by Debbie Kirkpatrick

Kokedama is the Japanese art of growing plants in a moss-covered ball of soil wrapped with string or mono-filament fishing line. They can be  displayed on a decorative surface or hung by string in a window. Following is a step-by-step guide on how to create and care for your own kokedama. Creating a beautiful string garden or decorative display for your home is fun and easy.

Peat moss
Potting soil
Sphagnum sheet moss
Waxed string or fishing line
Measuring cup

Creeping fig

Plant Selection

Choose plants with small root systems or slow growing. Also, think of where your kokedama will sit or hang.

Shade plant suggestions: Pothos, philodendron, African violet, begonia, ferns, grape ivy, dracaenas, cyclamen, elephant’s ears, rabbit’s foot fern, peperomia, Jacob’s ladder, prayer plant, creeping fig.

Full sun/part shade plant suggestions: Kalanchoe, aloe, string-of-beads, wax plant, basil, thyme, mint, parsley, oregano, croton, English ivy, inch plant, Christmas cactus, donkey’s tail, sedums.
Soil Preparation

To make a 4 inch ball, measure 2 cups potting soil in a bowl or bucket.

Wetting the Soil

Slowly add water to the potting soil until it just holds together when pressed firmly; more water can be added later if necessary.

Forming the Soil Ball

Press the soil mixture into a ball, firmly packing so it stays together. If you toss it into the air a few times, it should hold together.

Preparing the Plant

Remove the plant from its pot and gently shake off as much soil as you can.

Planting the Plant in the Soil Ball

Split the ball in half and lay the plant's roots in the center. Then, gently pack the ball of soil around the plant.

Preparing the Moss

Dampen the sphagnum moss in warm water to make it pliable so you can wrap it around the soil ball. Lay the sheet moss face down, set the soil ball in the center and gather the moss around the soil and up to the plant.

Ready to be Tied

The moss ball is now ready to be tied to keep it all together.

Wrapping the Moss Ball

Secure the moss with string or mono-filament fishing line. Begin by holding the ball in one hand and with the other hand start wrapping the ball leaving a long tail at the bottom to use to tie off when done wrapping. Wrap in all directions. If you want to hang your kokedama, start wrapping the ball at the top, still leaving a long tail, and tying the ends to hang. If you don’t want to hang your Kokedama, you can place it in a shallow dish for display.

Care of Your Kokedama

Water your kokedama by soaking it in a small bowl of water for 5 to 10 minutes or until it feels heavy. Repeat when the ball feels light - usually every couple of days. Fertilize every few weeks with a water soluble fertilizer in the water bowl. If the plant has grown large and starts to look stressed even though you are watering and fertilizing, it may be time to move the plant to a larger ball.

Japanese Kokedama Display

This display of kokedama in Daiba, Tokyo, Japan was photographed in early December. Many had woody plants growing in them, which had already dropped their leaves for winter but others were planted with ferns that were still green. It is more challenging to grow kokedamas outside with hardy plant materials (as those pictured) because of the need for frequent watering and the plant’s overwintering requirements. But, once you have mastered growing kokedamas indoors with indoor plants, you can expand and try some hardy plants growing outdoors.