’t attest to their sturdiness (because I haven’t tried them and can’t find them ANYWHERE in the UK) but they look SO GOOD. And you can stack them on top of each other, but it doesn’t look *quite* as sturdy as the plastic ones.

If they’re really cheap, they’d be life-changing.

What size moss pole do I need?

Moss poles aren’t like pots – if you get a really big one it won’t damage your plant, so just get whatever size you like.

If your plant outgrows it you can either get a bigger one or chop the plant back and work on making it bushier by propping the bit you chopped off.

There isn’t a right size. Hence the photo of Smaug growing of his in the first picture. He ain’t getting a bigger one.

Do I soak the moss pole before using?

Yes, if you’re hoping for the aerial roots to attach to the moss.

If it’s a coir pole, moistening it before you use it won’t hurt it, but you’re fighting a losing battle.

When it comes to keeping a moss pole moist, treat it like soil. It will dry out quicker than soil in most cases because it’s a lot more exposed though.

It’s also a great idea to water your moss pole periodically with nutrient water.

This isn’t 100% necessary, because as long as you’re fertilising the soil, that should be enough BUT a lot of people have seen major growth which they attribute to watering the moss pole with nutrient water. The leca queen swears by it.

There is always a bit of a causation issue with most plant YouTubers. It’s difficult to tell how much of a difference something makes to plant care when you’re already taking awesome care of it.

So Nora’s plants are incredible because she maintains the poles well and her plants have great light. Watering a moss pole with nutrient water won’t make up for bad light or low humidity, but it could add a little je ne sais quoi to already well-cared for plants.

Did that make any sense?

it’s a bit like how people think people are helping their plants by singing to them. it’s unlikely to be the singing. It’s what you’re doing whilst you’re singing to them.

Final thoughts

DIY moss poles tend to work the best – they’re also easier to water if you make them wide enough to balance a plastic cup on. However in terms of ease of use, I’m a big fan of the plastic ones that you stuff with moss yourself.

Kratiste poles are my favourite by FAR. They look good, they’re a good price, and they help my plant climb and grow its aerial roots without any intervention from me. If you’re getting overwhelmed by watering plants AND moss poles, then try a Kratiste pole.

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

Leave a comment