Moss has taken over my hedge. How do I get rid of it?

Your gardening questions answered: Improving air circulation within plants can help cut back mossy growth

I have a Lonicera hedge and it’s full of moss. How do I get rid of it? – DH, Co Cork.

Moss, lichen and algae can often be found growing on the branches of established trees, shrubs and hedges, especially in rural areas of the country with high rainfall. In particular, neglected, overgrown hedges where the branches have become overcrowded and/or those that are lacking in vigour as a result of old age or poor growing conditions can be prone to mossy growth. The good news is, however, while it may look unsightly, it’s not actually doing any damage.

To get rid of it, you’ll need to improve air circulation within the plants. One of the best ways to do this is by pruning them. Commonly known as Wilson’s honeysuckle, Lonicera nitida (or Lonicera ligustrina var yunnanensis, as it’s been recently and rather clumsily renamed) makes a vigorous, dense, fast-growing, hardy, evergreen hedge that should be pruned twice a year, first in early summer and then again in autumn, to keep it in shape. Always cut at a gentle batter or slight angle so that the base of the hedge is slightly wider than the top (this makes it sturdier and better able to shed snow, as well as allowing light to filter into the bottom of the plants).

If your hedge hasn’t been pruned in a while, it may also need what’s known as renovation pruning in mid-spring to rejuvenate it and get it back into good shape. Not all hedges respond well to this sort of renovation pruning (most coniferous species resent it) but a Lonicera nitida hedge can be cut back by as much as 50 per cent in width and height in a single pruning session without any check to its vigour. For this reason, as well as its small, fine leaves and dense growth habit, it’s an increasingly popular substitute for box hedging and box topiary, which, in recent years, has become vulnerable to damage from box blight and box tree caterpillar.

Renovation pruning will remove a lot of the old, dead wood and encourage your hedge to produce plenty of new healthy growth. To help this process, spread an organic mulch around the roots in spring (well-rotted farmyard or horse manure, garden compost or foraged seaweed are all suitable) and add some slow-release organic fertiliser.


Although tolerant of most growing conditions, Lonicera nitida dislikes a very wet, poorly drained soil. If this is a problem in your garden, then you may also need to look at ways to improve drainage.

Fionnuala Fallon

Fionnuala Fallon

Fionnuala Fallon is an Irish Times contributor specialising in gardening