Kokedama is the Japanese practice of rolling a root ball in soil, covering it in moss, and growing a plant from it. If you’re interested in learning how to care for your own Kokedama plants and keep them growing healthy and happy, this article will tell you everything you need to know.
Here’s how to keep kokedama plants thriving:
- Use aerated soil with clay, limestone, and coconut coir
- Always add live moss
- Soak the kokedama ball in water for 25 minutes at a time; mist sometimes
- Provide indirect sunlight and some shade
- Fertilize monthly during the warm season
In this guide to kokedama care, I’ll expand on the points above so you can impress your friends and coworkers by growing your own kokedama plants. I’ll even provide some FAQs so there are no gaps in your knowledge!
How to Care for Your Kokedama Plant
Kokedama is a Japanese term that translates in English to “moss ball.” The practice is a mix of styles, including kusamono, bonsai, and nearai, a Japanese term that means “root wash” but refers to “no pot.”
You can grow your kokedama plant in a container or suspend the mud balls until the plant grows. Here’s what you need to know to care for these fascinating plants.
The soil for the kokedama plant should be well aerated, either on its own or with the addition of soil amendments. Standard potting soil is a suitable choice, as it has good aeration.
Combine the potting soil with several other kokedama ingredients. One of these is clay, which has two purposes in the soil mix. The first is to keep the mix together so it doesn’t fall apart. The second is to deliver minerals to the soil.
You’ll need limestone as well, a calcium carbonate-based sedimentary rock that will keep the pH of the soil balanced. Coconut coir, which is sourced from the husks of coconuts, will allow for moisture retention, which is important.
If your soil is loose and falling apart (even with clay), then I’d suggest binding together the kokedama ball using string. You might have to tightly enwrap the ball in many pieces of string until it’s secure.
Since no kokedama plant is considered complete without moss, this is another area of care that’s an utmost concern. You must use live moss instead of the preserved stuff.
Preserved is just a fancy way of saying the moss is dead, so it’s useless for a kokedama plant’s purposes. Save your preserved sphagnum for amending the soil of houseplants grown more traditionally, such as in pots or planters.
That’s not to say you can’t use sphagnum or peat moss for your kokedama plant; it just has to be alive.
Where do you find live moss, you ask? You have all sorts of options.
If you don’t mind spending money, you can check your local gardening supply store and ask if they have live moss. You can also shop around online.
Spring & Stone’s mood moss, courtesy of Amazon, comes in two-quart containers. That’s just one option on the Internet among many though.
If you are shopping online, please double-check that the moss you’re buying is indeed live and not preserved.
For those who’d rather spend their time than their cash, you can collect moss for free around cities or towns if you know where to look for it. Moss grows in moist environments such as those that get a lot of rain. Go on a hunt in your neighborhood and see what you find!
Put down your watering can, as you won’t need it when tending to your kokedama ball. What you require instead is a sink, a tub, or another shallow basin of water.
Fill the container with lukewarm or slightly cooler water (cool, not cold!). Then submerge the kokedama into the water.
If yours has already sprouted a plant, then the plant should be upward and ideally not saturated in water. Focus on wetting the moss ball instead.
Then leave the kokedama plant in the water for around 10 minutes and no longer than 25 minutes. During this time, the soil will absorb plenty of water.
When the time has elapsed, remove the kokedama plant from the water. With a firm grip, begin squeezing the soil. Water will drip out. When most of this excess water is gone, take a colander and put the kokedama plant in it.
Under the colander, place a towel. Suspend the colander so the kokedama can spend the next little while dripping.
When no more water comes from the soil ball, you can put it back in its original home.
How do you know when to soak the kokedama plant?
The heavier the moss ball is, the longer it can go without a soak. When it’s lighter, it could use more water. Its reduced weight is a sign the soil is dry.
If you’re soaking the kokedama plant more than twice per week, you’re overdoing it.
In the times between soaks, you can mist the moss ball. You only need room temperature water and a spray bottle for this.
I normally don’t recommend misting plants, but the kokedama is an exception.
Mist earlier in the day or later, but never right in the middle. The sunlight will be gentler during those two times of the day so as not to burn the fragile growths sprouting from your kokedama plant.
If you want to see growth from your kokedama moss ball, the plant requires light, just not much of it. Indirect light is best such as from a curtained window or even the overhead protection of another plant.
The source of indirect light shouldn’t be bright. Kokedama plants can be delicate things, and too much sun can easily burn whatever growths you have. The sunlight can also affect the health of the moss, possibly shortening its life.
Darker conditions are fine for the kokedama such as a shaded room. However, the plant must have at least some light or no growth will occur. Artificial light or grow lights are always a great option for kokedama plants on cloudy days.
Like any other plant, your kokedama moss ball must be fertilized.
You’ll do this in the spring through the summer, which is considered the kokedama’s active growing season. Use liquid plant fertilizer, diluting it to half-strength.
Then combine the diluted fertilizer with more water. You can feed the kokedama fertilizer either through misting it (although this can be time-consuming) or soaking it in fertilizer-infused water.
If all your kokedama questions haven’t yet been answered, this section will provide further information.
Why Is My Kokedama Plant Turning Brown?
Your kokedama plant has started to grow, but the leaves look unappealingly brown. This is a sign that you’re either watering your plant too seldom or too often.
If the leaves are crispy and most of the browning is around the leaf edges, then underwatering is your likely culprit. Test the soil moisture and don’t let it get bone dry going forward.
For leaves that are brown but feel mushy, that’s a clear symptom of overwatering. It’s easy to make this mistake considering that kokedama balls need to be soaked in water.
I recommend watching the clock during each soak so the moss balls aren’t submerged for too long. Cut back on soaking frequency as well.
How Long Does Kokedama Last?
If you abide by all the care facets laid out in this guide, then it could be one to two years before your need to wrap your kokedama plant again and replace it with fresh moss. That makes indoor kokedama gardening a very smart, sustainable option for many houseplants!
Best Plants to Use for Your Kokedama
You want to start kokedama gardening, but which plants grow best this way? From my experience, you truly have plenty of options.
The flowering anthurium with its red blooms will look striking when grown using the kokedama method.
This species needs humidity at around 80 percent, which is well over the relative humidity range. That means you’ll have to use a humidifier.
Set the temperature for the anthurium anywhere from 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Bright, indirect light suits this plant well too.
You won’t dunk your kokedama ball in water too often when growing the anthurium, as it needs mostly dry soil.
The tropical hoya from Asia produces small, shiny leaves and waxy, star-shaped flowers that are sure to grab attention, especially when they sprout from a kokedama ball.
The average relative humidity is fine for the hoya, but try to keep the humidity on the higher end of that range, nearer 50 percent. Providing up to 70 percent humidity is acceptable as well.
The ideal temperature range for the hoya is 60 to 85 degrees. Use room temperature water for this houseplant, but expect to water it more seldom than other tropical plants.
Bright, indirect light is appropriate for the hoya, but never direct light. The waxy flowers can sustain damage!
The Muehlenbeckia, aka the maidenhair, is a fern-like houseplant from the Pacific Borders. It needs water frequently, when the top inch of its soil has dried out, so soak or mist its kokedama moss ball often.
Keep the temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees and the relative humidity between 30 and 40 percent.
Medium sunlight, which is more direct, will not damage the maidenhair.
Pothos is another very suitable choice for an indoor kokedama garden. The pothos does best in bright, indirect lighting. Keep its temperature between 70 and 90 degrees.
Your pothos will be okay in lower humidity, but slightly higher humidity over 50 percent is preferable.
Allow most of its soil to dry out, at least 50 percent, before plunking the moss ball in water.
Smaller varieties of the philodendron will look even more tropical, unique, and appealing when part of your indoor kokedama garden.
To care for your growing philodendron, allow up to 75 percent of its soil to dry out before misting or soaking the moss ball. Maintain average relative humidity and temps between 70 and 80 degrees.
The right kind of light for a growing philodendron is bright and indirect.