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Learn the Japanese Art of Kokedama

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kokedama

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

A counter intuitive approach to solve watering problems is the 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 is on a saucer or plate.

This is a super helpful tutorial for learning kokedama

Supplies:

  • 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. As orchid soil is very loose you can put some soil 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.
  • Old newspapers to lay out on your work surface to make clean up easier.
  • A pair of sharp scissors 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.

Instructions:

Set Up

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

Soak

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

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, removed 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.

The Dirt Ball

Make the center ball. If you are using wood based orchid soil, put a small amount in to 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.

Creating a Kokedama

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

Insert the kokedama center

Insert the “dirt ball,” 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

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 kokekama 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 🙂

Update:

flowering kokedama orchid

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

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16 Comments
  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!
      Anna

  4. Maria says:

    Can I use this procedure for small vandas?

    1. Anna says:

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

  5. Helen says:

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

    1. Anna says:

      Helen,
      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!
      Anna

  6. Linda says:

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

    1. Anna says:

      Linda,
      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!
      Anna

  7. rrsdtgtg@aol.com says:

    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!
      Anna

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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

YES! THANK YOU!