Learn The Art Of Japanese Kokedama | CoolJapan

Many people have grown fond of caring for houseplants to refresh their homes in the past couple of years. While bonsai is a popular choice for convenience and compact horticulture, there’s another option to consider: kokedama, the Japanese art of growing plants in ball-shaped moss-covered soil.

What is kokedama?

The art of Kokedama or growing plants in ball-shaped moss-covered soil. (Photo from: Pexels)

What is kokedama?

It is believed that Kokedama started during Japan’s Edo Period (1603 - 1868). It takes inspiration from bonsai-making, more specifically Nearai bonsai where fully-grown plants are taken out of the pot after their roots mature and left to grow as is. Some Nearai bonsai get covered with moss as time goes by. Both practices centre around growing plants for more compact spaces, allowing people who live in the city to enjoy a touch of nature in their homes.

The word ‘kokedama’ is derived from two Japanese words: ‘苔 (koke)’ meaning ‘moss’ and ‘玉 (tama/-dama)’ meaning ‘ball’ which describes the nature of kokedama art. Kokedama being potless is also meant to symbolise nature’s ability to be self-sufficient, representing harmony and longevity where one can flourish as it adapts to its surroundings.

Since the moss spheres are shaped by hand, kokedama also embodies the Japanese ideal of wabi-sabi, which is finding beauty in every aspect of nature’s imperfection.

What kind of plants can be used for kokedama?

It’s an effective way to cultivate plants in compact spaces. (Photo from: Pexels)

What kind of plants can be used for kokedama?

Any plant that naturally flourishes in small, compact spaces is ideal for kokedama. Some of these include cacti, money plants, pothos, ferns, and most houseplants. Ideally, you’d want a plant that isn’t seasonal to make sure your kokedama looks healthy all year round.

The best type of soil and moss to use for kokedama

Traditional kokedama is made from akadama soil and peat moss, which, when combined, are easy to shape into a ball. Shops that sell supplies for bonsai usually have these in stock.

Spagnum moss for kokedama

Spagnum moss. (Photo from: Photo-AC)

As for the moss, sphagnum moss or hypnum moss are highly recommended because they’re great for insulating the plant’s roots and retaining moisture. Other types of moss can be used, of course, as long as they’re real moss and not faux moss since they must have the ability to retain moisture for the plant to absorb.

How to create kokedama at home

1. Start by preparing your tools and materials

You need only a few materials; the three have already been mentioned: your choice of plant, soil and moss. The fourth material is the string to bind the shape of your kokedama with.

Go for sturdy binders such as twines, waxed cords or floral wires. Avoid strings that will easily break down when exposed to moisture because you’d want them to be able to support your kokedama even after repeated watering.

How to create kokedama at home

Making kokedama is a hands-on activity that reminds us of many Japanese ideals and philosophies. (Photo from: Photo-AC)

2. Place your plant of choice over the soil and dampen the soil to start building its shape

Combine a 1:1 ratio of the akadama and peat moss. Once done, position the plant upright on the soil and secure the roots by shaping the soil with your hands into a ball shape. Dampen the soil just enough to help it take shape. Once you’re satisfied with the shape and the soil is steadily holding the plant upright, it’s time to add the moss.

3. Lay the moss like a sheet on a flat surface and place the plant ball in the middle

Spread your moss on a flat surface and place the plant ball on top of it so that it’s easier to envelop the plant with the moss. Just let the moss naturally cling to the soil as you go, trimming the ones that stick out.

How to maintain kokedama

Make sure you secure your base to keep your kokedama’s shape intact. (Photo from: Photo-AC)

4. Take your string and secure the plant’s base

Once the moss completely covers the base of the plant ball, get your string and secure the base together. Make sure you’re only binding the moss around the soil and avoid going through the plant itself. The string should be secured enough that it retains its shape, but not too much to the point that the moss is being pressed hard against the soil. When you lift your plant up and everything’s intact, your kokedama is done.

How to maintain kokedama

Depending on the plant you choose, kokedama can be displayed indoors or outdoors. Just like any other houseplant, the amount of water and sunlight it should receive should match the needs of the chosen plant.

Will you try the art of kokedama soon?