Selaginella Varieties: Spike Moss Plants

What are Selaginella Plants?

Selaginella, also known as club moss, spike moss, or arborvitae fern, is a vascular plant. Selaginella is the sole genus of vascular plants in the family Selaginellaceae.

Selaginella’s origin dates back to the Pangea period, and it has had many divergences over time.

There are numerous selaginella species, and they all look and behave a little differently.

Common characteristics include branching stems and small, scaly leaves that produce spores.

Many selaginella plants are native to tropical regions and love humidity, making them great houseplants for hanging baskets or terrariums.

However, this moss-like plant will also survive outdoors if you want to fill in any space in your yard.

In this article, we will identify some common species and share growing tips.


Looking for other types of ferns or landscaping plants? Go back to our main Landscaping Plants page for further ideas.


Types of Selaginella Plants

There are many different types of Selaginella plants, each with their own unique characteristics. Some Selaginella plants are ground-hugging, while others grow in clumps. Some have narrow leaves, while others have broad leaves.

The varieties of Selaginella plants are endless, and there’s sure to be a type of Selaginella plant that is perfect for your garden or landscape.

We will cover the most popular types of selaginella plants gardeners grow.

Selaginella lepidophylla

Selaginella-Lepidophylla

Also referred to as the resurrection plant, this selaginella species is native to the deserts of Mexico. It is a creeping variety with clusters of dark green leaves.

Resurrection plants will survive periods of drought by curling into small brown balls, which will turn green again with new growth upon receiving water and moisture.

Suffice it to say, this variety requires minimal watering (if you don’t care how it looks) and can grow indoors or outdoors.

Selaginella kraussiana

Selaginella-Kraussiana

Selaginella kraussiana is also referred to as “golden clubmoss” due to its bright green leaves laced with gold. 

Its leaves are similar to those of ferns, but its spreading growth pattern is identical to that of peat moss. 

This is a tropical species native to Africa, so it prefers humidity and loves growing in a terrarium.

Selaginella uncinata

Selaginella-Uncinata

Selaginella uncinata, also known as peacock moss or peacock fern, has bluish-green foliage covering each stem.

This variety loves moist soil and high humidity.

Propagation will occur naturally around the planting spot as roots slowly branch out with new growth to fill in the space.

Selaginella moellendorffii

Selaginella-Moellendorffii

This plant appears more like a fern than a moss. It is an evergreen plant with lime-green leaves and is suitable for hardiness zones 7-9.

The branches can grow up to 5 inches and will arch backward as they reach their mature height.

Selaginella braunii

Selaginella-Braunii

Selaginella braunii appears more like a fern than most of the other plants. This plant has scaly green foliage that is visually similar to ferns.

This variety is also larger than other selaginella species, making it better suited for outdoor planting.

Selaginella apoda

Selaginella-Apoda

Commonly referred to as meadow spike moss, this variety often takes the form of a small bush or clump of foliage.

The stems have two rows of tiny leaves and two rows of larger leaves.

The leaves, which range from dark to light green in color, are scaly and can be sharp around the edges.

It is native to the eastern U.S. and Mexico and is often found in the wild in wetland areas.

How to Care for Selaginella Plants?

Selaginella plants are easy to care for and can thrive in a variety of conditions.

Selaginella plants are native to the temperate regions of the world, so they can be grown indoors in most climates.

The key to caring for Selaginella plants is to water them regularly and plant them in an area where they get sunlight. 

Keep reading and we will cover all aspects of Selaginella plant care.

Temperature and Climate

Selaginella plants thrive in climates that range from 50-80 degrees Fahrenheit (10-26 degrees Celsius).

Most selaginella plants are native to tropical regions and prefer warmer temperatures.

Given their preference for warmer climates, selaginella plants make great indoor plants. They can also be grown outdoors in hardiness zones 7-9.

Because the selaginella plant loves humidity, it does great in a terrarium or humid area (like the bathroom). 

You can plant multiple selaginella plants together to increase the moisture retained.

If planted outside, you need to find a place that stays wet and humid, like under a tree or on the side of the house.

Light

light-for-Selaginella-Plants

Selaginella plants prefer full or partial shade and may die if exposed to too much sunlight. 

Although it can take some sunlight, it is best if it is indirect light and mainly during the morning. 

For indoor growing, the Selaginella plant does well next to a north-or east-facing window that receives indirect light. 

People who care for Selaginella plants will see more growth if they protect them and water them properly.

The soil should be kept moist for Selaginella plants, though not soggy. 

In a warmer room climate, you may need to replenish your Selaginella plant with cold water 2-3 times per week. 

If indoors, try placing the potted plant on a tray of wet pebbles or peat moss. This will help the soil retain moisture and also provide humidity around the plant. 

A terrarium has very good moisture retention, so you will not need to water it as often. 

For outdoor plants, water frequently during the hot summer months, especially if the surrounding soil is exposed to sunlight throughout the day.

Soil

Selaginella plants do not need a strong fertilizer, though they may respond well to some well-balanced fertilizer, especially when planted outdoors.

Most importantly, selaginella plants need soil that retains moisture without getting soggy. Soil substrates with peat moss mixed in are perfect for this plant.

Propagation

Selaginella-Propagation

Selaginella plants can be propagated through their spores, however, it is much easier to propagate through root division or stem cuttings.

Like with ferns, you can dig underneath the plant and cut a root section that is at least 2-3 inches in length. 

Then, select a location for a new selaginella plant and bury the roots (nodes facing up). 

For propagation through stem cuttings, it is best to cut a healthy stem in early spring.

Try to make stem cuttings that are around 6 inches long. Put them in starter pots in a shady area and keep the soil very moist until roots develop.

Pests and Diseases

Selaginella plants are pest and disease-resistant, so you should not have to worry too much.

With that said, you should look out for crown rot. Crown rot, develops when the roots sit in soggy soil for a long period of time.

A common sign of crown rot is a dark or discolored stem near the base of the plant.

If you spot this, immediately investigate whether the stems or other parts of the plant have rotted.

You will need to cut off the rotting parts and replant your Seleginella plants in fresh soil.

FAQ

Do selaginella plants like shade?

Yes, selaginella plants prefer full or partial shade. The majority of Selaginella varieties thrive in the partial shade outdoors. It is possible for Selaginella plants to thrive in both full sun and partial shade, but they do not tolerate low to no sunlight. Selaginella prefers a cool, shady environment with high humidity, as well as a cool shade.

Do selaginella plants make good houseplants?

Some selaginella plant makes a good houseplant. Indoor temperatures ranging from 50 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for Selaginella plants. A terrarium is a perfect way to provide the plant with enough warmth and humidity. However, there are some Selaginella species that can withstand near-freezing temperatures and can be grown in the open air year-round in mild climates.

Are selaginella plants a fern or moss?

Selaginella plants are neither fern nor moss. Although having characteristics like a fern or moss, selaginella is a vascular plant. Selaginella plants are known as spike moss or arborvitae fern. These plants are more closely related to moss than to ferns, but they are considered more as fern allies than anything else.

Conclusion

All the varieties of the selaginella plant can make great additions to your home, whether indoors or outdoors.

We have shared a few unique species and growing tips for helping them thrive indoors or outdoors.

We wish you the very best of luck in growing Selaginella plants.

References

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  • North Carolina State Cooperative Extension. (n.d.). Selaginella braunii. NC State University Extension, Gardener Plant Toolbox. URL: https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/selaginella-braunii/
  • California State University Channel Islands. (n.d.). Spike Moss. Native Plants, California State University Channel Islands. URL: https://nativeplants.csuci.edu/selaginella-bigelovii.htm
  • Soil Ecology and Restoration Group. (n.d.). Selaginella Propagation and Transplanting. San Diego State University. URL: http://www.sci.sdsu.edu/serg/techniques/selaginella.htm
  • About/mentions: Selaginella, landscaping, ferns, spike moss

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