Learn the Japanese Art of Kokedama

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kokedama orchids group

Discover the Japanese art of kokedama. I’ll walk you through the whole process.

A counter-intuitive approach to solve watering problems is kokedama. This method also solves the I-can’t-find-the right-pot-for-my-orchid problem because the moss ball becomes the pot. Kokedama is a Japanese style of gardening. Which basically means moss ball gardening.

Kokedama in a nutshell: traditionally, a plant’s roots are encased in a ball of soil, which is covered with a layer of moss, forming a sphere. To display the kokedama you can hang it, or set it on a saucer or plate.

This is a super helpful tutorial for learning kokedama

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  • An orchid that has finished blooming. This is the ideal time because the orchid is getting ready to grow its root system.
  • Sphagnum moss. This can be purchased as a craft store or online.
  • A center for the roots to wrap around. Traditionally this is a ball of soil. For example, use an orchid potting mix that is very fast-draining. Put some orchid potting mix, like fir bark in a mesh bag-like the kind that tangerines come in. I like to use wiffle balls. Do not use sphagnum moss for the center as it holds too much water. Another option is to use a  3″ styrofoam craft/floral ball. You can use a larger or smaller size depending on the size of your orchid. Styrofoam is easier to cut into as the plastic on the wiffle balls can be pretty heavy duty.
  • Old newspapers to spread out on your work surface to make clean up easier.
  • A pair of sharp pruning shears to cut out dead, rotten roots and to snip your thread.
  • A garbage can.
  • Clear thread or jute. This will be used to secure the moss to the roots.
  • One bowl of water.
  • Water to soak orchid roots.
  • Sewing needle. Tying of the thread with a knot is easiest done with a needle.


Set-Up the Kokedama Workspace

Before getting started, it’s a good idea to gather your materials and set up your workspace. That way you aren’t running all over trying to find stuff when you’re in the middle of the project.

Soak your Orchid

In the bowl of water, soak the sphagnum moss for about 20 minutes. The moss comes in a tightly compacted mini bale. Just rip off several handfuls and place them in the bowl.

TIP: Use caution when handling the sphagnum moss, there may be thorns, or stickers.

Moss soaking for kokedama

Let the moss soak in water for about 20 minutes before using.

Fill the orchid pot with water to soak the orchid roots for about 10 minutes. This will make the roots more pliable and easier to work with.

Before repotting an orchid soak the roots in water to soften the roots

Fill the orchid pot with water to soften the roots before making the kokedama

Un-Pot the Orchid

Use your fingers to dig around to remove as much as the old potting media as possible.

Preparing an orchid for kokedama

Un-potting is a good time to inspect the roots. Trim off any mushy roots. If there are lots of mushy roots that means you’re over-watering.

Once the orchid has finished soaking, remove the potting medium from around the roots. Use care not to damage the roots. If pieces of the potting media are tightly bound up in the roots it is perfectly okay to leave it attached to the roots. Do not re-use any of the old potting media. Throw it away.

Now that the old potting media has been removed, using tepid water, give the roots a good rinse in the sink. Or a swish in the soaking bowl.

Prepare the Center of the Kokedama

Make the center ball. If you are using wood-based orchid soil, put a small amount into the plastic mesh so that it forms a ball small enough to fit inside the center of the orchid’s roots. Tie the bag off and trim off the excess mesh at the end of the knot. If you are using a wiffle ball you may need to cut between the slats so that the orchid has a secure place to sit. It shouldn’t sit inside the ball, nor should it sit right on top. It should nestle with the roots wrapped around the ball.

NOTE: One reader commented that the wiffle ball was too tough to cut into. Alternatively, use a floral/craft stryrofoam ball instead of a wiffle ball. Use the pointed tip of a knife to cut out a wedge for the orchid to sit into.

Creating a Kokedama

Use your fingers to create an opening in the roots to insert the ball.

Insert the kokedama center

Insert the “dirtball,” or in this case wiffle ball into the center of the roots.

Kokedama step 1

The orchid roots wrap around the ball.

Ready to wrap the moss for the kokedama

Wrap the Moss Around the Roots

Take a piece of re-hydrated moss, the longer the string of moss the better, and wrap it around the orchid’s roots. If the moss is too wet, you can give it a gentle squeeze.

Re-hydrated moss ready to wrapping around the orchid roots.

Using the longest strands possible, begin wrapping the orchid roots.

After the 1st layer of moss covers the roots, begin wrapping the clear thread over the moss.

Wrapping moss for kokedama

Continue to layer the moss and secure with the thread. Use care to keep the moss ball in a nice round shape. Be as generous as you’d like with the moss and thread 😉

Continue wrapping the moss and secure with thread

Continue wrapping the moss around the roots and secure with clear thread.

Once you feel like you have a nice round shape and the roots are completely covered, your kokedama is finished.

Orchid Kokedama

Cut the thread leaving a 12″ tail. Thread the needle and secure the thread with a knot.

As a finishing touch, you can wrap some jute around the kokedama.

Caring for Your Kokedama

Once a week, submerge the kokedama in a bowl of water. Let it sit in the water for several minutes until the moss has absorbed all the water it can hold. Allow the kokedama to drain in the sink. Then return the kokedama to where you like it displayed.

kokedama orchid roots

Don’t freak out when you see orchid roots begin to grow out of your kokedama. This just means your orchid’s roots are healthy and your orchid is growing.

Enjoy Your Kokedama

I went through a kokedama making phase and now I have about 5 of them. Once you have the little bale of sphagnum moss, you’ll have enough to make as many as you (and your friends) want. After a while, you will notice orchid roots making their way through the moss. That perfectly natural. Don’t trim off. These roots are a sign that your orchid is healthy and growing. You will get some pretty wild roots. After about a year, you will need to re-do the kokedama.

Kokedama collection

Once you get started, it may be hard to stop 🙂


flowering kokedama orchid

About 4 months after potting kokedama style, this orchid is showing us what she’s got!

kokedama orchids group

And now for a group picture. Aren’t they amazing?

Learn More About Orchids

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  1. Cheryl says:

    When your roots start growing outside the ball you can pick them up again with another layer of moss? I can’t get to a big city to find sphagnum moss but my dollar store has five or six other types like reindeer moss and stuff like that is that acceptable?

    1. Anna says:

      Cheryl, That is a really good question. The problem with reindeer moss is that is doesn’t hold water like sphagnum moss does. Could you order sphagnum moss online? Let me know how your kokedama works out. Good Luck! Anna

      1. Kristina says:

        You didn’t answer the question about re-covering with moss once the roots start reaching out. I’m also curious about this.

        1. Anna says:

          Let the roots grow like crazy, but after a year, you will need to re-make the kokedama. If the roots really bother you, you could add more moss to the moss ball, just be sure that you aren’t covering any aerial roots, just the ones that grow out the bottom of the kokedama. If you’re okay with the roots, just let them do their thing.

  2. Kathi-Ann Charles says:

    I love the idea an will try it. Wow!
    Fantastic Anna.
    keep these posts coming. I love them

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you Kathi Ann!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Love this idea! And the way it looks – so natural. Thanks!

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you! I hope you’ll give kokedama a try!

  4. Maria says:

    Can I use this procedure for small vandas?

    1. Anna says:

      Vanda roots need LOTS of air circulation, so I would try it with Phalaenopsis rather than Vandas.

  5. Helen says:

    I love this! Could you use a sheet of sheet moss instead?

    1. Anna says:

      Great question! I haven’t ever tried using sheet moss, but I think it would work. Just be aware that it takes high humidity levels to keep the moss alive.
      Let me know how it goes!

  6. Linda says:

    Could I use orchid mix and then wrap using apiece of hessian then use the string ?

    1. Anna says:

      I’ve never tried that, but it sounds like an interesting idea. Let me know how it goes. One reason I like hessian (or burlap) is because it will allow for more air flow around the roots than the moss does. I wouldn’t use a plastic liner because you want the water to drain out. Be sure to set it on a saucer so you don’t ruin your furniture. Hmmmm…I may have to try this!

  7. As always, you are the best. I thank the internet gods every day that I found you!

    1. Anna says:

      I’m so glad you found me too!
      Don’t hesitate to ask any questions about growing orchids!

  8. Billy says:

    What would I need to do if I wanted to hang them?

  9. Ivone 11 977583209 says:

    Queria aprender essa técnica. vc, dá aulas.

    1. Anna says:

      Try it! My Phalaenopsis orchids have done very well using this method. It’s fun to do and the results are amazing. Be sure to use a wiffle ball, or something similar to keep the moss ball from getting to wet when you water.
      Let me know how it goes!

  10. Anni says:

    Hi Anna,
    Can I do a Kokedama with dendrobium orchis that are about to bloom?

    1. Anna says:

      I haven’t tried kokedama with Dendrobiums. These orchids like to dry out between watering, and they don’t like their roots to be messed with. For kokedama, I recommend sticking with Phalaenopsis orchids. If you decide to try it, I would love to hear how it goes.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Can I use coconut husk/ cocopeet instead of spagnum moss?

    1. Anna says:

      Sure – keep in mind that coconut coir is highly retentive, so don’t let the coir absorb too much water. Coconut husky fiber is moderately absorbent when fresh, and becomes more absorbent over time.
      Enjoy your kokedama!

  12. Marcia says:

    Muito útil, pratica e fica linda porque cuida da orquídea. Amei??

    1. Anna says:

      You are most welcome!
      Have a great day,

  13. Patricia says:

    Hi Anna,
    I enjoy reading all your projects, but would like to know where you purchased the saucers you are using in the pictures to hold the kokedrama’s.

    1. Anna says:

      Aren’t those green glass saucers cute? I wish I could send you a link, but I got them at a second-hand shop. I have some other kokedamas that I set in measuring bowls from Pioneer Woman, those I can provide a link for:

      Pioneer Woman Measuring Bowls

      Loved hearing from you,

    2. Erica says:

      I just rolled up on your site and I love it.
      I will be trying out your ideas asap.
      Great information and picks on how to do it right.
      Thank you.

      1. Anna says:

        Thanks so much, Erica! I’m so glad you found me!

  14. nancy Roberts says:

    Hey Anna, Sounds likea great idea. I will try it. Just wanted to let you know my vented pots and leca are working out great with all my orchids!!

    1. Anna says:

      Oooh! Thanks for the update! I am so glad to hear it.

  15. Jan says:

    I plan to give it a try! I always keep a bale of spagnum moss! Will jute work for the binding?

    1. Anna says:

      I love kokedama! So fun! Yes, jute will work, I have used it myself. Keep in mind that over time the jute will disintegrate.

  16. Melany says:

    Hey Anna,
    With the whiffle ball what do you put inside?
    Is it just empty with the moss around it?
    I’m pretty new 😊 trying this orchids technics .

    1. Anna says:

      Great question!
      Leave the Wiffle ball empty – don’t stuff it with sphagnum moss or with the orchid’s roots.

  17. Mariet Robinson says:

    what do I do with a mass of aerial roots?

    1. Anna says:

      You have a couple of options. You could leave the roots alone – try to embrace them. If you are growing a Phalaenopsis orchid, another option is to try to propagate the orchid. Try this only if you are growing a monopodial orchid such as a Phalaenopsis or Vanda orchid. Be sure that there are several aerial roots growing on the stem, then sever the stem from the base and pot the aerial roots. If there is a healthy root system, over time new leaves will grow up from the base of the plant. This can be a bit chancy, but it can work too. Whatever you do, don’t prune off the aerial roots – they are just what orchids do.

  18. Trisha says:

    Love, love, love this idea!! Can you tell me where you purchased the bowls the plants are sitting in? And what do you have sitting in the bottom of the bowls?

    1. Anna says:

      I wish I could send you a link for the green glass bowls, but I got them at a second-hand shop! As for what is sitting in the bottom of the bowls, in one of the pictures I set the kokedama on some sea glass for added stability.
      Have a great day and enjoy kokedama-ing!

  19. Carolyn says:

    ” If you are using a wiffle ball you may need to cut between the slats so that the orchid has a secure place to sit. It shouldn’t sit inside the ball, nor should it sit right on top. It should nestle with the roots wrapped around the ball.”
    Hi– I have gone over & over your photos and can’t find a visual example of what you mean by this. The wiffle balls I purchased are also far too thick to cut through. Is there a photo of how you achieved this? Thanks!

    1. Anna says:

      Great comment, thank you! Yes, wiffle balls can be very thick. Another option is to use a styrofoam floral or craft ball. These are easy to cut. Just use a knife to dig out a wedge for the orchid to sit into.
      Let me know how it goes.

  20. Carrie says:

    My hubby used a hole saw bit on the drill and cut through. Perfect topper. It was a 2.25” but a 2 would work. It makes a perfect nest for the orchid.

    1. Anna says:

      Husbands are great like that! If you get a chance, email me a picture, [email protected]

  21. Reba Betz says:

    Greetings from Oregon!. Am new to this wonderful habit! It is consuming… thank you for sharing you knowledge.

    1. Anna says:

      I’m so glad to hear you’ve been bitten by the orchid bug. You have a lot of joy in your future 🙂
      Take care,

  22. Halina says:

    Hi Anna,
    Love your kokodema idea. I’ll try to use it. So far I don’t have much luck with orchids. For some reason they stop having any flowers, not sure what I’m doing wrong. Would you help?


    1. Anna says:

      I am happy to help. If your orchids are experiencing early flower drop, check out my article on bud blast – which is when healthy buds suddenly wither and die.


      Please reach out to me with any specific questions you have. Also, my ebook, WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR GROCERY STORE ORCHID, is a great resource for those struggling to grow orchids.

      All my best,

  23. Amanda says:

    Well, I have just learned that orchids are much like tattoos……addictive! I don’t have much space for potted plants so I spent my entire day researching how to mount orchids. The downside, “misting” them twice a day……not going to happen!!
    Kokedama mounted to cork or a nice piece of wood? I have a tiny orchid that I “rescued” that I would like to try this with. Orchid bark inside of a mesh sack covered by the roots them the moss? I also have some small ball pit balls but I am not sure that I have one small enough. I could cut holes in one of them, cover with the roots, then moss…..would I need to put some bark into the ball?
    I have a feeling my little $3.00 rescue is going to end up costing me a lot more in the long run. Now if I can keep it alive! Did I mention I have no clue what I am doing, this is my first orchid!!!

    1. Anna says:

      Rather than using a pit ball, try using a styrofoam ball from a craft store. They come in lots of sizes and are cheap. Filling a mesh sack with bark is a popular method for kokedama – my only concern is that it may hold too much moisture – but then it may work out perfectly. It all depends on your growing environment. Sphagnum moss does retain a lot of water. For sure, don’t spend a lot of money as the orchid was already not in the best shape. On the upside, contrary to popular opinion, orchids can be quite resilient.
      I wish you all the best in rescuing your first orchid,

  24. Samantha Atkinson says:

    Hi Anna
    I have started making kokedamas with my orchids. what do I do with old orchids to move them to balls?

    1. Anna says:

      After unpotting your orchid, spread out the roots around a ball, such as a wiffle ball or a styrofoam ball. Then, cover the roots with sphagnum moss.

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START HERE to Learn More About Caring for Orchids

Find Out What I Wish I Knew When I First Started Caring for Orchids