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What is a Kokedama? How to Make a Japanese Moss Ball

Creating a Kokedama is a fun and unique way to add a Japanese touch to your home or office environment - Here's Everything You Need to Know
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Want to take a trip to Japan every time you look at your plants? DIY Kokedama can help add a Japanese vibe to your indoor environment!

Even if you’ve never heard about Kokedama before, we can assure you that you’ve definitely seen it in plenty of social media photos without even realizing it. Kokedamas are those attractive decorative balls of moss from which various plants grow. And, it seems that they’re making a comeback as more people are interested in DIY garden tips and decorations.

Kokedamas can provide a lovely dose of green in your home, office, or even a covered outdoor space such as a patio. They make great focal points, and they bring a unique vibe to your plant collection. Plus, they are so easy to create on your own, requiring just a few materials and some patience. Creating your own Kokedama is a fun and unique way to add a Japanese touch to your home or office environment.

Keep reading below to learn more about this Japanese style of potting up plants in a ball of moss, how to create and display it, and how to care for it.

What Is Kokedama?

First, let’s learn more about what Kokedama really is.

Kokedama is a centuries-old Japanese form of garden art that is closely tied to the practice of bonsai. This Japanese term can be translated like this: “Koke” means moss, and “dama” means ball. Kokedama involves using a moss ball as the supporting and the focal point for a tree, shrub, or plant. In other words, it consists of wrapping the plant’s roots in a ball of soil which you then cover with moss. The moss ball is either fixed to a platform, like a dish or a bowl, or suspended in the air with a string.

Kokedama has been inspired by an old tradition that involved the exhibition of the exposed root ball of the bonsai specimen on a plate aiming to highlight the complexity and beauty of the root system. Yet, over time, moss would accumulate on the roots, which further enhanced the display.

Japanese Moss Ball
Japanese Moss Ball

How to Make a Japanese Moss Ball

Whether you’re passionate about DIY gardening projects, looking for a green décor idea for your home, or simply need a time-killer to keep you busy on a Sunday, these moss balls can be a fun and easy activity. They are really easy to make yourself as they don’t require any particular material or gardening skills.

Kokedamas are pretty easy to make and can even be very therapeutic as the whole process involves patience and working with both of your hands independently, which is thought to help the mind be fully mindful of the task at hand.

So, let’s get started.

What Materials Do You Need?

To create your own moss ball, you’ll need the following:

  • Sheet moss
  • Peat moss
  • Bonsai soil or potting soil
  • A small plant of your choice
  • Wire, twine, or string
  • Scissors
  • Water
  • A bucket
  • Plenty of patience!

What Plants To Use For Kokedama?

Although the concept originated from the Bonsai tradition, Kokedama is a form of gardening that can be used for plenty of other plants.

However, keep in mind that growing your houseplants in small moss balls can make it difficult for you to ensure that your greens have the ideal growing conditions. So, it’s essential to choose plants that are best suited for this gardening technique. Plants suitable for Kokedama should have the following traits:

  • Be hardy
  • Stay small
  • Grow slowly
  • Be tolerant to less ideal growing conditions

Here are a few plants that are suitable for Kokedama:

How Do You Do It?

The first step into making your own Kokedama is to mix half peat moss and half bonsai soil which you’ll then dampen with water.

mix half peat moss and half bonsai soil
Mix half peat moss and half bonsai soil

Next, you need to actually start making the ball around your plant’s roots using the soil mix you’ve prepared. The next step is to wrap the soil ball you’ve made with sheet moss.

rap the soil ball you've made with sheet moss
Wrap the soil ball you’ve made with sheet moss

Once the moss ball is ready and has the shape that you wanted it to have, tie it up using wire, twine, or string, depending on what you prefer and work best with. Simply loop the wire/twine/string around the ball a couple of times.

tie it up using wire, twine, or string
tie it up using wire, twine, or string

Display It Nicely

The last step is to find a creative and attractive way to use the Kokedamas you make to decorate your indoor space. You can either add a separate loop that you’ll use to suspend your moss ball or use a unique-looking tray or bowl to place the moss ball.

Hanging Kokedama
Hanging Kokedama

How to Keep Your Kokedama Strings Alive: Care and Water Tips

Although making your own Kokedama is a fun and exciting DIY project with a fantastic result, the tricky part is when it comes to taking care of it.

Caring for the plants you use for your Kokedamas is a bit more challenging than caring for a plant that grows in a container. However, it is not impossible.

First, keep in mind that caring for your own moss ball can depend widely on the species of the plant you’ve chosen for your project. Each plant has its own specific growing needs, and you should keep those needs in mind.

Yet, generally, when it comes to caring for a moss ball, there are a few essential aspects you should consider:

Location And Temperature

Like all plants, Kokedamas also need some sunlight to thrive. They don’t like direct sunlight because this will only make them dry out quickly.

It is best to place your moss balls near windows but in a place where they get partial shade or, at least, where they are protected from direct sunlight. What’s more, you also need to keep them away from any source of extreme heat such as a radiator because high temperatures also make them dry out quickly.

Humidity

It’s well-known that moss thrives in moisture which is why it is often found and thrives in places with a lot of humidity like shady forests or alongside creek beds. Thus, it is best to make sure that you keep your moss balls in areas with the most humidity.

If your indoor environment highly lacks humidity, help the moss with a humidity tray or a humidifier to ensure that they remain moist and survive for longer.

Irrigation

Proper irrigation is essential for your moss balls and the plants you use in your project to survive for a longer period. Once again, this is important to keep the ball moist and promote a humid environment.

Pay attention if your Kokedama becomes lighter because this is a sign that it is drying out. In this case, you need to give your moss ball a bath (literally!).

Take your Kokedama and soak it in water and allow it to absorb as much water as it can until it becomes heavy. Next, allow the excess water that has been absorbed to drip for a few minutes before you hang your Kokedama back. It’s recommended to give your Kokedama a bath at least once or twice every week.

Feeding

Like every plant, Kokedamas also need some feeding to replenish the nutrients they need to thrive. This will help the moss ball survive for longer and maintain its green and fresh appearance.

Just a little bit of fertilizer can do wonders in keeping your Kokedamas look alive and thriving. It is recommended to fertilize your moss balls once a month. To feed the moss ball, mix half of the suggested concentration of soluble organic fertilizer to the watering process you use.

Pruning

Most plants need a little bit of pruning and trimming to maintain their shape and beauty. It’s the same for moss balls.

When it comes to Kokedamas, pruning is actually an essential factor that contributes to healthy growth. So, how do you do it?

It is recommended to prune the moss balls by half from time to time to promote growth. Plus, make sure you keep an eye for dead leaves and clip them off as soon as you spot them.

Kokedama FAQs

Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about Kokedama.

What Is The Meaning Of Kokedama?

Kokedama is the Japanese word for moss ball. “Koke” translates into moss, and “dama” translates into ball. In English, Kokedamas are also called string gardens or the Poor Man’s Bonsai.

How Long Does Kokedama Last?

Generally, a moss ball can survive up to 2, 3 years. However, the period can be shorter or longer, depending on the plant you use for your DIY Kokedama project.

To increase the lifetime of your moss ball, you need to keep an eye for the moment when the roots of the plant start to come out of the moss ball. This is a sign that the moss ball is too small for the plant’s root system, and you need to remake the ball or replant it in a bigger ball.

To remake the moss ball, simply cut the wire or string and remove the moss, cut the excess roots and remake the ball with suitable soil and green moss.

Why Is My Kokedama Dying?

There can be a number of reasons why your moss ball may look like it is dying. Kokedamas are pretty challenging to care for as they have a delicate and sensitive nature, which is why plenty of factors may contribute to their poor health, including:

  • Under-watering or overwatering.
  • The wrong type of soil.
  • Insufficient or too much sunlight exposure.
  • Exposure to too high or too low temperatures.
  • Lack of appropriate nutrients.

Generally, to survive and to thrive, Kokedama needs:

  • High humidity and moisture.
  • To be kept away from direct sunlight.
  • To be kept away from extreme heat sources.
  • To be fertilized once a month.
  • To be pruned once in a while to promote growth.

Considering these care requirements, determine what you’re not doing right and fix it to save your moss ball from dying.

How Often Do You Water A Kokedama?

Kokedamas need to maintain a certain moisture level at all times in order not to dry out. That is why it is recommended to mist the moss ball daily. Plus, once or twice a week, you need to give the moss ball a bath. Soak the ball in water and give it a couple of minutes to absorb as much water as it needs until it becomes heavy. Leave the excess water to drip before hanging or placing the moss ball back in the tray.

Where to Put Kokedama?

Kokedamas can make lovely green decorations and focal points in any type of interior space, such as home or office.

However, when choosing a spot for your moss ball, you need to make sure that you don’t place it in an area where it gets direct sun or next to a source of extreme heat. Both of these things can make it dry out.

Can You Hang Kokedama Outside?

Yes, you can hang a moss ball outside. However, for it to survive the conditions you have in your area, it’s best to use plants that can adapt to those conditions.

So, you can create Kokedamas for your outdoor space, but you need to make sure that the choice of the plant is influenced by the conditions in your area.

What Plants Are Best For Kokedama?

Not all plants are suitable for the Kokedama gardening technique.

The plants that can be used to create these living sculptures need to have a few particular traits, including:

  • They need to be slow-growing plants.
  • They need to be small plants (large plants would destroy the ball with their root system as they grow).
  • They should be tolerant to the less ideal growing conditions that come with growing in a moss ball.

Some of the most popular plants used for Kokedamas include Pothos, Peace lily, Dracaena, Ferns, and Anthurium.

Are you a fan of Kokedama? Share your thoughts in the the comments below!

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Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

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