Kokedama: Japanese Moss Garden (or how to make a string garden)

Terrarium sized plants are perfect for starter plants for Kokedama. They're easy to work with, generally don't mind the wet feet, and help a beginner out. Instead of hanging them, you can use decorative bowls or plant trays.

Terrarium sized plants are perfect for starter plants for Kokedama. They're easy to work with, generally don't mind the wet feet, and help a beginner out. Instead of hanging them, you can use decorative bowls or plant trays.

What is Kokedama? In Japanese koke is moss and dama is ball, so we're making moss balls, using mud, moss, plants and string to hang them. Or if you've no room to hang them, make a table display with them by grouping them in a decorative bowl.

Many people like to hang them using fishing line or string, but I find it's easier to simply arrange them on small plant trays or in decorative bowls.

The life span is close to 2 years, at which point you need to take the plant out and repot it. They're easy to care for, simply dunk them completely in water once a week, and allow to drain in the sink. Sometimes, you'll need to refresh the moss, but not often. 

What You'll Need:

  • Small, terrarium like plants that don't mind wet feet. Good choices are ferns, bamboo, pitcher plants (ask Terri Joiner, we have tons of plants just the right size for this). Blooming bulbs are good too, but remember they need a chilling period, so try forcing them (here's the pdf on that) and then just before the holidays, take them out (making sure you are careful with the roots) and use them when blooming. Paperwhites don't require chilling, so it's possible to use them now.
  • Soil (bonsai is recommended but I have been successful with Fafard professional potting mix or a 50/50 mix of the two)
  • Sheet or live moss
  • String or fishing line
  • Raffia, silk ribbon, or colored twine (only if you want to pretty up the ball in a different sort of way)
  • Water
  • Scissors

Pitcher plants are  great for kokedama as they love wet feet and eat indoor pests (flies, bees, moths, ants). 

1. Soak the moss in a bucket for about an hour.

2. Water the soil to make it workable (think mud balls), then form a hole in the ball for the roots of your plant. Make it a wide space. If doing bulbs, start with one bulb, and cover the roots of the entire bulb in soil, creating a sphere. 

3. Add additional bulbs one at a time, incorporating more soil as needed to completely cover the roots or bulbs.

4. Drain your moss, extracting the extra water from it, and either cut or gather enough moss to completely cover the ball of soil.

5. Wrap completely, pressing gently to keep the moss together.

Bulb string garden, picture from terrain. 

6. Choose a colorful raffia, or if  you prefer, use a colored twine, or just brown twine (it needs to be strong to hold the ball if you're going to hang it) and begin wrapping the moss ball. Wrap tightly. This helps the ball maintain it's shape.

7. When you finish wrapping, tie the ends of your string together with a strong knot.

 9. Cut a length of your favorite ribbon (or whatever you plan to use for hanging), and attach it near the top of the ball.

10. To water, completely submerge the moss ball. Watch for the bubbles to disappear. When that happens the plant is watered. Gently squeeze out excess water and let drain over night before re-hanging.

11. A good way to know if your plant needs water is to check the weight. Is it light? It needs water.

Now that fall clean-up is in full swing, we need something creative to do besides clean. This is a fun, easy way to bring plants indoors.

AAP, Cinthia

Cinthia Milner is the garden coach, blog writer and outside sales person for BB Barns  Garden Center.

BB Barns Garden Center serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.