Peat moss is about to be banned in England and Wales. Why is it so bad and why are Australians still using it unknowingly?

What is Peat Moss?

Peat moss and sphagnum moss are types of moss that grows in peatlands and is widely used in potting mixes around the world.

Peat moss (below left) has a brown, slightly clumpy look and sphagnum moss (below right) has a light yellow-orange look just like short strands of spaghetti.

Source: (left) and (right)

In Australia, commercial potting mix brands often use either peat or sphagnum moss, or both. You've probably seen it at Bunnings before, or perhaps you already have a bag of potting mix using peat!

Common mixes using peat are Scotts Osmocote Indoor Plants Premium Potting Mix and Debco's Indoor Premium Potting Mix. Pure sphagnum moss is also used to grow orchids.


Australia's popular potting mixes using peat. Source: (left) and (right)

Pros of peat moss

High water retention

We've all heard most indoor plants like their soil to be "kept moist". Peat moss has a high water retention and is very easy to keep moist so your roots have access to water.

Whilst this is great for most indoor plants, it is not suitable as the main ingredient for other plants that prefer their mixes to dry out, such as succulents & cacti.

Low pH for nutrient absorption

Its low pH makes it very favourable to use as the main ingredient in potting mix formulas. Low pH allows plants roots to take up nutrients easier. A high pH will often cause issues such as yellowing leaves with green veins or slow growth.

Cons of peat moss

You must never forget to water

If you forget to water even once, you may dry out your peat moss completely. Once it has dried out, it will be very hard to wet again because it's "hydrophobic" and you immediately lose the high water retention advantage peat moss offers.

So, even if you buy a new plant in peat moss (and most Australian growers use peat moss so it's likely!) , if you forget to water it soon after then you will need to repot to keep your plant alive!

Signs your peat-based potting mix has dried out is when it "shrinks" from the edges of your pot. Also, when you water it, the water goes out from the bottom quickly because the soil is so dense it can't absorb water.

Your plant's roots will then struggle to access any water, leading to leaf drop, slow growth or a dead plant.

Easy to overwater

You must be precise with your watering. Peat moss is very sensitive to a non-regular watering schedule.

This is because it has a high water retention ability so it's very easy to overwater and kill your plant.

But underwater just once and it completely dries out and also kills your plant.

Therefore it requires a high level of watering skill. Peat moss is only great if you know exactly how much to water and when.

Seriously unsustainable it's about to be banned

Peatlands store about 30% of the world's soil carbon!

When we dig peat up from the ground, it releases tonnes of carbon dioxide and is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. So it's about to be banned in England & Wales.

Here's what the IUCN [1] says:

  • Emissions from drained peatlands are estimated at 1.9 gigatonnes of CO2e annually

  • This is equivalent to 5% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, a disproportionate amount considering damaged peatlands cover just 0.3% of landmass

  • Fires in Indonesian peatlands in 2015 emitted nearly 16 million tonnes of CO2 a day (i.e. three times more than the entire economy of Australia emits in a day [2])

  • Damage to peatlands causes biodiversity loss. For example, the Bornean orang-utan population declined by 60% due to loss of peatlands.

Parts of the UK are about to ban peat moss [3]. Closer to home in Australia, many of us are still using peat in our potting mixes and we need to start using alternatives.

Planthood is on a mission to end the use of peat for good and create sustainable potting mix using coconut husk!

What are the alternatives?

The two main alternatives to using peat moss are coco coir and compost.

Coco coir is a renewable product made from coconut, specifically, the coconut husk.

Coco coir is perfect for creating an aerated soil base and has water retention capabilities, much like peat moss. These qualities allow coir to be ideal in helping grow strong and healthy roots.

Planthood's coco coir has been chosen for its superior quality and its consistent particle size. It has also been hydrated and is ready to use if you are making your own potting mix.

Compost is organic matter, such as leaves and food scraps which have been decomposed and recycled.

A good compost is wonderful for your plants. Unfortunately in Australia good compost can be hard to find because some composting facilities get financially rewarded the more "rubbish" they take in. 

When materials are not vetted before they go into the compost pile, there can be chemicals or materials that do not break down properly, producing compost that has no nutrients for your plant.




  • High water retention
  • Good nutrient absorption


  • You must never forget to water
  • Easy to overwater
  • Seriously unsustainable its about to be banned in England & Wales

Read The Study to learn about the widespread use of fish, blood and bone in the indoor plant industry.

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