Kokedama is a centuries-old garden form, and it's making a comeback. This Japanese bonsai variety thrives indoors and makes a great hanging accent. Whether you're looking for an ornament to fill the corners of your small apartment or need a time-killer to keep you busy on a rainy day, these hanging moss balls are easy to make yourself with just a few materials.
How does kokedama work? You begin by mixing peat moss and bonsai soil, then slowly adding water until the compound adheres as a ball. This will be your base. Wrap the roots of a plant (we used a fern) in damp sphagnum moss, bind it in twine, and insert into the soil ball. Finish off with sheet moss and more twine to secure, and then spritz with water.
Once your kokedama is finished, don't feel limited to hanging it. It will make an impact in a clear bowl or on a wooden shelf as well.
How to Make Kokedama at Home
- Bonsai soil
- Peat moss
- Sphagnum moss
- Ferns (or similar plant type)
- Assorted jute twines
Step 1: Make and Form Soil Balls
Mix peat moss and bonsai soil together in a 7:3 ratio. Slowly add in water and mix until a consistency develops, forming a soil ball that stays together, about the size of a grapefruit/large orange.
Step 2: Wrap Ferns with Moss
Soak the sphagnum moss in water until damp, then rinse. Then, take the fern plants and clean the soil from the roots. Use the damp sphagnum moss to wrap the roots and bind the fern with twine.
Step 3: Form Soil Ball Around Moss Ball
Break the soil ball in half. Place the moss-wrapped plant in the middle of one half of soil ball and then add the other side, shaping ball as needed. Use sheet moss to wrap the ball and bind it with twine. When the kokedama is done, spritz it with water.
The best way to determine if your plant needs water is to feel how heavy it is. When the ball feels light, there's a good chance it needs to be watered. Another telltale sign that your plant needs watering is if the tips of its leaves start browning. Cut off any brown parts of the plant to keep the brown from spreading.
Watering your plant is simple: Soak the ball in a bowl of room-temperature water for about 10 minutes. Then transfer the ball to a colander for a few minutes to drain any excess water. When the ball doesn't drip anymore, it's ready to hang again.
Two indications that your plant is being overwatered or not fully drying are yellowing leaves and the presence of mold. If you find mold on your plant, don't fret! Simply trim the infected leaf or rinse off with a warm-soaked towel.
Moss Lighting Needs
Like most plants, kokedama is going to need some light to thrive but not too much—since the plant is moss-based, it is more likely to dry out if sitting in direct light. To elongate your ball's life, pick a semi-shady spot in your home and keep a close eye on it.
Once a month, fertilize your plant to give it the nutrients it needs. Simply add a water-soluble indoor plant fertilizer to your water-soaking routine, using half of the recommended concentration.
Decorating With Kokedama
There are many ways to enjoy your kokedama plant, both inside and outside your home.
Hang kokedama in an office space or bathroom (the moss will love the moisture!), above a kitchen island, or as a centerpiece on a dining room table. For outdoor spaces, hang kokedama from a pergola, balcony, porch, or other desired shady area.
More About Moss
Mosses are non-vascular plants, grouped according to growth pattern to include acrocarps and pleurocarps. Acrocarps are unbranched and erect, forming a mounded colony. Pleurocarps are branched and spreading, with a fernlike look, forming a colony in a creeping, chaotic fashion. Each type has a different design appeal. The tiny sporophytes reaching for the sky produce spores that develop into the soft green mat we recognize as moss.
Harvest moss from your own property, or check local garden centers, floral shops, and online sources. It is illegal to remove moss from protected areas such as state and national parks and public lands.
To collect moss, use a spatula, collecting a thin layer of soil along with the moss. Always collect responsibly, removing only small portions of a colony. Keep in mind that moss is sensitive to metals and chemicals.