By: Ellaine Kryss Hubilla
Kokedama, which translates to “koke” which means moss and “dama” which means ball, is a century-old Japanese garden art that involves taking the root ball of a plant and attaching it to a mud ball, which is then coated with green moss.
Kokedama is also known as the ‘string garden’ and ‘poor man’s bonsai’—basically because plants can still strive even if they’re hung.
You can take care of your kokedama just like any other ornamental plant; it also needs sunlight, air, and water. However, the difference in watering is that it must be soaked in water for 30 mins per day so that water can reach the soil and the root inside. After soaking, gently press the moss ball to drain excess water.
It can be hung in the air with the plant growing out from the sphere or simply put it in the place you prefer as long as it will receive enough sunlight. Kokedama also serves as a distinctive display piece and also functions as a living planter.
Garden enthusiast Tetchie Palaganas offers instructions on how to create your own moss ball:
– Plant of your choice: use an easy-to-care plant, so it can easily adjust to the conditions of the ball soil
-Soil mix: use a combination of 50% garden soil, 30% pumice, and 20% clay.
-Moss: enough amount that can cover the ball soil
-Strings: yarn for knitting or thread
- Create a mixture using 50% garden soil, 30% pumice, and 20% clay. Add enough water to hold your soil mix together but not too many that the mixture will be too soft.
- Lay the moss flat on a surface then moisten it with water and leave it for a while.
- Press the mixture firmly to form a ball of soil. Make it big enough to accommodate the size of the roots of your chosen plant. If the roots are still long enough to fit the ball soil, trim it but make sure that baby roots will remain.
- Remove your selected plant from the container. Dust off excess soil then carefully break apart the root ball, this will allow the roots to absorb water and soil nutrients better.
- Using your hands, divide the ball of soil into two parts at the center. Put the roots of the plant between the two divided parts then press it again to re-form the soil into a ball.
- When the plant is already attached to the balled soil, cover the ball with the moss until all surfaces are covered.
- Attach the moss onto the ball using yarn or thread. Since thread is thinner than yarn, when using it, double the wrap by at least two passes around the surface.
- Cut the excess string. Your kokedama is ready. You can attach the ball into a piece of wood, put it in a pot if you prefer, or place it in an appropriately lighted area.
From Tetchie Palaganas’ Kokedama Workshop, which was part of the Stuck On You Pre-Valentine event of the National Cactus and Succulent Organization of the Philippines, Inc.
This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s January to February 2021 issue.