Moss Green Roof in the Sun?!!!

Moss Green Roof Again

Cool and green describe the new Moss Green Roof at The North Carolina Arboretum located in Asheville, NC. It reflects the value of  mosses in achieving year-round green beauty as well as exemplifying the tolerance of mosses that live in full sun exposure. Yes, SUN not shade mosses are featured in this innovative and creative expression of the WNC mountain landscape. In addition, rainwater harvesting is incorporated into a misting irrigation system to keep these mosses lush.

Rainwater Cistern

Mister Irrigation

Green roofs offer many environmental advantages in reducing the heat index of a building and providing solutions in terms of stormwater run-off in urban areas. For most green roofs, sedums are usually the plants of choice. However, since mosses already grow on roofs in our mountain region, it makes sense to intentionally choose indigenous bryophytes (mosses) as a horticultural preference in creating this demonstration green roof on the garden shed located just outside the Baker Education Center at the NC Arboretum.

Utilizing bryophytes (mosses) that like direct sun exposure Bryophyte types (Polytrichum, Climacium, Entodon, Hedwigia, Atrichum, Leucobryum, Ceratodon and Ditrichum), Mountain Moss has transformed a glaringly bright tin roof into a verdant expanse of moss art. With various shades of green and textures, the mosses will provide additional delight with brilliant reds, golds and bronzes when in sporophytic reproductive stages. When other garden plants are dormant or dead, the mosses will keep on giving joy, even in winter months.

EnkaDrain InstallationPlanted in 2012 during the summer heat wave while temperatures were in the high 90s, the Moss Green Roof has already been subjected to the stresses of extreme weather conditions. Yet, despite extreme heat, torrential thunderstorms, high winds, and hail, the mosses are in tact and adjusting to their new abode. With botanical characteristics that enable mosses to tolerate all types of extremes, these miniature plants are hardy. In the winter when temperatures drop below freezing, the mosses will not only survive… but grow!

Another aspect of the green appeal of mosses is that these non-vascular plants provide solutions to environmental issues such as stormwater run-off, water filtration and erosion control. Since mosses don’t require any pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers, there will be no groundwater contamination. To learn more about landscaping options featuring mosses, visit If you’d like to see the entire production process of creating this SUN MOSS GREEN ROOF, check out these photographs that document the entire process:

Annie Martin, known as Mossin’ Annie (that’s me up on the roof working) an environmental moss artist/landscaper and owner of Mountain Moss in Pisgah Forest, has spearheaded this moss green roof project. Other Transylvanians involved in the production of the green roof included Joe Bruneau Joe Bruneau, 7 Arts Coop Gallery Director,   and Eric Stephenson, owner of Rite Angle Builders. With minimal structural modifications necessary to prepare the roof, the team has used EnkaDrain (produced by Colbond in Enka) as the primary substrate for planting. Kevin McRae Kevin McRae of K2 Irrigation in Asheville, has connected the existing rain water cistern into a misting system for the mosses on the garden shed roof. Supplemental watering is a key factor in long-term success of any moss feature.

In keeping with the mission of The NC Arboretum to cultivate connections between people and plants through creative expressions of landscape stewardship, this moss green roof project promotes conservation and education through this groundbreaking garden demonstration. Funded by The North Carolina Arboretum Foundation Society, this MOSS GREEN ROOF, located in full sun, could very well be a FIRST in the Green Roof industry in America. It certainly is a moss milestone for me!

Be Cool and Go Green With Moss!

Mossin’ Annie

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7 Responses to “Moss Green Roof in the Sun?!!!”

  1. 1


    We met at the Living Building talk at UNCA – hey!

    I have a low slope west facing porch roof. It gets pretty hot. What are the chances I can grow a low maintenace moss roof there?


  2. 2

    Hey Steve,
    It’s good to hear from you. There a quite a few varieties of mosses that will grow on your roof — Hedwigia, Entodon, Polytrichum, Atrichum, Ceratodon, Ditrichum and Bryum are great choices. In addition, I suggest you consider rain water harvesting to supplement Buncombe County’s low annual rainfall. If your roof is asphalt, these types can be planted directly on the roof. You may need to net it at first with deer netting until it is established.

    Check out the moss green roof at the NC Arboretum located just outside the Baker Education Center on the garden shed roof. It exemplifies SUN mosses and rainwater harvesting/misting irrigation system. Since the original roof was tin, we used EnkaDrain as the moisture retention substrate.

    Let me know if Mountain Moss can provide any mosses or design/install your moss roof. There will be an article in the 2013 WNC Green Building Directory about Moss Green Roofs!
    Good luck!
    Mossin’ Annie

  3. 3
    Kristina Blowers

    Hello Annie,

    We live in southern MN and I was wondering if the moss on the roof would be OK to live in such a cold place in the winter… and survive the heat of summer which hit triple digits this past year… And if it had to be on a metal roof or it could be grown on a regular roof?


  4. 4

    Hey Kristina,
    Mosses can not only survive but thrive in freezing winter conditions. However, heat of blistering summer temperatures could negatively impact the lushness of the mosses. First, choose appropriate mosses that can tolerate the sun exposure throughout all seasons. Next, you’ll need to provide supplemental watering to your roof when it’s hot or dry. Roofs offer excellent options for rainwater collection to be recycled and reused for hydrating plants. Although solar generators could power the pump for the rain barrel/cistern, it will be easier and less expensive to rely upon typical sources for electricity.

    Although this particular moss green roof started out as a tin roof, mosses especially love living on asphalt shingles. No additional substrate is required but you may still need to add the supplemental watering regime. While you may be warned by roofers that mosses could damage your roof, I’ve observed just the opposite. When I’ve retrieved mosses from asphalt roofs, I’ve been impressed that shingles under the mosses are almost like new. In contrast, areas of shingles exposed to weather extremes, UV rays and high winds show measurable deterioration.

    Finally,if your home is located under the shade of conifer or nut trees, you’ll find it much easier to succeed with a moss green roof than dealing with the challenges of direct sun exposures.

    Good luck and keep us posted of your progress.
    Go Green With Moss!
    Mossin’ Annie

  5. 5
    Christy smith

    I saw moss on the house I just bought. I saw that it was leaky and old, so I thought for the fun of it I would plant some moss on the leaky part. I put down a little sphagnum moss first and planted moss from my yard,watering real good. I’ll let you know how it goes. My kids think I’m nuts. That is nothing new though.

  6. 6
    Jono Gaza

    My family and I live in south Florida and are buying a home. The main roof is shingles and there is a small “Florida” room that has a flat roof. Both roofs are completely exposed to the sun all day. Could we use moss on both of these roofs? Would love to have an easy living roof!

  7. 7

    Hello, I’m looking to put a moss roof on a house I’m building. The house will be built into the side of a hill. Its funny because I’ve been looking for info on how to do this for the past few days and haven’t come up with much, turns out Pisgah is only a couple hours from my city of Knoxville. What are some cons on doing this? I think this is a really neat idea and am trying to gain as much info as I can before getting to this point in my build.

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