How to Make Kokedama

Learn how to make kokedamas for your home or garden with this fun project.

DIY kokedama hanging indoors

Derived from bonsai, the art of training and manipulating small trees and shrubs to evoke the majesty of their ancient counterparts, kokedamas will add intrigue and whimsy to your space.

Photo by Ramsay de Give and Maria Lawson

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Indoor plants play a large role in the design and feel of a space. And for those without a yard, they’re a way to stay connected to nature. Add simple, stylish indoor plants to your home design with Rooted by Design (Ten Speed Press, 2015) by Tara Heibel and Tassy de Give, the owners of Sprout Home gardening stores. Create minimal, otherworldly beauty for any space with homemade kokedamas.

Kokedama is a free-form planting method that derives from bonsai, which is the practice of training and manipulating small trees and shrubs to evoke the majesty of their ancient counterparts found in nature. Kokedama has intrigued the garden and craft world with its versatility and inherent charm. It involves wrapping a plant’s roots with soil and moss to create something that looks like a living sculpture. Kokedamas are designed to dangle; by suspending them in the air with colorful twine, you can create a hanging garden for inside your home or even outdoors in the warmer seasons. They can also sit on a shallow dish for display.

Kokedamas are wrapped in an exterior layer of moss. Select plants that will work well in an environment that provides bright but indirect natural light. Direct sun will cause kokedamas to dry out and fade quickly. Ideal options are Anthurium, Epipremnum pinnatum, ferns, Ficus pumila, Fittonia, most orchids, Philodendron, Pilea, Peperomia, and Selaginella, among others. As an alternative for sunnier locations, consider using preserved moss instead of living and choose your plants accordingly.

Make Your Own Kokedama

Materials List:
• 1 small houseplant in 4” pot
• Pruners
• An 8:3 ratio of peat moss and bonsai soil (for a 4” plant use 2 cups peat moss, 3⁄4 cup bonsai soil)
• Plastic grocery bag or small bucket
• A small container of water
• Gloves (optional)
• Sphagnum moss for wrapping the soil
• Strong string or twine
• Sheet moss (dried or live, depending on your project)

Step 1: Gently remove the plant from the pot that it came in. Remove the soil from the roots until most of the soil is fully separated from the root system. Plants with finer root systems may need to be rinsed in the sink to help remove the soil. Prune the roots and leaves to the size you want.

Step 2: Mix together the peat moss and bonsai soil in a plastic grocery bag or bucket. (Wear gloves if you like.) Add small splashes of water as you mix. Keep mixing until the mixture can be formed into a firm ball of soil with your hands.

Step 3: Form a ball of soil that is big enough to encase the root system of the plant. Set it aside.

Step 4: Wrap a layer of dried sphagnum moss entirely around the plant’s root system. The plant’s roots will grow into this layer.

Step 5: Using string or twine, secure the layer of sphagnum moss to the plant by wrapping the string around the moss several times and tying it off.

Step 6: With your fingertip, create a hole in the ball of soil that is big enough to insert the sphagnum-wrapped root system into. Carefully put the wrapped root system in the hole and re-form the ball until it is nice and solid.

Step 7 Using the sheet moss, cover every part of the soil sphere, and wrap it securely several times with twine or string. Be sure to tie it off when you are done. Leave on some extra length if you would like to use this same string or twine to hang your finished kokedama.

Step 8: The same string or twine may be used to display your plant. Attaching a thin chain or decorative cord to the wrapping can serve as a mechanism to hang the kokedama.

Step 9: Before hanging your kokedama, make sure to soak it in a bowl of water. The living moss and plant will benefit from the moisture.

Care:

The kokedama requires regular misting—daily is best. Get to know the weight of your construction. If it seems exceptionally light or if the outer layer of moss feels dry, then you may need to soak it in a bowl of water for ten to fifteen minutes to rehydrate it. You can add a little bit of fertilizer to the water once a month during its active growing period (March through October) to provide some essential nutrients. Bright, indirect light is best.

Want more stylish ways to add plants to your décor? Try the DIY Desert Terrarium project, also from Rooted in Design.


Reprinted with permission from Rooted in Design by Tara Heibel and Tassy de Give, copyright 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography (c) 2015 by Ramsay de Give and Maria Lawson.