What is kokedama?
Kokedama started out as an experimental form of bonsai. By removing the plant from the box and letting the roots grow relatively unrestricted in a ball of soil. Further down the line, people discovered that by covering this dirtball in moss the plant requires less watering and the overall effect is quite aesthetically pleasing.
The practice of growing bonsai in kokedama has more or less died out, substituted by smaller, less maintenance-needy plants like grasses and weeds. You can grow pretty much everything in a moss ball as long as you have the know-how. These can be put inside a complementing container or even hung in the air, giving the impression of tiny floating planets. It’s both ancient and modernistic in appeal.
One of the best things about moss balls is that when you have the necessary materials they are rather easy and fun to make. It’s a very good DIY project to craft with your kids, since it’s a lot like making mud cakes. To make a kokedama you will need to:
- Use soil rich in clay
Akadama soil if you can afford it, but since it tends to be expensive you can just make your own soil mix. Use a 7 parts clay to 3 part peat moss ratio.
- Choose and apply moss
This can be either sphagnum or peat variety, the choice is yours. It all depends on what effect you want to create with your kokedama.
- Bind the ball together with a twine
Nylon cord works too and it’s less noticeable since it’s transparent. However we recommend using twine as it has a more soothing natural look to it.
- Mix the soil in a basin
- Cut the twine with scissors
- Choose hardy plants like ferns, bamboo, grasses or even weeds. More details in the next section.
- Spray bottle
How the Kokedama is made:
Put the soil mix in the basin and add a bit of water. Stir and mould the soil until you can form it into a ball that keeps its shape. If it doesn’t – аdd a bit more water. It’s important to get the moisture just right to keep the ball from falling apart. Press it firmly into your hands. If you are feeling creative you can mould it into a different shape too.
Prepare the chosen plant by gently freeing up its roots from the soil it was potted till now. Take some dried out moss and soak it until it becomes damp. Now wrap it around the roots of the plant and secure it with twine. Make sure not to tighten them more than it’s needed to secure the moss.
Break the ball of soil into two halves (this is a bit tricky). If the mixture has the right amount of water, this shouldn’t cause the sphere to fall apart. Place the plant’s root on one half and close them with the other. Reshape the ball as needed.
Encase the ball with the moss and then wrap twine around to secure it. As the moss grows it will attach itself to the soil, but you could still keep the twine for an artistic effect.
Spray the done kokedama with water.
Best Plants for Kokedama
Moss does not tolerate direct sunlight. When exposed to it for prolonged periods of time it will yellow out and eventually die. This is why your kokedama must be placed in a spot with limited sunlight.
Furthermore, the soil inside the Japanese moss ball tends to remain sodden for long periods of time. When choosing a plant for your kokedama you have to take these two factors in account.
Tropical plants endemic to jungles work well, as well as ferns, lucky bamboo, even ivy. Succulents despite not being suitable to the conditions can also be grown in a moss ball, but will require you to check their condition much more often, and are still not guaranteed to survive due to the fact they require fast draining soil.
10 favourite plants for kokedama:
- Mondo Grass
- Marsh Marigold
- Lucky Bamboo
- Bee Balm
Once you find a suitable spot with the best possible conditions, caring for your kokedama is rather easy. Just mist it with a spray bottle once every 2 or 3 days to keep the moss vibrant.
Lift it from time to time to feel it’s weight. If it’s getting light, it means the water contents in the soil are diminished. To replenish them simply soak the ball in room temperature water for about 10 minutes. Then put it somewhere to drain the excess water until it stops dripping, and it’s ready. Another good idea is to fertilise it once a month to give your plants the needed nutrients. Simply add liquid fertiliser to your misting routine using half of the recommended concentration.