Introduction: Moss Graffiti

Picture of Moss Graffiti

Horticulturist's of the past came up with a brilliant recipe to encourage the growth of moss to age and add interest to their garden designs, this recipe can be used as an an environmentally friendly alternative to spray paint.

The success of the recipe itself can be very hit and miss and is very much dependent upon choosing exactly the right location and weather conditions; moss thrives in the damp and can most often be found growing near to a leaky drainpipe or rain-soaked wall. If you have difficulty finding the right climate in which to grow your moss, grow it indoors (where it can be frequently spray-misted with water) and transplant it outdoors as soon as it has begun to grow. This is what I have done in the example shown in this instructable.

*Several clumps of moss
*1 pot of natural yoghurt or 12oz buttermilk (experiment to see which works best)
*1/2 teaspoon of sugar
*Plastic pot (with a lid)
*Paint brush
nb If growing your moss inside you will also need a seed tray containing compost

Step 1: Find Some Moss

Picture of Find Some Moss

Moss can often be found growing in damp areas, between the cracks in paving stones, on drainpipe covers or, in this example, near to a riverbank.

Step 2: Gather Several Clumps of Moss

Picture of Gather Several Clumps of Moss

Gather several clumps of moss in a bag and take them to a place where you can easily wash them

Step 3: Wash the Moss

Picture of Wash the Moss

Carefully clean the moss of as much mud as possible.

Step 4: Add the Ingredients

Place some of the moss, the buttermilk (or yoghurt) and sugar into a blender and start to mix. This must be done in small phases as the moss can easily get caught in the blades of blender. Keep blending until you have a green milkshake with the texture of a thick smoothie. Pour the mixture into a plastic container.

Step 5: Paint Your Design

Picture of Paint Your Design

Paint your chosen design onto your chosen location or (if growing indoors) on top of a flattened layer of compost in a seed tray.

Step 6: Spray Mist Your Design

Picture of Spray Mist Your Design

Ensure that your moss design is kept moist by spray-misting it with water regularly. After a few weeks the moss should start to re-contitute and grow.

Step 7: Transfer Your Design Outdoors

Picture of Transfer Your Design Outdoors

If growing moss indoors transfer it to a suitable location (where it is likely to be kept damp) outdoors. Return regularly to the location and see its progress, spray-misting it if it starts to dry out.


ramseyjazmine (author)2015-08-31

Hi! I made the moss mixture about a week ago. But i couldn't paint it outside because it kept raining. How long can i keep it stored in the fridge?

allenpeter (author)2015-06-20

There is no harm in growing anything

janicewq (author)2014-12-19

I would like to find out if I could get the moss go grow on cotton paper at? Would I use the same method? Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

janicewq (author)2014-12-19

it's a method that allows artists go grow moss on sculptures that may alluding to the destruction of nature on the one hand. Also by showing this method to children, we can show them how to cultivate moss and perhaps make a creative landscape using this method, the lesson being that nature is fragile while it is also strong. A great experiment for them causing in harm to anyone or anything

General Forget (author)2010-12-21

umm, am i the only one who sees this as complete destruction of nature in the name of a silly project? we should not be teaching people complete irresponsibility towards things like moss, which is a huge part of a vibrant forest ecosystem. this project should be taken down from the site!

I'll see your point and raise it to logic.
Likely not, there are 6.5Bn people on the planet. You could consider this destruction, but on the scale of possible destruction, hipster organic all natural etc. apple orchards are far worse, the moss supply will grow back in under a year or even within weeks depending on where you get it. If you live in anything except under the stars, buck naked, you have more impact than this. Heck, squirrels have more of an impact than this project.

lime3D (author)General Forget2012-08-16

No, its not a destruction of nature. On the contrary. By taking a sample of moss from one location, and allowing it to replicate in a new location, this project actually increases the amount.

THANK you. What is it with people that think "it's just a bit of moss" is an excuse? You could just as easily say "it's just a little tree (perfect for Christmas)" or "it's just a beaver" or "it's just a human baby" - there's lots more out there, so it doesn't matter if we take this one. Now, if you're taking it from untended pots in your own back yard, great, but don't go "stealing" it from public places or other people's property.

Next thing...what is it with thinking that you have to paint things with yogurt just because Martha says to? Moss has been around a whole lot longer than Martha, and even longer than yogurt, and even longer than humans. Put a rock in the shade and keep it damp, you'll get moss without wasting your time painting it with yogurt. If you put a rock in the sun, and paint it with yogurt, you're still not going to get moss.

ajernigan (author)General Forget2012-05-23

How can you call growing plants destruction of nature i dont see my garden as being destructive my frogs and lizards love the moss

ajernigan (author)ajernigan2012-05-23

my moss fall

General Forget, I think this is a lovely way to create art. I live in a city and any bit of greenery is very welcome. And I'm certainly not lucky enough to live near a forest, the only moss that will "come to harm" is from my back garden - growing where it shouldn't in neglected pots!!

I think there's plenty of nasty ways that people are destroying the environment, which are far more worth getting angry about, without getting upset over a handful of folks having a bit of harmless fun with moss - which most gardeners would chuck into their compost bin anyway.

There is no harm in growing anything -_- .. By this logic growing tomatoes in your garden would be an equally destructive activity.

This is a fun growing experiment and gives you a nice moss garden/designs in a nice eco-friendly way. Thanks for the project ideas!

Pay no attention to the man behind the dfforget curtain. He knows not of what he speaks and is curmudgeonly beyond his years.

This is a great, non-descructive all natural way to incorporate art into nature. Keep in mind it doesn't have to be graffiti, it could be adding moss to your rock garden or along a water feature or to hide the drain in your driveway. Even if you don't like it, it'll eventually grow itself away.

I agree with how you feel, but moss is something that easily heals itself, plus moss graffiti can help spread moss around if its done within the appropriate environment, people shouldn't wantonly tear up beds of moss yes, but taking samples for a project that really turns out nice and even ends up helping out I think makes up for any havoc it may cause.

firefletcher (author)2008-02-22

i was just wondering what good the buttermilk makes could you just not use water?? i want to do this but dont want to waste milk so could i do it with just 1/2 cows mils 1/2 water would it work???? does the milk give it food or something? thanks

The buttermilk (or yogurt) acts as both food and glue for the moss spores.

ladybird (author)sarahschmara2008-03-10

I think it may also act as food for the moss...

sarahschmara (author)ladybird2008-03-10

uh, yeah.

"The buttermilk (or yogurt) acts as both food and glue for the moss spores."

apprently the yogurt or buttermilk can be replaced with a can of beer (more man-like), and remeber kiddies, beer makes moss and kills brain-cells so stay sober.

Can you use plain raw milk?

I think another purpose for the use of buttermilk or yogert vs. raw milk is that the bacteria which convert the milk make it slightly acidic. My thought is that the PH is another primary reason to use buttermilk.

you can also use 12 oz of beer and 1/4 teaspoon of sugar as food

EmilyH (author)2011-06-23

How long do you think moss art can last if it's watered and fed regularly?

jamest72 (author)2008-05-04

Any advantage to mixing both buttermilk and beer. I hear Guinness used a lot, any reason for that.

skippyconsuelo (author)jamest722011-01-27

of course there is a reason to use Guinness. Guinness ROX!

jimihendrix4753 (author)2009-02-09

How man ounces of paint should I add per "serving" to make it a prominent color? I was planning on glow in the dark paint.

Arano (author)jimihendrix47532010-04-05

glow in the dark paint contains salts of heavy metals and may be toxic to the moss...  they are also not very soluble in water....

thalass (author)2009-11-24

First person to grow a likeness of jebuz or his mother wins the internets.

This is pretty neat. And while something that most people wouldn't notice, those who do will definitely be shocked out of their rat-race fuzz.

greensteam (author)2009-02-23

In a similar way of thinking. i did these smileys in a pile of smashed bricks near where we were on holiday last year. I have no idea if anyone ever noticed or not. Perhaps people are unobservant.

xerxesx20 (author)greensteam2009-04-21

Nice. I generally tend to notice that sort of thing. Not many do though, too busy rushing around in the rat race.

Rotten194 (author)xerxesx202009-06-01

In Hawaii, near the road, there are these HUGE piles of black sand, with white rocks at the bottom. People grab the white rocks use them on the black sand for graffiti. Nice to look at while driving on the highway for 3 hours :D.

V-Man737 (author)Rotten1942009-10-14

That also occurs on Interstate 80 between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

stayce (author)Rotten1942009-07-20

those are awesome. i love the drove from kona to hilo with the years of white rock graffiti. it would be cool to do something similar with bleached cement.

unbentcrayfish (author)2009-09-22

the getto and the green movent meet and made this...

napoleana (author)2009-04-23

Since it will start to grow and spread after a couple weeks, do you know of a way to control it and keep it in the design? Or does it at least remove easy so you can start over again? I think it would make a nice decoration on the side of the house where there is a flower garden, but not if it's going to turn into ugly blotches after a couple weeks. :(

thickneckarts (author)2009-03-27

This is super dope!

j626no (author)2009-02-23

i was gunna post an instructable similar to this, but modified. would you mind?

jimihendrix4753 (author)2009-02-09

This is a great instructable, but I have two questions. How much can the "paint" cover (when made with twelve onces of buttermilk) and also how long will the paint last after it is made?

DIYDragon (author)2008-12-06

This is pretty awesome.. I was also thinking of my flowerbed, but alas.. it's direct sun, and not damp enough. I can't get anything to grow in there, because I forget to water it. lol

Bisquick the ninja (author)2008-07-29


TheJehosephat (author)2008-07-27

Will it still grow if there is a bit more buttermilk than recommended?

Fruppi (author)2008-03-09

There's a flowerbed on one side of my house that's totally empty...and now I really want to experiment with making some designs in it. This is a kick-ass idea.

technick29 (author)2007-12-28

Great job! I will have to try this some time. Have you submitted your image to Skull-A-Day?

ladybird (author)technick292008-01-06

No but I think I may well have to! Thanks for the tip!

threecheersfornick (author)2007-12-28

Awesome... but, is there any way I can do it without a blender? Because somehow, I think my mom would flip if she saw me blending moss. :D

try a paint mixer on a power drill. That should do the job. just put it in a bucket and mix it up.

moseph (author)Pat Sowers2007-12-30

You might also try experimenting with just pulling them into little bits and mixing the bits together by hand. Does anyone understand the exact science of the blender method? I think it just inspires the spores to get to work. Also when I first saw your instructable I thought it was going to be a rehashing of another moss graffiti site I've seen but now that I've read it I don't think you were aware of this other artist at all. They seem to have had success with moss tagging brick walls as well.

ladybird (author)moseph2008-01-02

Hi Moseph Yup that's my site but this is a more up-to-date version of the recipe.... I really need to update my site!

moseph (author)ladybird2008-01-02

ohh...I understand now. Sorry! I much prefer this recipe, which I had found in old horticultural books after being inspired by your site. Beer is great but buttermilk/yogurt is more kid and prohibitionist friendly.

KNOTTYMAN (author)2007-12-29

Cool. I saw this on Mr Wizard over 25 years ago. I remeber moss and milk or buttermilk but it's the same principle.

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