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:grow: kokedama

pink kokedama

With the launch of studiOH!’s latest round of workshops yesterday, I thought it was finally time to share a how-to post on making kokedama. This is one of the workshops we’ll be offering in the autumn series, so if you’d like to give it a go in a hands-on environment with all the materials at the ready, book yourself in!

Originating in Japan, kokedama are living plant and moss balls. Traditionally displayed sitting on driftwood or handmade pottery, they also look magical bound up in string and hanging, and are a lovely way to bring a bit of greenery indoors all year round. Kokedama, like their cousins bonsai, are designed to be appreciated for their beauty and for the pleasant effort involved in the growing process. They encapsulate the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which can be explained as an appreciation of the imperfections of nature and the transience of natural beauty.

Here’s how to make your own kokedama!

You will need:

  • a small plant
  • sphagnum moss (available dried from Bunnings)
  • two empty buckets or plastic tubs
  • potting mix
  • clay (collect it from a dam or riverbed if you can) {edit: substitute peat moss}
  • cotton twine
  • scissors
  • sheet moss (buy it in bags from floral wholesalers)
  • a dish to sit your kokedama on, or poly string to tie it up

setupFirst up, get your materials laid out nicely. There are quite a few steps so it’s so much easier if you have everything lined up and ready to go!

plants 2Choose a plant for your kokedama. You can have fun experimenting with different types of plants. Hardy, shade-loving plants with small root systems are best. Some that work well are ferns, dwarf umbrella trees, devil’s ivy, cyclamen, creeping fig, ivy, mondo grass, Asian bell trees, miniature palms, silver dust, hypoestes, false aralia, or even strawberries or herbs. The most important thing is to buy the smallest plant you can so that you can bind the roots into a small ball.

plants 3

sphagnum 1Remove the soil from around the roots of the plant by shaking gently. Moisten your sphagnum moss by emptying it into a bucket or tub and adding water until it feels damp.

Take a handful of damp sphagnum moss and wrap it around the roots of the plant. Squeeze it to tighten around the roots and remove excess water.

sphagnum 2

Take a 40cm piece of cotton string and wrap it several times around the sphagnum moss to hold it in place in a ball-like shape around the roots. Tie the ends of the string together.

buckets

Mix together your soil. Perfect kokedama soil is a mix of clay and potting mix that will hold together in a ball but also allow moisture and nutrients to penetrate to the plants roots {edit: a more readily available and equally effective mix is around a 50:50 mix of peat moss and potting soil}. Start with a few handfuls of damp potting mix and add a handful of damp clay (add a little water if your soils are too dry) {edit: if using peat moss, start with your peat moss and add potting soil and water until your mix forms a nice ball}. Mix together with your hands and keep adding small amounts of clay until you can form a ball in your hands that doesn’t fall apart. Generally the ratio of potting mix to clay is around 7:3.

clay ball

The ball can be whatever size you like, but it needs to be at least big enough to contain the roots of your plant and not so large that it will fall apart. A good size is usually between 10cm and 15cm in diameter.

clay ball 1

‘Open up’ your ball of soil and place the roots of the plant (wrapped in sphagnum moss) inside. Close the soil ball around them and reshape it into a ball. Work the ball in your hands for a few moments until it is a nice, smooth shape and you are sure the roots are completely enclosed.

clay 4

Set your ball down and wash your hands – you don’t want to get your moss all muddy!

clay ball 3 moss 3 moss 1

Take a sheet of moss and tear off a piece large enough to wrap around your ball. Lay the moss facedown and place the ball in the centre. Pull the sides of the sheet moss up around the ball to cover it. Tear off or add in extra pieces of moss as needed to make sure your ball is completely covered. Spend a few moments working the ball in your hands to smooth and settle the moss.

hanging sitting sitting and hanging

Mist the moss ball and plant all over with water. Choose a pretty vintage or Japanese dish to sit your kokedama on, or…for a hanging kokedama, take a length of poly string long enough to wrap around your moss ball several times and leave enough to hang it from your ceiling. The length will depend on the size of your moss ball and the height of your ceiling, but usually 3-4 metres is enough. Find the middle of the piece of string and sit the kokedama on top of it. Start wrapping the string around the moss ball from both ends, so that you end up with even amounts of string left on each side. You can wrap the string as many times as you like as long as you leave enough to hang the ball. Tie the two ends of string together on top of the kokedama, taking care not to damage the plant.

Sit or hang your kokedama where you can enjoy it every day!

{edit: to care for your kokedama, keep it where it will receive bright, ambient light, no direct sun. Spritz the moss with water daily to keep it nice and green. Around once to twice a week, or when the ball feels light to hold, immerse your kokedama in a container of water until bubbles stop coming out, usually a few minutes. Give the ball a gentle squeeze to remove excess water and re-hang it without fear of drips!}

kokedama 2 kokedama 2 copy kokedama 3

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This entry was published on April 7, 2013 at 7:56 am. It’s filed under grow, make and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

31 thoughts on “:grow: kokedama

  1. Pingback: :make: kokedama workshop | givemakewrap

  2. Marina on said:

    Do I just mist to maintain moisture, or would I soak it in a couple mm of water in a dish once a week or so? Thank you. Nice tutorial, and I’ve read a few by now. 🙂

    • Hi Marina,
      Thanks for your comments! You should mist your kokedama with water every day to water the moss. Then once a week, or when the ball feels light to hold, immerse the whole ball in a bucket of water until bubbles stop coming out (about 5-10 mins). Give the ball a gentle squeeze to remove excess water and push it through to the roots of the plant. Good luck!

  3. Pingback: Tasi Masi | givemakewrap

  4. Hi, I love the Kokadema. Would they work with a passionflower plant? Thank you.

    • Hi Lindsay! I haven’t tried a passionflower kokedama but they need a lot of sun so it might be hard to keep your moss looking green as it would prefer no direct sun. Also it might be hard to get the passionflower to produce blooms since its growth would be so restricted. If you do give it a go please let me know how it works out!

  5. Terri Pierman on said:

    Great tutorial. I want to try it. I don’t have any access to local natural clay. What could I use for a substitute or where could I buy clay that wouldn’t harm the plant? I know alkalinity can be a problem with this sometimes and I don’t want to kill off my plant. Also, I have access to some beautiful natural moss. Can that be used instead of sheet moss?

    • Hi Terri,
      Thanks for your feedback! Instead of natural clay, you can use a 50/50 mix of peat moss and potting soil, or peat moss and bonsai soil. I use both mixes regularly and they work very well! Any moss will work fine, but it might just be harder to get it to attach to your soil ball and stick together if it is in small pieces. It would definitely be worth giving it a go, though. Best of luck!
      Anna

  6. This is so exciting! What a beautiful tutorial….thank you for sharing.

  7. What is the expected life span? can it be fertilized pretty much like a potted plant?

    • Hi Steve,
      The life span of a kokedama is the same as it would be for the plant if it were potted normally, so they can live for years. To water them, you need to submerge the ball in water once a week so to fertilise them you can include a small amount of liquid fertiliser in the water, but I keep it very diluted and only do it once every six months as moss doesn’t generally like to be fertilised. Anna

  8. Lori on said:

    I am wanting to make one of these! They look great! Do you need to add additional dirt as the plant grows? I’m wanting to make one with an ivy cutting and maybe a fern.

    • Hi Lori,
      There’s no need to add more soil as the plant grows, as the binding of the roots slows down the plant’s growth. Eventually the roots of the plant will grow through the sphagnum moss and into the soil, filling out the ball, which will usually take around six months or more, and after that it will continue to be happy in its original ball. After around 6 months you can start to fertilise your plant by adding a small amount of liquid plant fertiliser to the water when you immerse it for its weekly soaking. Good luck with your kokedama!
      Anna

  9. Renee on said:

    Hi Anna, I was so inspired by this! So, I made one. Now I think that I may be addicted… I love playing with plants and succulents and moss – seems like a match made in heaven 🙂 Are you on Instagram??? I’d love to tag you in the photo I posted there, but can’t find you 😦 The link you attached on your ‘About’ page doesn’t seem to work, and I’d like to give you credit (after all, it’s pretty awesome!!!). Thank you so much for an easy to follow, clear and straight forward tutorial!

    • Hi Renee! Thanks so much for your lovely comment! I’m so glad you’ve caught the kokedama bug 🙂 Sorry about the instagram issue – you can find me @tasimasi. Thanks again!

      • Renee on said:

        Great! I’ll tag you now… 🙂 Do you have any plans to come back to Oz in the near(isn) future? Specifically Sydney??? Your workshops look so fun! Enjoy NY in the Spring – it’s gorgeous 🙂

  10. I haven’t got any trips back to Oz planned at the moment, I’m afraid, but I think we’ll probably make it back early next year and would love to get over east then, too. I’ll keep you posted! xx

  11. Zarina Sali-Ameen on said:

    Hello, Just made my first kokedama and am totally besotted! Please advise me if I can use ‘dry’ spaghnum moss as opposed to fresh moss which is not always easily available here in SA. Alternatively can I use “peace in the home” as a suitable covering for moss ball.
    Thank you kindly, Zarina

    • Hi Zarina!
      I’m so glad you’ve fallen in love with kokedama! If you can’t find live sheet moss for the outside of your kokedama you could use dried sphagnum moss, but you will need to bind it with lots of string as it is in small pieces. I wouldn’t recommend using baby’s tears (peace in the home) as it has quite deep roots. Good luck!
      Anna

      • Hello Anna, thank you so much for advice. I have since used the dry sphagnum moss and it works just as well. Thank you too for inspiring tutorial. Much appreciated!
        Zarina

      • Oh you’re welcome! I’m glad the dry sphagnum worked out well!
        Anna

  12. Hi in your images some moss balls seem to have no string around them. Has it been removed or does the moss eventually hide the string?
    Thank you.

    • Hi Stacey,
      Traditionally (in Japan) kokedama do not have string around the ball, and if each stage of the process is followed properly the ball and moss should hold together without the need for string. It can be fun to add the string for colour or to hang your kokedama, and it does mean you don’t have to hold the ball the whole time while submerging it for watering, but generally it’s not needed. Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks!
      Anna

  13. I am so intrigued with this. My I have permission to share your post with others?

  14. hello! i really want to make a kokedama for my school project, but im struggling to find moss sheets!! im from melbourne australia, do you know where i will be able to get some?? xx

    • Hi Mary! The wholesale flower market is usually the place to get moss – I think this is Melbourne’s: http://www.melbournemarkets.com.au
      You have to go very early in the morning, though, and you may need to register with them first. A lot of florists will carry it as well, though, and will probably sell you a small piece (ask, because it’s often not on display). Good luck! – Anna

  15. Pingback: What Is Kokedama? The Art of Kokedama

  16. Joy C Smith on said:

    EXCELLENT Tutorial and the pictures really help! Thank you!!!

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