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DIY: How to Make Kokedama

Have you been wondering what a kokedama is and how to make your own kokedama? Kokedama is a type of Japanese bonsai, which literally translates to “moss ball”. It is a plant that is continually growing in popularity due to its unique and minimalist appearance.

Also known as ‘moss ball’ and ‘string garden’, kokedama is a variant of bonsai cultivation, where plant roots are wrapped with soil and moss. It can be suspended using string, or left to sit on a piece of pottery, to be admired.

If you’re interested in making your own kokedama, do read on for easy to understand step-by-step instructions.

kokedama plants
Kokedama made by participants during one of my workshops

Best Plants for Kokedama

Some of the best kokedama plants include ferns, ivy, spider plant, pothos, tradescantia, syngonium, philodendrons, palms and dracaena. If you wish, you may experiment with other plants that are generally considered low maintenance. Some people have also tried using begonia, succulents, orchids and peace lily.

When choosing a plant, get to know the plant’s preferences and try to create its ideal microclimate. For example, when working with plants that prefer high humidity and moist soil, like peace lily, put it in a bright location and make sure the soil doesn’t dry out quickly or it will stress the plant.

Conversely, succulents prefer to dry out in between waterings so do not water it too often. However, if it is exposed to full day sun and is placed in a spot that is windy or dry, it can afford to be watered more frequently compared to one that is indoors, humid, and in a bright but not sunny location.

The “root ball” can be as large as you want, so if you are feeling adventurous, you can even make a very large kokedama!

Kokedama Soil Mix and Materials

Depending on what materials are available in your area, here are a few different soil mixes you can try.

Kokedama Soil Mixes

1.Keto soil, sphagnum moss and akadama: If you are able to get hold of keto soil and akadama, this would be the most traditionally used soil mix. Use 2 parts keto soil to 1 part sphagnum moss to 1 part akadama.

2. Potting soil, coco peat and akadama: Alternatively, you can consider using potting soil mixed with akadama and coco peat, which will help make the soil mix stick together easier, resulting in the “root ball” holding together better. Use one part potting soil to one part coco peat, to one part akadama.

3. Peat moss and compost: Another combination includes one part peat moss to one part compost, although peat moss is a less sustainable option.

Kokedama with sphagnum moss
Kokedama wrapped with sphagnum moss, photo by Flora Westbrook

Kokedama “root ball” covering

There are a few different materials you can use to wrap your kokedama “root ball” with. Sheet moss is commonly used, however you can also use sphagnum moss, coir fibre or string.

Sphagnum moss is good at retaining moisture, however it can be a bit more challenging when it comes to wrapping it around the “root ball”. In my experience it tends to fall away easily so patience is necessary. To prepare the sphagnum moss, soak it in water for 10 minutes, then wring it out so it’s damp but not dripping wet.

Coir fibre is easy to handle, but it does not retain moisture well, so kokedama using this material will need to watered more frequently.

Alternatively, the “root ball” can be wrapped using natural string like jute, sisal or hemp twine.

Potting soil, compost, coco peat, sphagnum moss and plants can be purchased from most garden nurseries. Keto soil, akadama and sheet moss are commonly used in bonsai and can be purchased in garden nurseries that specialise in bonsai, or buy these online.

For those residing in Singapore, you can purchase all of these from Candy Floriculture at 567 Thomson Road. Sheet moss is usually sold in trays and can be found in the cold room.

Picking a Suitable String

When picking string, go for 1.5mm – 2mm diameter in thickness, also do note that natural string like jute, sisal or hemp twine can break after a year. So if you are hanging it up, be prepared to replace that portion of string from time to time so there is no risk of your kokedama falling to the ground.

Alternatively, you can opt for waxed polyester cord in the colour of your choice. This will last longer as it more water resistant due to its wax protective layer. Pick up string from your local craft store of order from Etsy or similar online platforms, or craft shops.

Best plants for kokedama

How to DIY a Kokedama

For starters, here is what you will need:

  • A plant
  • Keto soil (or equal parts potting soil and coco peat or peatmoss)
  • Akadama
  • live moss or sphagnum moss or jute
  • String

1.After you’ve chosen your plant, remove it from its pot. Tease away the potting soil it comes with, being careful not to break off or damage any of the roots.

2. It’s time to prepare the soil mix. Using materials of either of the potting mixes mentioned above, mix them evenly in a container.

3. Add some water, enough to get the soil mix moist but not dripping wet. If you have added too much, tip out the excess water. The intent is to have it moist enough to mould the root ball so it is firm enough to hold its shape without crumbling.

4. Then, take a small handful of the mixture and shape it into a ball. Make sure the ball is big enough to fit the entire root system of your plant.

5. Break the ball cleanly in half.

6. Wrap the plant’s roots with the ball of soil and shape it in the way you wish – round or tear drop or asymmetrical – packing it tightly.

7. Next, wrap the moss around the “root ball”, using your hands to compact it and make sure there are no gaps.

8. Finally, it’s time to secure the kokedama. To do this, take a length of string and wrap it around the kokedama, tying it off in a few places to make sure it’s secure. Once your kokedama is secure, give it a good soak in water. You can then hang it up or place it on a dish – make sure to keep an eye on the moisture levels and water when necessary.

And that’s it! With these simple steps, you can create your own kokedama to enjoy in your home.

kokedama diy instructions

Care Tips

  • The easiest way to water your kokedama is to immerse the “root ball” in water. Depending on the type of plant you have and the conditions in your home, you may have to water more or less frequently than once a week.
  • Keep your kokedama moist by watering it every 2-3 days.
  • Place it in a spot with indirect sunlight if you are using live moss. Avoid placing it in direct sunlight, as this will cause the moss to dry out and turn brown.
  • If you live in a dry climate, you can mist it daily to keep it moist if you find that it is drying out.
  • If your kokedama starts to smell, it is an indication that it is being over watered. Allow it to dry out for a few days before watering it again.
kokedama singapore

How to Display Your Kokedama

how to display kokedama

There are a few different ways you can display your kokedama. One popular way is to hang them from the ceiling or a beam using string. This allows the kokedama to take on a cascading look, and also makes it easy to water – simply dunk the kokedama ball in a bowl of water and let it soak for a few minutes.

Another popular way to display it is to place them on a dish or tray. This works well for small sized kokedama, and can create a stunning visual effect. Make sure to choose a dish that has good drainage, and water it regularly so it doesn’t dry out.

Finally, it can displayed using a plant stand or wooden frame, as seen above. It is very easy to put a basic one together within 90 mins if you have all the materials ready, even if you have very little DIY experience. It requires the use of a drill, wood glue, clamps, and screws.

No matter how you choose to display your kokedama, they are sure to add a touch of style and elegance to your home.

I hope you liked this tutorial on how you can make your own kokedama. Make one or a few to add visual interest to your home, or give it to friends. Enjoy putting together your kokedama!

For more gardening updates, follow my Facebook Page – The Tender Gardener, Instagram page @tendergardener and subscribe to my YouTube channel! See you there!

All photos taken by me unless stated otherwise.

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