The Japanese word “Kokedama” literally translates as “moss ball”. It is an ancient botanical art form that likely originated in Japan during the Edo period (between 1603 and 1868). Kokedama has recently gained renewed popularity and is a fun project for any time of year that can be enjoyed by all ages. Since it is basically a ball of moss-covered soil surrounding a specimen plant, the plant and moss can be admired without the distraction of the pot; Kokedama’s beauty is in its simplicity.

Supplies & Tools

  • Moss: Packaged sheet moss or dried Spanish moss (great for arid specimens) works well. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can collect sheets of living moss from shady patches in the yard. Pre-moisten moss for easier handling.
  • Plant specimens: Kokedama is suited for both indoor and outdoor applications. Here are some of our favorite plants to use. Dwarf daisies (Bellis perennis) have super cute pom pom-like daisy flowers in shades of pink, red, and white—they will grow outdoors as a perennial or indoors in a cool room with bright, indirect light. Epiphytic ferns are another perfect match for moss balls (the tougher the better) such as Staghorn ferns, Rabbit’s Foot, or Kangaroo Paw. Hoyas are a sturdy option and will occasionally flower if grown in bright light. Aloe ‘Hedgehog’ or Zebra Plant, Haworthia are irresistible and make great drier moss ball plantings.
  • Soil mix: 2 quarts peat moss, 2 quarts bonsai soil mix, and 1 pound bentonite clay (optional binding agent). Mix well and add water until mix is well-saturated and holds its shape when molded into a ball (will make approximately 5 small to medium-sized balls). If working with a kit, place dry soil mix in a bucket or other waterproof container and add water; blend until saturated and slightly mud-like.
  • Garden twine or clear fishing line
  • Scissors
  • Bucket (for mixing soil)
  • Full watering can
  • Plastic sheet/tarp: Be prepared to get messy!

Planting Instructions

1. Remove the plant from its grower pot and shake off soil to expose the roots; if the roots are tight or tangled, you may need to work at them a little more.

2. Form a ball from your soil mix (about the size of a naval orange for most 4-inch plants) then crack it in half and press around the roots so that if forms a seamless ball.

3. Cover the soil ball with your chosen moss (you’ll need to hold the moss on with one hand to leave a hand for wrapping).

4. Cut a length of line about 3-4 yards and begin wrapping the around the moss like you would a ball of yarn, keeping the line taught and switching angles so that it holds the whole package together tightly (make sure to go under the bottom a few times). Leave a 4-inch tail of line at the beginning of your wrap so you can tie your end piece to it; knot the end piece to the “tail” when the ball has been wrapped and moss is secure. Gently shape moss-covered root ball into a round form if it becomes misshapen from handling.

5. Dunk the freshly planted ball in water for 5-10 minutes, and then let it drain.

6. You can either attach a line to hang kokedama or display it in a decorative bowl.

Kokedama Care & Maintenance

Indoor Kokedama should be kept in the type of lighting required by the plant. Hoya and Peperomia, for example, prefer bright light. However, Philodendrons and many ferns thrive in medium light conditions. Watering needs can be determined by feeling the weight (a light ball is dry). Best watering is done by dunking the entire ball in the sink or a bucket of water for 5–10 minutes. Ideal plant selections are tolerant of periodically drying out a bit, but on average, watering every 7–10 days should work for most.

To maintain plant health and nutrition, add diluted, organic fertilizer (half of normal strength) to the soaking water once per month during the growing season.

Kokedama in hanging displays tend to dry out faster than those that are sitting in a tray or bowl. If you are leaving town for the weekend (2–3 days), take all hanging plants down and group together in a low shallow dish or tray with about one inch of water.

Outdoor Kokedama are best kept in full or partial shade (protect from hot sun) to keep the live sheet moss green; if using more arid selections and/or preserved moss, be sure to give plants enough sunlight to thrive. Watering needs can be determined by feeling the weight (a light ball is dry). Best watering is done by dunking the entire ball in a bucket of water for 5–10 minutes. In summer, daily dunking is required for most outdoor creations; less watering is necessary during cooler, wetter seasons. Plant can be misted periodically, but this does not fully saturate the soil.

If using jute or other natural twine, check for twine in need of replacement; rewrap with twine about every 4–6 months or more frequently, if necessary.

To maintain plant health and nutrition, add diluted organic fertilizer (half of normal strength) to the soaking water once per month during the growing season.

Kokedama in hanging displays tend to dry out faster than those that are sitting in a tray or bowl. If you are leaving town for the weekend (2–3 days), take all hanging plants down and group together in a low shallow dish or tray, fill tray with one-half inch to one inch of water, and place in dappled or full shade.

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