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How to Care for Reindeer Moss

lichen image by Vasiliy Koval from

Reindeer moss is the common term for Cladonia, a species of lichen that is a favorite food of reindeer and caribou. Also called cup lichen, this feathery, grayish-green plant resembles tiny trees and grows to a height of up to 4 inches. This very slow-growing lichen is often dried and used in craft projects. Reindeer moss is native to arctic regions and thus prefers cold climates such as those found in the northern United States and Canada.

Protect your reindeer moss from the hot sun. Choose a cool, shaded location for your reindeer moss. This lichen even grows under snow and should not be planted in the sun.

Protect your reindeer moss from pollutants. Lichen intakes its nutrients through the air, not roots. For this reason, it is very sensitive to air pollution. Do not plant it near a busy street or an exhaust vent. A quiet, cool location with clean, fresh air is best.

Grow reindeer moss in sandy soil. The natural environment of this lichen is in the sandy, coarse soil of hardwood forests. Clay soil can sometimes be amended with sand, but if you have clay soil, you probably don't live in the right type of climate for this plant anyway.

Wait patiently. Reindeer moss is an extremely slow-growing plant. Do not fertilize or prune the lichen in an effort to make it grow faster. In fact, removing the top layer of the plant can kill it.

Water lightly only during periods of extended drought. This lichen stores water and does not need frequent watering. Even if it dries out, it can usually be revived. In most cases, the natural rain cycles of northern climates are sufficient to keep it nourished.


Reindeer moss should not be grown indoors, as the temperatures will not be cool enough for the lichen to thrive.

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