Difference between Sphagnum Moss and Sphagnum Peat moss


What’s the difference between Sphagnum Moss and Sphagnum Peat Moss? And can Sphagnum Peat Moss be used for potting orchids?


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners concerning the difference between sphagnum and sphagnum peat moss.

Sphagnum moss and sphagnum peat moss (frequently refered to as peat moss) are two different parts of the same plant  known as sphagnum moss but each  have different properties. Sphagnum moss grows in abundance in parts of Canada, Michigan Peru, New Zealand, Ireland, and Scotland.

Sphagnum moss is the living plant that grows on top of the bog. It is harvested while it is alive and then dried. This moss is long fibered, has a neutral pH,  is soft, pliable, and very water-retentive. It is generally used to line baskets, as a seed-starter medium, for growing orchids, and as additional growing material in potting soils. Good quality sphagnum moss will be pure moss, without any other plant material incorporated.

Sphagnum peat moss commonly referred to as peat moss is actually the dead, decayed plant matter of sphagnum moss that settles at the bottom of the sphagnum bogs. As a result, it may contain other plant material and even dead insects, and so may not be purely made of sphagnum moss. Unlike pure sphagnum moss this moss has short fibers and a fine texture, it is very acidic and high in tannins, can retain up to 70% water. Sphagnum peat moss is generally used for growing acid-loving plants. This is an excellent article with more information on the difference between the sphagnum vs sphagnum peat moss.

The American Orchid Society is an excellent resource for caring and growing orchids. Lastely, you may wish to read our Gardening Guide on Growing Orchids