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How to Create a Lichen Ecosystem

By Sarah Metzker Erdemir ; Updated September 21, 2017

Lichens are a type of colorful fungi that grow on rocks, trees, walls and paving stones. They are not parasitical, but instead feed on air, dust and ambient moisture. The appearance of lichens gives gardens an aged, mysterious beauty so some gardeners try to encourage lichen growth. It can take lichens several years to develop, but with the right environment in your garden you can create a mini-ecosystem that supports good lichen growth.

Choose a location where lichens will thrive. They need sunlight, but not too much of it, so lichens prefer shady or partially sunny places. They also do better on rough surfaces, and on surfaces that retain moisture for a long time. Wood, bricks, or porous rocks are all good places for lichens.

Start your lichens on a dry day with no rain predicted in the near future. Rain will wash off the lichen-growing solution. If the summers are very hot and dry in your area, start the lichens during a cooler part of the year.

Mix a 50/50 solution of yogurt and water in a spray bottle. Wet the entire area where you want the lichens to grow.

Dip a paintbrush into a bottle of undiluted liquid seaweed fertilizer, and paint it over the yogurt and water solution. You can cover the area entirely or just daub the fertilizer randomly over the surface.

Watch the surface for about a month. It should start to darken and look slightly mildewed. If this doesn’t happen, apply the yogurt water and seaweed fertilizer again. Keep applying it every month until the surface starts getting darker.

Wait several years for the lichens to appear. Unfortunately, there is no fast way to grow lichens. They do better in damp climates because they grow a little faster when they are wet and they go dormant when they are dry.


Things You Will Need

  • Wood
  • Bricks
  • Porous rock
  • Yogurt
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Liquid seaweed fertilizer
  • Paint brush


  • Consider growing lichens in different shaded areas of your garden, or in places where lichens are already growing in order to encourage different species of lichen. Slight differences in the environment and growing surface favor different species, so you get more colors and textures in various places around the garden.


  • Lichens absorb elemental minerals from dust for their food, but heavy dust from smog or industrial pollution will kill them. If you live in or near a polluted city or close to any factories that reduce air quality, you probably will not have much luck growing lichen.