diy project: “kokedama” string garden


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

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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. }

Mailee

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!

Kristina Strain

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.

Alyssa

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 :)

Emily

I love this idea! I am wondering how the plants should be watered? Any tips would be appreciated. Thanks!

Daniela

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…

Eve-Marie

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?

tse

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

Erin

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

Eva

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.

Lucía

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 :)

danielle

such a beautiful idea! i’m with Mailee though…how does one care for the plants and do they start to disintegrate over time?

Trina

These are incredible and solve the mystery of what to hang in my low light rooms!

Louise

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

Vanessa

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?

Brittany

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!

Amy

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!!!

Emily Z.

This may be my favorite diy yet: can’t wait for a chance to try it!

thezenofmaking

I, for one, am really pleased with the current obsession with gardens that hang. Air plants? Succulents? Whatever. Stick some twine on it. :D

Lisa @ ElmStreetMarket

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!

Jesse Lu

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?

rktrix

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

Stacey

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?).

Kathy

your plant is called periwinkle or vinca minor. It blooms in the early spring and grows as a ground cover is planted outside.

Aura

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!

Bracken May

Love it…really pretty and delicate.

Plleeeeaaaassseeee can someone explain about WATERING them :-)

Love from England xxx

ZaLou

Wow! awesome rustic space saving idea! I blue flower could be periwinkle?

Jayme

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

Chris Stevens

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!

Jeri

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!

Lori

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.

Laura

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.

Aura

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!

Peter Yard

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.

Aura

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!

Tristen

This is really cool it seems like it would be difficult though. It is intriguing none the less

bri

you have the wrong picture set for the link….just thought i would let you know

Mary Jane

You have a very nice site! Very informative and interesting to read. I will be returning soon to check out what’s new.

Aura

@Mary Jane: thank you so much! I will try to update it soon then.
@Bri: which picture is linking to the wrong page?

Greta

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?

jennifer

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

mari

very cool. i wonder if i could mail one of these….from east to west coast…

gray

mine has been alive for over 6 months now! and is doing great!! love.

belinda

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 :)

Steddy

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…

aura

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.

Kori

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

Liz

What is the process for hanging these. Would love to see a demo of this.

Em

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.

becky pinda

where can i find the bonsai soil? i can’t locate any!

Maggy

I was thinking of doing this, wondering how long it takes to complete the whole project? Thank you!

René

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!

Crystal

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

Rusty

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

Bethany

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

Shaun

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. :)

Megan

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 ^_^

joan brandow

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

Aura

@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

Jeremiah Brumley

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!

Jeremiah Brumley

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.

cyndi stansbury

tried to pin to pinterest and says invalid url

Viya

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?

The Sill

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 :)

Channon

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

Grace Bonney

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

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