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Kokedama moss ball string gardens are whimsical way to bring greenery into your home. These adorable little plant friends will cheer you up in the middle of winter or bring you a bit of nature in the heart of the city! This tutorial shows how to make kokedama moss ball string gardens.
Kokedama (translation “moss ball”) is a gardening technique based on Japanese bonsai practice that involves wrapping plant roots with soil, moss, and then string. Traditional kokedama were displayed on platforms, slabs, or driftwood. Contemporary kokedama are often hung from the ceiling as string gardens to add vertical interest to a room.
Kokedama moss ball gardens have been all over Pinterest lately (trust me, I even have an entire Kokedama Pinterest Board lol). I’ve been thinking about ways to make our home more cozy and these hanging moss balls certainly do create a welcoming atmosphere.
Learning how to make kokedama moss ball string gardens honestly wasn’t the easiest garden DIY I’ve ever done but it wasn’t the most difficult either. Like so many things, it just takes patience and a willingness to make adjustments for unique conditions. Experiment as you go and see what works best for you.
Healthy moss is perhaps the most important supply for this project! These kokedama moss ball string gardens do best with living moss rather than preserved moss. Either buy live moss or go out and collect your own local moss (check out these instructions for finding and collecting wild moss). I keep a collection of different types of lush green moss and love using it in crafts, terrariums, centerpieces, and floral displays all year long!
Kokedama moss ball string gardens are best suited to plants which like the same conditions as moss – namely partial shade and moist soil. The moss will thrive in these conditions and become thick and green over time.
I like to use moisture-loving shade plants such as boston fern, orchid, ivy, and anthurium. Shady perennials with small root systems will do well in a string garden (but perhaps avoid anything that doesn’t transplant easily). You could even go full-on bonsai and choose a healthy tree (or a herb like rosemary that can be pruned into a tree-like shape). Succulents can also work provided they are a specialized variety that can handle moist soil and relatively low light conditions.
You can make your own kokedama soil mix or purchase pre-mixed kokedama soil online. There is a soil mix recipe below (just skip right to part 2 of the instructions if you purchase pre-mixed soil).
The soil mix for kokedama can include peat moss and/or coconut coir (to hold water), limestone (to balance pH), and clay (to provide essential minerals and to bind the mix together). It’s also important that the soil have small voids of air to support healthy root growth and provide drainage paths for excess water.
Traditional kokedama are made with Japanese akadama clay. It’s used because it contains a significant amount of air voids amidst the clay-like particles. It is able to hold enough moisture and nutrients for the plant while still providing air and drainage paths for excess water. Very cool!
Because of its special density properties, genuine akadama soil is expensive and hard to source. Akadama is found in Japan as a thin layer of volcanic soil located under the topsoil. It must be shipped from Japan, where it is produced by small-scale surface mining operations. This subsoil horizon must be carefully separated mechanically from the layers above and below it.
This selective mining process is relatively energy-intensive in comparison to bulk aggregate mining of less specialized minerals. The akadama soil is then trucked to a facility where it is dried, sorted by size, and packaged. Read more about akadama mining over at Dallas Bonsai.
I generally try to avoid hard-to-find or overly expensive gardening supplies unless they are absolutely necessary. Since these kokedama moss balls aren’t true bonsai, and since the plants we’re using do manage to grow just fine over here in Canada with our boring old clay, I opt not to use akadama. You’re certainly welcome to use akadama or bonsai soil – I just prefer to use soils that don’t have to be shipped overseas.
This recipe uses a high-quality container potting mix that includes perlite to add air voids (which is mined in North America) instead of akadama. Perlite is a lightweight aggregate with a neutral pH. The air voids in perlite add aeration and drainage paths to soil to support plant roots. Plain old local clay (available at any garden centre) is used to provide minerals and cohesion.
Once you’ve chosen your plant, moss, and soil mix, the last supply to consider is the string that binds the moss ball together. For a modern look, use clear fishing line, metal floral wire, or bright white string. For a more neutral appearance, try jute string or a natural twine. Waxed cotton cord or hemp cord can also look wonderful and is available in many different shades (check the jewelry-making section of the craft store).
Here’s what you’ll need to make kokedama moss ball string gardens :)
Photos of the process are shown below. Read on for how to care for your DIY kokedama moss ball string garden!
For more kokedama ideas, check out these wonderful books:
Mist the kokedama moss ball regularly with a plant mister or gentle sprayer. Aim to imitate the morning dew. When the moss ball feels lighter than usual, that’s a good clue that it needs to be deeply watered. Submerge the moss ball in non-chlorinated water for about five minutes (I do this about once a week).
Check the twine periodically to ensure it is still secure and not rotting out. It may need to be replaced if it appears to be deteriorating. This is also a good opportunity to inspect the plant for health and any signs of stress.
Remove any dead, damaged, or diseased foliage observed on the kokedama. Take note of the colour and general health of the moss, as well as the plant itself. If stressed, the plant may require more light, nutrients, water, or even soil porosity. Start by ensuring the plant has adequate light and water before moving onto feeding the plant and/or repotting it.
If the roots begin to show and grow over the moss, then it’s definitely time to re-pot the plant into a proper container or out into the garden. These aren’t true bonsai, so they’re not intended to stay small over the years. I plan to keep mine for a year, planting them out in the garden once they’ve outgrown their moss balls. Then it will be time to make new kokedama moss balls!
Thanks so much for checking out this tutorial for how to make kokedama moss ball string gardens!