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Kokedama: The Japanese Way of Indoor Gardening

Kokedama is a ball of soil covered with moss on which ornamental plants are grown. It is also called poor man’s bonsai. It’s made of wet soil and a cocopeat formed into a ball.

Dr Poonam Batra
Kokedama shares a very decorative way to grow your plants that will give your home a very calm and serene vibe
Kokedama shares a very decorative way to grow your plants that will give your home a very calm and serene vibe

Indoor gardening is gaining importance in this modern world due to its multiple benefits like environment, positivity, decoration, health, etc. Kokedama is also one of the means of indoor gardening, which is a centuries-old Japanese form of garden art that is closely tied to the practice of bonsai. Kokedama’s term is derived from “Koke” which means moss, and “dama” which means ball. Kokedama or Japanese moss ball is a favorite among plant decoration enthusiasts who are also passionate about sustainability. It is a decorative art of encasing a plant’s root in a ball of soil covered with moss.  Kokedamas aren’t just trendy plant decor; they make the best gifts for plant lovers and are sustainable because they eliminate the use of plastic.

What is Kokedama?

Kokedama is a ball of soil covered with moss on which ornamental plants are grown. It is also called poor man’s bonsai. It’s made of wet soil and a cocopeat formed into a ball. The plant is set into the ball and afterward, the moss is wrapped around it. Aluminum wire or nylon wire fixes the whole bundle and is sometimes used to hang the Kokedama in the air.

What all things are required to make Kokedama?

  • A plant of your choice

  • Pair of scissors

  • Mug

  • Big bowl

  • Sheet moss

  • Sphagnum moss

  • Water

  • Thin thread of cotton/jute

  • Light potting mix

How to make Kokedama?

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide on how to make a homemade Kokedama with only the materials

  • Mould a mud ball: The first thing you’ll need to make a Kokedama is to grab your bucket and pour the 10 cups of potting soil into this now mix in some water and firmly stir the soil to a muddy consistency. Don’t add too much water, the potting soil has to become mud that can be molded into a ball.

  • Prepare the indoor plant: In this step, you want to put the ball of mud aside and focus on the indoor plant that you want to use. Remove the plant from its original pot and gently shake off the soil that it has around its roots. After you have done this, you should only have a plant with roots and without soil. Take the 4 cups of sphagnum moss, make it damp, and gently put it around the roots of the plant. Take a thin cotton thread and wrap it very loosely around the sphagnum moss (so that it doesn’t come apart).

  • Put the plant inside the mud ball: Now you want to take your ball of mud again and divide the ball into two pieces with a simple but gentle twist. After you’ve done this successfully, place the plant between the two halves and firmly reform the ball around the plant. Always aim to make the compost ball as big as the original pot. Continue to give shape to the unity between the new compost mix and the plant until you have a solid ball sustaining the plant.

  • Wrap the Sheet moss around the mud ball: Once the mud ball is holding together firmly, wrap the sheet of carpet moss around it and gather the moss around the stem of the plant. Once you’ve done this successfully, it’s time to wrap the thin thread of jute/wool/cotton around the ball. Wrap the thread firmly around the moss ball until the ball is round. You might have to squeeze the ball to make it around. Use your scissors to trim the excess moss around the root ball until you have a nice-looking plant wrapped around a ball of carpet moss. Lastly, if you want to hang the kokedama, wrap another piece (or three) of twine around the neck of the ball, and your Kokedama will be ready to hang anywhere you like.

Which Plants to grow in Kokedama?

Hardy houseplants that stay small, grow slowly and are tolerant to less than ideal conditions are the best houseplants for Kokedama. Avoid plants that grow too large or too quickly like monstera and wait until you’re more experienced to try kokedama with sensitive plants. The following are the few plants that can grow well in Kokedama:

  • Cebu Blue Pothos (Epipremnum pinnatum)

  • Tiger Cub Bromeliad (Noeregelia ampullacea)

  • Chinese Money Plant (Pilea polybotrya)

  • Dwarf ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia)

  • Ivy Peperomia (Peperomia griseoargentea)

  • Croton (Codiaeum variegatum)

  • Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)

  • Nerve Plant (Fittonia albivenis)

  • Rabbit Foot Fern (Davallia fejeensis)

  • Super Dwarf Red Vine (Philodendron)

  • Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

  • Pineapple Mint (Mentha suaveolens)

  • Ficus Tree Bonsai (Ficus retusa bonsai)

Where to put a Kokedama?

To suspend a Kokedama, always depends on the plant you are growing and which area you are hanging it. It is always better to avoid Kokedama in sunny spots because it is very prone to sunlight and dry out fast once exposed to the sun. Also, if you are in a very cold area then place your Kokedama inside the house.

How to care for Kokedama?

Every day you should lightly mist your plant with a spray bottle. You could also place the Kokedama ball in a tray of pebbles and water underneath the plant to add the necessary humidity. Ideally, the Kokedama plant needs to be soaked in a water bowl at room temperature for 10 minutes. Later drain the ball by hanging it somewhere till it stops dripping. You need to water the Kokedama plant when you see the ball has become light and the leaves are turning brown.

As the plants start to grow bigger roots will start poking out of the ball and this is a sign that it needed to be re-potted into a bigger moss ball or in a pot as per your wish. Although you don’t have to worry about repotting at least once a year

In addition to being environmentally friendly and much less stressful to maintain than potted plants, Kokedamas have several other benefits. The calmness of plants, despite the untamed moss balls, reminds us that we can find peace in a world full of chaos. Kokedama shares a very decorative way to grow your plants that will give your home a very calm and serene vibe. They will also freshen up the air in the room and eliminate bad energies.

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