We Found Your Next Houseplant Obsession & It's Called Kokedama

Photo: Jeanne Luna

Imagine a variety of your favorite houseplants encompassed in moss balls, floating midair in your space. Pothos, ferns, philodendrons, herbs, and citrus can all make up the floating garden of your dreams.

Crafting and caring for a suspended green oasis is not as far-fetched as it seems. The Japanese "kokedama" is a creative botanical display that embraces the beauty in simplicity and opens up a world of meditative gardening possibilities.

What is kokedama?

Kokedama 苔⽟玉, simply translated as "moss ball" (koke = moss, dama = ball), is a variant of bonsai that has been crafted for centuries. As aristocrats in ancient Japan leaned toward meticulous bonsai, the poor looked for a simpler, more accessible way to enjoy the beauty of nature in their everyday lives. Sometimes referred to as "poor man’s bonsai," kokedama encompass a larger variety of plant and display options, all of which are are relatively easy to make and maintain.

Photo: Jeanne Luna

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Wabi-sabi reflections.

The craft of kokedama is a reflection of the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, the art of appreciating beauty in the world's natural imperfection. There is no direct Western translation for the spirit of this philosophy, but loosely translated, wabi is the quality of simplicity, whether rustic or refined, and often refers to both natural and manmade items. Sabi refers to the beauty or serenity that comes with age and time. Rooted in Buddhism, this mindset began in traditional tea ceremonies where handmade and irregular utensils were highly valued. Back then, cracks, imperfections, and signs of aging were cherished because they represented the loving use of the object over time.

Wabi-sabi is a blooming flower, a delicate crack in a handmade bowl, a well-thumbed book, an oddly shaped (but delicious) homegrown tomato, a falling leaf, or an asymmetrically displayed kokedama. It's an appreciation of all that is natural, simple, and imperfect.

How to make your own kokedama.

Choose the right plant.

Photo: Jeanne Luna

Kokedama in full sun dry out easily, so make sure to choose plants that do well in bright, indirect indoor sunlight. Here are a few great options:

  • Bromeliads
  • Philodendron
  • Pothos
  • Peace lily
  • Anthurium
  • Dracaena
  • Ferns (bird's-nest fern, foxtail fern, plumosa)
  • Herbs (mint, basil, rosemary)
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Gather the supplies.

Photo: Jeanne Luna

Here are all the materials you'll need for your kokedama creation:

  • Organic bonsai soil
  • Organic peat moss
  • Water
  • Small plant
  • Sheet sphagnum moss (preserved or living)
  • Jute string or fishing string

Get started!

Photo: Jeanne Luna

  1. Remove excess soil until the roots of the plant are visible.
  2. Wrap roots in wet sphagnum moss, securing with string. This will keep the plant roots moist and healthy.
  3. Mix peat moss and bonsai soil in a 7:3 ratio, adding water until a clay consistency is reached.
  4. Cover root base with mud mixture, forming a ball. Use this opportunity to sculpt and mold the shape of your kokedama with care and patience.
  5. Cover ball in sheet moss. Place ball on top of laid-out moss, then wrap around the circumference.
  6. Wrap string around ball until moss is secure. This isn’t always intuitive, and it sometimes takes a few tries. Luckily, the wabi-sabi mindset appreciates the capacity for improvement and the beauty in imperfection.
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Kokedama care.

Photo: Jeanne Luna

Kokedama require watering and care like any other houseplant would. Most kokedama require a watering about once per week, but it is imperative to adjust your watering schedule to suit your specific plant's needs.

Follow these easy steps for your string garden to thrive:

  1. Depending on the size of your kokedama, fill a bowl, sink, or tub with room-temperature water.
  2. Place your kokedama plant into the bowl of water. Let it soak for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from water and let drip dry for about 20 minutes before returning the kokedama to its home.
  4. Water again once the moss ball is feeling relatively lighter and dryer. Pro tip: Crisp, dried leaves indicate underwatering, and mushy, brown, or soggy leaves indicate overwatering. All is not lost if you see either of these symptoms—just adjust your watering schedule accordingly!

Kokedama styling

Traditionally, kokedama are displayed on driftwood or handmade pottery. This is a beautiful and simple way to show off your new creation or even build off one that you create over time. Many modern gardeners find joy in crafting mini floating universes of their own with collections of kokedama. Displaying several hanging kokedama at varying heights creates a particularly dramatic effect.

Looking for more decorating inspiration? Fill your space with good vibes with these handmade home decor ideas.

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