Local lifestyle columnists

Kokedama: The art of growing plants in moss balls

By From page D4 | August 10, 2014

You’ve heard of the art of bonsai gardening, but have you heard of the art of kokedama?

Evolving from the art of bonsai, kokedama – which translates into moss ball – involves freeing the roots of plants from containers and growing them in moss-covered soil balls tied in string. Originally the kokedama were displayed on an altar-like platform. But today, the end products are frequently hung from stands or the ceiling so they can be admired as dangling pieces of living art.

Unlike bonsai, which requires both time and patience before the gardener can see the fruits of their labor, kokedama offers gardeners the opportunity to immediately admire the results of their efforts. Kokedama has rapidly grown in popularity because of the fast-paced world we live in. Originating in Japan, it’s now gaining popularity in the United States. As it spread across the globe, it has also evolved in new directions as more gardeners adapt the practice to their individual preferences and needs.

Today’s gardeners have gone beyond creating kokedama with indoor plants and have now created them with outdoor plants. Because the moss dries out quickly in the sun, shade loving plants are used. Some gardeners have also gone beyond using a single plant to grouping several plants in a moss ball to create a landscape effect.

The original medium used for the soil balls – which is akadama, a clay-like mineral used as soil for bonsai trees, and moss – has been replaced with a variety of different mixtures of mediums more commonly available and less expensive. The deviations are also necessary as the types and ultimately locations of finished kokedama have also evolved over time.

The materials needed for kokedama are simply the following:

  • A small houseplant.
  • Sphagnum moss.
  • Soil ball medium. Gardeners have used a mix of akadama and peat moss, potting soil and coco fiber, garden soil and moss. Some gardeners use simply moss. Experimentation with your chosen plant and soil ball medium is key to long-term success in kokedama.
  • String to tie the moss ball, such as jute, polyester string, twine, nylon beading thread, or fishing line. Be aware that what you select will affect the final appearance of your moss ball.

To make a kokedama, gently remove all the soil from the roots of your plant. Next, dampen your soil ball medium slightly so it will stick together, and gently form a ball around the root of the plant.

Alternatively, some instructions direct you to form the soil ball, make a hole in it and insert the plant into the hole then filling the hole with your soil medium to seal the hole.

Some instructions also direct you to wrap the roots in moss before forming a ball around the root of the plant, or inserting a plant into a soil ball.

Once you’ve formed the ball, completely wrap it in moss. Use your string to wrap the moss to hold it, and the soil ball in shape. You are now done and can display your kokedama on a platter or hang it.

Kathy Low is a Master Gardener with the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Fairfield. If you have gardening questions, call the Master Gardener’s office at 784-1322.

Kathy Low


Discussion | 2 comments

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  • paqkleaderAugust 10, 2014 - 10:23 pm

    No pics? Would help a little

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  • Ron KingOctober 05, 2014 - 7:19 pm

    Very fine and informative article Kathy. I have been researching this subject and this has been the most comprehensive and illuminating I have found. Thank you for your time & research.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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