Quantcast

DIYdiy projects

diy project: “kokedama” string garden

by Kate Pruitt


The days are getting longer, and the sun is shining more; I can’t think of a better time to get my hands into soil and play around with some fun plant experiments for spring! I’ve seen kokedama — Japanese moss balls — looking great hanging in homes, but I never realized how easy they are to create. Netherlands-based designer and all-around super-creative Aura Scaringi made this simple tutorial for crafting your own hanging kokedama garden using a combination of peat soil and akedama, or bonsai soil. Like all of Aura’s work, the results are lovely — I can’t wait to try it out for myself. Thanks for sharing, Aura! — Kate

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!

Materials

  • a tiny plant; moss can’t stand direct sunlight, so choose a shadow-loving plant. I have used baby ferns, grass and another lovely plant with violet flowers, the name of which I can’t recall.
  • a 7:3 ratio of peat soil and akedama, or bonsai soil
  • dry sphagnum moss (you can buy a whole bag at most plant shops)
  • scissors
  • cotton thread
  • nice packing string like twine, hemp or sisal. Mine is from the wonderful London household shop Labour and Wait.
  • gloves. Yes, it WILL get messy.
  • a jar of water
  • moss, which you can either buy in a large box or pick yourself in the woods

Instructions

1. Remove as much soil as possible from your tiny plant so that its roots are exposed. Be very thorough but gentle!

2. Mix your peat and akedama soil together. You know the consistency is right when you are able to make a small ball from the earth without it breaking apart.

3. Now that your soil is mixed, start shaping it into a small, orange-sized ball. Use a little bit of water if needed. Think clay or pizza dough.

4. Make sure each ball has enough room to accommodate the roots of your plant.

5. Take a bunch of dry sphagnum moss and wrap it carefully around the roots, making a circular and compact shape. Then tie the cotton string around it several times. This will eventually dissolve.

6. Make a small hole in your soil ball, and gently press the plant inside it. Be careful to “close” the shape back to a sphere

.

7. Now it’s time for the fun part: take small sheets of moss (any kind of moss) and press them firmly into the soil. Don’t leave any open spaces. Wrap the twine string around the ball as if you are packing a present, and leave the sides as long as needed.

8. Choose a nice, shady place, install a hook and hang your wonderful planet of moss.

9. YOU’RE DONE!

{Editor’s Note:  To maintain, water the kokedama with a mist spray bottle once a day. Try to do this early in the morning, to mimic the ‘dew’ effect. }

Suggested For You

Comments

  • These are so adorable and lovely! How do you care for them? If you water them, do they leak a little? And how long do they typically live for?

    I’m not known for a green thumb, but I’d love to try this!

  • It’d be good to mention: when harvesting moss from the woods, *don’t go crazy!* Moss grows extraordinarily slowly, and though it isn’t an endangered species or anything, it is a part of our delicate natural environment.

  • This may seem silly but…how should they be watered? I assume you would have to take them down each time and either mist them or run them under some water?

    Other than that, wonderful diy! Too bad my room is so sunny, maybe I can find a dark corner in the living room :)

  • Oh wow! I bet these would look amazing and flourish in a bathroom. But I’m concerned that my cat would think that they were giant cat toys…

  • These are so cute! I’ve been looking for a way to make our basement gym a place we accentually want to be. It’s the darkest space in the house so this should work. Yes, watering instructions would be appreciated. Maybe mist them?

  • so pretty! does it leak when you water it? or should you take it down and water it, letting it drain before rehanging?

  • These are lovely and whimsical. Like everyone else though, I’m wondering what the lifespan is? how do we care for them? thanks!

  • Can’t wait to try this. Dank je wel Aura!
    Here are some instructions on how to water I found through a link on Aura’s site:
    After you have made your Kokedama, you need to water it, so prepare a bucket which contains enough water to cover the green moss ball (not the plant) and leave it for about 10 minutes.

  • I third the request, how do you water this? Will a light mist be enough or does it need to be very damp all the time? I couldn´t have leaks at my place because of the wooden floors :)

  • I imagine using a spray bottle to mist it would be a good choice, or perhaps dipping it briefly into a bowl of water.

  • love this idea! i’m guessing you would have to be extremely gentle when watering, so they wouldn’t break apart? maybe a spray bottle would be best?

  • I’m so happy you posted this tutorial! I recently posted about string gardens on my own blog and was going to try to figure out how to make one of my own. Now I know!

  • I’m a little confused.

    1) re: watering as others have mentioned.
    2) Do you wrap the roots with moss THEN put into soil ball THEN wrap with moss again? The pictures and text don’t quite match up.

    Thank you! it’s adorable!!!

  • How ingenious! I’m absolutely in love with this idea, but can’t help but feel that it’s going to end up really messy, being such a klutz. I think I’ll try this at the spring brunch I’m hosting anyway! Thank you for the idea. Would love to know how to water these on a daily basis, too!

  • I have been waiting for this tutorial for my whole life. I’ll check back to see some of the answers to all the questions. But here is another for the list- why do we use two kinds of moss? Where do we use the dry moss and where do we use the live moss?

  • Beyond the confusion (maintenance? When to add moss?) this is great! Oh, and the ground cover with the violet flowers – Vinca, I think.

  • ooooooh. How perdy is that!?!?
    grrrldelsol, that link is most inspiring!

    I’m going to be completely foolish and try this with herbs and hang them in my kitchen… once I add my request for watering advise to the pile (you can never ask enough, right?).

  • Thank you all for your lovely comments. So sweet!

    1. I water them with a water mist spray bottle once a day. I try to do this early in the morning, to mimic the ‘dew’ effect (it looks magical when the sun comes up)

    2. you wrap the roots with dry moss, called sphagnum (which you buy in a large bag – think of that fluffy stuff that is used for model railroads or nativity scenes), put a string around it and then you insert it in the earth ball which you afterwards cover with the other type of moss (the one you either find in a forest or buy as a moss carpet).

    3. Yes, I am sure it would definitely work with bulbs! That would make a wonderful kokedama, especially when using miniature tulips or grape hyacinths. The only downside might be that after a few weeks you will be left with ‘just’ a moss ball.

    4. Succulents on the other hand I am not so sure of… as moss and succulents do no require the same amount of water. If you would use a grass instead of moss, I am sure that would work too! And think how it would look with a miniature Christmas tree. I am going to try that too in a few months!

    5. Oooh, yes that site looks amazing. Thank you for sharing!

  • Love it…really pretty and delicate.

    Plleeeeaaaassseeee can someone explain about WATERING them :-)

    Love from England xxx

  • I have several places in my house where I can these “moss balls.” Perfect solution for rooms with no shelf space for potted plants!

  • I just love this idea! With some shady spots around my home, this will come in as a handy little helper. I think I’ll start getting a couple of things going for my front yard this weekend. Thanks!

  • Re: Sphagnum and watering; sphagnum, when watered, holds 10x it’s size. Therefore, in wrapping the roots with sphagnum, you are insuring the roots are receiving water. Sphagnum is a VERY interesting plant and anyone who uses it for anything should research it to receive a better idea of what they are using. :) Can use it for menstrual pads, (again, absorbs 10x more than it’s size in fluids), is antibiotic, antifungal, etc. so can be used as a wound dressing as well as other applications. If you buy it in the bag, do your own experiments with the absorption in a bowl. Have a marvelous day, and I am jazzed about attempting this with my many house plants as well as using it for starts! Fantastic! Thank you, Aura!

  • I attended a class at Terrain doing this with succulents. You make the moss covered ball first, then use a pencil to make holes in the ball then insert the plant roots. After a while the plants spread and fill in It does need to hang in some sun and you water it by submerging it in a bucket for 15-20 seconds every few weeks.

  • wouldn’t the center of the earthball get dry after a while with only misting the moss? as a gardener, I would think that it would and how would you get the water to the center of the ball? it is where the roots would be most dense? and the compaction of the soil would also contribute to the density, not allowing for moisture to enter into the compressed ball….I think it’s a lovely idea, and look but I’m not sure if it would last very long.

  • It is now much hotter in Amsterdam so just misting the moss is not enough anymore. I have done what Lori said and submerged the Kokedama in a bowl filled with water. It worked like a beauty treatment and now the Kokedama and it’s Vinca minor look green and fresh again!

  • These look so funky. I wish I had some hanging in my living room. Long term I can’t imagine them staying perfect though. I’m guessing you will need to redo them every couple of months.

  • No, they don’t, Peter, don’t worry. If you take care of them, than it’s like putting a plant in a pot. Of course the flowers will die and in the winter leaves will fall off but it will keep growing. Again, you do have to take care and make a perfect Kokedama. Be gentle with its roots. PS Yes, the look very funky and it’s the first think everyone sees when entering the house!

  • I love this! But I was wondering, would planting jasmine work or no? I love flowers and the scent of jasmine is so lovely, having it growing in my dorm would be like natural air freshener! What flowers did you use?

  • hey,

    I can’t wait to try this project!
    i’d like to encourage everyone to use the more sustainable and budget friendly coconut husks instead of sphagnum moss which grows incredibly slowly and is harvested from natural wet lands which are already under tremendous stress. Another plus is that its cheaper. You can buy coco fibers on amazon. It can also be used to start seedlings. Happy plantings

  • you know if these start to get out of control all you have to do is plant the whole thing in a pot and enjoy it’s second life :)

  • I am really excited to try this, but I’m having such difficulty with the soil. :-(
    I went out and bought bonsai soil to mix with my potting soil. Got it back, mixed it up, all the while my brain was saying “This can’t possibly be right…” And it wasn’t. Turns out there are a variety of bonsai soils. I just though akedama was another name for bonsai soil, not a particular variety. Ok, so I finally found bags of akedama. They are large granules. What is the best method to work with this? Do I need to crush it down to more sand-sized particles, wet it first, pulverize it…. Any help would be greatly appreciated–I’ve got everything else, and my poor plans are crying on the windowsill…

  • Still so many lovely comments, thank you all ♥
    @Greta: the only flowery plants I have used a vinca minor (thank you, Kathy) and a couple of fairy like flowers. The thing about flowers is that once they bloom most of the small plants die or sort of get ugly. That is the great thing about ferns or other leafy plants.
    @Gray: wow! How cool!!! Well done.
    @Belinda: that’s exactly what my mum did and it even looks sweet in a bowl.
    @Laura: water is sooo powerful, it can ever erode stones. Don’t worry about it beging too compact. As long as you give them a bath once a week, everything will be fine, I assure you.
    @Steddy: I did not use the large granules you describe but I am sure that might work even better. The trick is to use water, like when you are claying or making dough. Did you ever bake bread or a pie? It is never the same, the amount of water you need to use to get to the right ‘elasticity’ but you always need it. In this case, you need to be able to make a ball that doesn’t fall apart. So just add water, little by little. If you use too much, add more mix. My instinct says not to break the granules, but make sure they are very good mixed with the soil and wet. You will not be able to ‘play bowling’ with the balls, they simply must have the right shape and should not crumble in front of your eyes as you will really keep them in shape in the next part of the tutorial. I also once started making a Kokedama, I couldn’t get it right so what I did was this: I kept adding a bit of the mix around the roots of the plants, until I had a roundish shape. So I didn’t make a ball first in which I putted the plant in. That particular time the weather was just not right.

  • the purple flower is called Myrtle – it is shade-loving ground cover and sometimes the flowers are white as well.

  • Just bought a Maple Tree Kokedama today and I love it! I feel kinda silly for spending $15 on it when I could have made my own, but it looks pefect hanging near my window. :) The person I bought it from said she just let them sit in a bucket of water for a few minutes and then re-hung them when they stopped dripping. The moss looks a bit drowned though, lol.

  • I was wondering if the living moss around the outside serves a purpose other than aesthetics. Does the plant need it to live or can I leave it out?

    Thanks for the post!

  • Great tutorial! I will definitely try this! P.S. the plant with the small violet flowers is a type of Periwinkle. Thanks!

  • Hello,
    This is very interesting! I would love to do this! Seems very cheap, and it’s suspension makes it look like it could keepout of reach of cats. Very cool.
    René, I’m assuming you would need the outer moss to act as a second barrier to keep it in it’s shape, but I’m not sure. That’s a really good question. Any thoughts, Aura?
    Anywho, do you think that maybe this would work with a plant that doesn’t need to be watered often, like once a month? A plant that’s used to desert life, being left alone. Very cool tutorial, will be trying! Thanks!
    Also, one more question. Is the inner moss absolutely necessary? I would rather just use regular moss and regular dirt. Are the fancy things needed? Thanks again!
    ~Rusty

  • Perhaps another alternative more sustainable to using moss is using newspaper? Not sure what would happen? I will try it.

  • this is a really cool idea.. i am thinking of trying it with herbs for the kitchen… that way, the plants would not get “out of control” as others have been concerned about, because you would be harvesting parts to use in cooking. :)

  • I don’t know if this has been asked before, but where would one find Akedama or bonsai soil without spending an arm and a leg to import it? Thanks ^_^

  • may i print this tutorial? i want to show it to my garden club..i know they will love your site.

  • @RENÉ & @RUSTY: the innermoss keeps the roots moist and it is easier to make the ball, if that makes sense. It’s a bit like when you put a towel around your head after the shower: it’s easier when you sort of roll your hair, otherwise you have all these wet hairs coming out of the towel and making everything wet… But you could try just loosely binding the roots together.
    The outer moss has exactly that purpose. I couldn’t get its shape right that’s why I used sooo much twine but I liked it a lot that way, in the end. But both mosses also keep the soil moist, they act like supersponges which is great as it helps against dripping. I never had a drop under my Kokedama and I really think that’s because of the moss.
    @Megan: I have now tried it with all kinds of soil and the cheapest one is just as good. You just need to make it more wet so you get a clay-like consistency.
    @Shaun: I am sure that would look wonderful! Be careful though, herbs usually love sunshine while moss is more a shadow-loving creature.
    @Liz: simply put one of those round screws in your ceiling if you don’t have anything you can attach the Kokedama to. Just make it easy for yourself to take it down as you need to water it once a week in a bowl (and most days with a spray bottle).
    @EM: oh, that sounds sooo nice! I once let an acorn germinate (is that the right word?) and put in a small jar as a baby gift with a handwritten note ‘every oak has been an acorn’. Might be supersweet in a Kokedama too (and just plant it after a while).
    @Joan: of course! And if anyone needs high res images, let me know!
    xx Aura

  • I have been a HUGE fan of your web site since I first discovered it years ago. I’ve asked a few questions before and received a quick reply which was very nice. Especially with everyone’s hectic schedules; thanks for that!
    I was very happy to see Design Sponge as the first link to choose from when I did a search on how to make “garden balls.” I just love your site! Today my aunt made a few garden balls and she sent me pictures of them. I thought they were the coolest thing since me of course. LOL! Only she hasn’t told me yet how she made them?
    I was wondering if there was a place that you knew of where you could direct me (a site) where there’s step by step instructions on how to make them? I’m usually pretty good at figuring out how to make things but this one I am clueless?! The reason for my want of the step by step directions is because I am about to have my own booth at this monthly re-market here in Texas. If I sell them I would hate for people to get home and have them break on them because I did something wrong. Wouldn’t be good for business and or for the plant. I’m not employed due to my condition of my back and because my legs are numb. So, currently I’m awaiting approval of disability. If I don’t get approved I’m not sure what I’ll do? So, I’ve began to make all different kinds of artful creations like mosaic with broken mirror and grouted them on tables, dressers, and small desk like stands. I would like to sell the garden balls at my booth if I can? Besides, I need to draw as many people to my booth as possible and think these might be the item that they’ll see from a distance?
    Also just wanted to tell you that I have almost finished the paper lamp chandelier made from the wax paper circles. It looks amazing! It’s taken quite a long time to get to where I am now with the chandelier but due to circumstances that couldn’t have been avoided…things just happen? I am very proud of it though, everyone loves it and they all want one too! I look at them say that took me over two years to make and laugh! LOL! Thanks again for all your help and support…those two things are not easily found/ given these days. I appreciate you and your time.

    P.S. I’ve told several of my friends about your amazing website, it’s a favorite of mine if you can’t tell. Thanks again for being so great at what you do. I truly appreciate everything you do on your site. Being crafty and artistic isn’t always easy. But I love it!

  • I hope you know I wasn’t implying your step by step instructions wouldn’t work. Only I thought there were a few holes in the process. You did a fantastic job I do have to say. Please know its me not you.

  • I don’t know if it was just me, but it was easier for me to pack the soil around the moss covered roots instead of poking a hole in the ball. In the end it turned out just lovely but I’m wondering, will it fall apart when I water it or will the outside moss hold it in?

  • We’re such big fans of hanging kokedama! We did a handful for the windows of a Union Square office – lovely to look at, and they boost work morale :)

  • This would be great for orchids! But how do you water the plants without them dripping all over the floor?

    • hi channon!

      to water, just remove from the hanging apparatus and submerge the whole ball in water. let it drip dry in the sink and then re-hang.

      you can also mist it, but that tends to make a bit of a mess and doesn’t get deep enough into the ball.

      grace

  • Put some water in a bucket. Make sure your water is not filtered through salt etc. Add a pinch of fertilizer if you like. Or rain water will be great. Place the whole ball in it for about five to ten minutes, or when the air bubbles stop coming up. Hang it out until the water stops dripping and re-hang.

  • I tried it without the inner moss and using Chlorophytum comosum, the Spider Plant. It has big rhizomes, hard to cover with Spaghnum. At the end my mossball became a little gigantic but looks nice and still happy and hanging for almost 1,5 years.

  • Seems like a really good way to recycle mesh bags for oranges/clementines and such!!! Wonder how the would stand test of time!!??? Any one tried yet?

    • Hi Aura :) I have just finished making almost 30 of these to sell at the local markets, but they all seem to be a bit sad looking, not sure if we have used too much water while making them or if its something to do with the soil, we used instructions from a different site so they aren’t the same as yours, we have used potting mix with peat soil and a small amount of slow release fertilizer, they look awesome, however after a few days they seem droopy and a few of our plants have gone a bit yellow, we are treating them all the same so not sure why some stay beautiful and others look like they are going to die… also, are we better off using larger ferns and herbs that are a bit more established and not so flimsy and is there an issue with how far the moss goes to the top of the ball? I feel like I’m doing everything the wrong way lol or am I just paranoid that I’ve killed everything!!

      ps, theres a link to our facebook page kooky kokedamas if you would like to have a look :)

  • I’ve just seen these on gardeners world and need to point out that it’s ilegal to pick moss from woods in England

  • I love the look of your site – it’s beautiful and your tutorial is fantastic!
    I just would like to point out that in the UK it is a crime to uproot protected wild plants and to take any plant without the permission of the landowner. So, unless you are collecting the moss from your own land it is better (certainly more environmentally responsible) to buy a bag of moss from your local garden centre. :-)

    • Thank you so much for your lovely compliment, Willowbee, and also for pointing that out! I was not aware of that and found a very clear website from The Wild Flower Society (wonderful name) which has a very clear code of conduct. It’s very useful for those with a private herbarium. I will be posting a couple of new tutorials soon!

      • I love your site as well, and thank you for providing do much useful information and inspiring ideas, it’s a very generous gift of your time and truly appreciated. That being said, the UK is a very tiny nation in the enormous and far-reaching WWW, by which your ideas are accessible to virtually everyone looking for creative new ways to be even closer to nature and the beauty and fulfillment of actually completing a project such as you’ve posted, and I personally find it far less rewarding to go to (ASDA, I’m assuming in some case) the store and purchase items that are accessible LEGALLY in nature, in EVERY country if done respectfully, considerably, and informed, without any concern of pesticides, fair-trade practices, carbon and other footprints, etc., etc., not to mention the enjoyment of being in nature, appreciating what we are surrounded and blessed with, and letting the journey be such a rewarding part of the experience and project. Otherwise, why not just go to Etsy, or better yet, ASDA, and let put aside all worries of whether or not the moss was poached illegally from Stonehenge… as in all likelihood it will be from a country FAR away, as to leave a nice giant footprint on one of the most eco-friendly, unique, brilliant, impressive and NATURAL “planters” I’ve ever seen.

        Truly, thank you for sharing, I LIVE this idea and it’s appeal lies greatly in it’s NATURAL beauty and simplicity. I’m quite sure anyone drawn to such a hands-on project is intelligent enough not to pillage and plunder the moss or materials from Buckingham Palace, though I’d truly hate to see you prosecuted for not including the legal disclaimer. ! :P

        Blessed Be :)

  • I have a hanging one.. I submerge the ball in water for 10 minutes once a week. I could never keep up with everyday… BeforeI water all my other plants I plop it in and by the time I’m done its ready. FYI.. If you have a crazy cat, do not try to make a lovely display in a cute glass jar on your coffee table! Hang them out of reach :)

    • Doesn’t water drip from the ball onto the floor after submerging it in water? I’d like to hang some of these in my Gathering Room inside, but don’t want water on the floor. Suggestions. Thanks:)

      • Liz

        To water: soak them and then let them drop dry in the sink or tub until they’re dry enough to hang. Water won’t drip once it’s fully absorbed. Just think of them like a plate you’ve washed and put on the rack to dry for a bit :)

        Grace

  • Hi, is there anything I could substitute the for sheet moss on the outside?, would sphagnum moss do the trick?

  • I’m having a difficult time finding the bonsai soil at any of our local shops. Would a cactus soil work? Or must it be the akadama/bonsai? Thank you!!

  • These hanging plant balls are absolutely wonderful I saw these used as decorations at an outdoor wedding recently and they were used to great effect and looked amazing on the wedding photographs.

  • Just a note that spagnum moss should not be purchased. It comes from ancient beds that keep the earth breathing. Can something else be substituted?

  • I made this for a client in his garden. I used colored sting and we hanged some purple petunias from a cherry tree. It turned out to be a great combination. Experiment with different colored strings and colors. It is really a great decoration for outdoor celebrations.

  • To experiment with colors, would you suggest playing with the cotton thread or the hanging string/wire? I assume that the cotton thread is not visible under the moss.

  • I cannot mist them every morning and will instead need to dunk them each week. If you take them down each week, do you untie and re-tie the wire each time or have some sort of clasp mechanism?

  • I wrapped & hung mine with fishing line. I don’t mist them daily and I don’t feel like they’d get enough water that way. I have a basket from an old deep fryer I cleaner and after I soak each plant once a week, I put it in the fryer basket that conveniently hooks on a square bucket and let it drain until it stops dripping then I hang it back up. I have 7 string plants, ferns, a succulent and a peace lily and they are all thriving (the succulent is alive but is very leggy. I have terrible luck with succulents!). I made mine with orchid & spaghnum moss, mixed with some potting soil and water until it holds together. I’m sure the bonsai soil would work better because I have to work a bit to mold the soil around my plant’s roots then I have to add the sheet moss but it works for me! Mine are hanging from fishing line so they look like they are floating!

  • I just wanted to say thank you for everyone who still reads this post and comments on it. How wonderful to read that after all this time this tutorial is still being used as a guideline all over the world. I cannot take credits for the Kokedama as it is a wonderful Japanese tradition but still… every time I see a ‘messy’ wrapped Kokedama I cannot help but wonder if the maker has somehow seen my tutorial. So grateful to Kate for having posted it. xx, Aura

  • Just read this article. So simple, yet a promise of greenery in my home. For a mid-winter project to ward off the blues. Will definitely do it!

  • Wow! These are lovely, I wonder if we could wrap the soil ball in thick moss and put it inside a string bag where the lemons or fruit comes in?

Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.

x