How you hydrate your moss pole depends on what kind of pole you are using!
We've gone into depth about the different types of moss poles further back in our blog, but if you need a refresher, check here.
You might know by know that keeping a moss pole wet during the hot months can be challenging, and you need to be prepared to top up your poles with water on a regular basis.
Self-watering moss poles explained
What makes a moss pole self-watering? Though a lot of poles are touted as self-watering, it's a term that can be misleading.
In an ideal world, a self-watering moss pole should draw water from a container to keep itself at the correct level of moisture for an extended period of time, allowing for longer breaks between waterings. It should also only draw the necessary amount, and if it draws too much water, there should be a way for the excess water to leave the moss pole without drowning the roots in the pot.
This type of system is heavily dependant on the moisture holding medium, and in practise we have found it works best with natural substrates like sphagnum moss, which is why we have designed our moss poles to hold this wonderful organism.
We have worked hard to solve the issue of hydrating moss poles, and will talk more about our solutions in a minute.
Misting, showering, and soaking
If you've used a coir pole in the past, you have probably noticed that it does not retain very much water, and that the best way to rehydrate it after it has been left to dry is to fully submerge and soak the "moss" pole. This is impractical as you must either remove the pole completely, disturbing your plant, or you must carefully submerge the pole while still attached to the plant.
An alternative for a full soak is to take your plant and pole into the shower, and on a fine misting setting for your shower head (highly recommend getting a good one) with lukewarm water, you can hose down your pole and plant. This method has a few downsides: having to move plants around, mess generated, you water the plant at the same time (whether it needs it or not).
Many people thus prefer misting over a full shower, which can be done with a spray bottle, at the expense of your time and muscles. An upgraded method is to use a pump mister, such as those for spreading pesticides. Take it a step further and buy an electric mister, which is battery powered and quite adjustable.
Sphagnum moss is a tissue-like living organism that can hold up to 20 times its mass in water, acting like a sponge by soaking up any water it comes in contact with, and spreading it along its whole volume until it reaches saturation.This characteristic can be leveraged together with a cotton rope wick that can pull water from a container via capillary action. This means that moisture is drawn upwards due to surface tension and the interaction of adhesive and cohesive forces.
As pictured, the rope acts to transfer the water at a rate limited by the saturation of the moss, and the distance of the container. While you can wick upwards against gravity, this method works best and fastest if the container is higher than the connection point in the moss, and the rope does not sag.
This keeps them surprisingly hydrated, though if you have a very long moss pole with a lot of moss, you'll find you need several ropes to provide water at the rate required by the moss pole.
Our watering solutions
Our initial tests led us to design the spiral distribution aid, which spread the water along the top section of the moss pole rapidly. This method works best while the sphagnum moss is still somewhat humid, as once it has dried out completely it will become very hydrophobic, and any water you add quickly will just pour right off into the pot.
This led us to design the SlowDrip cap, which is a very simple solution to the problem. This little cannister fits into the top section of your moss pole, and will hold enough water to rehydrate your moss pole. Thanks to a tiny hole at the bottom of the cannister, water will slowly drip out onto the moss below, hydrating even the driest of moss.
You must ensure you keep the little hole clean, as it can get clogged if in contact with moss, or if you are using your cap to release supplements into the moss. This is easily done with a small pin or tack.
How to know when to water your moss pole?
Your sphagnum moss pole will tell you it’s time to water it when it changes colour. It will dry out (usually starting at the top), changing colour, and little white tips will appear.
While live sphagnum moss definitely prefers to stay moist, as then it can continue to grow and propagate, it will retain its most useful properties even after it has dried out a few times.