Kokedama Workshop

Kokedama translates to “Moss Ball” and is a Japanese method of creating beautiful live plant decorations! Creating these kokedamas can be very rewarding and is a fun way to explore some unique epiphytic plants, however they do require extra care. Potted plants are only exposed to air only on the top, however kokedamas are exposed to air on all sides. This results in rapid moisture loss.

Let’s examine how to care for a Kokedama once it’s created.

Light Requirements for a Kokedama

Kokedama moss balls typically do not require a great amount of sunlight. Many of the epiphytic plants that lend themselves well to Kokedamas are understory plants. As they climb or sit in a tree that acts as their substrate, they are shaded by the canopy above. Avoid putting your plant in direct sunlight as it could burn. It is best for these plants to have less sunlight in the summer and more sunlight in the winter since the angle of the sun has changed and the light is less harsh in the winter season.

Water Requirements for a Kokedama

As mentioned previously, Kokedamas are exposed to air on all sides, so moisture loss is a huge concern! It is incredibly helpful to keep your creation in a high-humidity room. Consider placing it in a bathroom where it can get lots of humidity from showers.

For the plant to get sufficient water, submerged in room temperature water for 15 minutes about once a week (scroll down for specifc plant notes). When you remove your kokedama from the water, allow excess water to drain out.

If you have an Orchid Kokedama, as you “bathe” it, the base of the foliage should not be submerged. Only submerge the moss ball that house the orchid roots. This prevents the cluster of leaves from holding onto water and rotting. Other plants, such as Bromeliads, need water to stay on the foliage, so find what your specific plant needs.

For vibrant moss, mist the moss with a water spray bottle every morning to keep it hydrated.

Fertilizing a Kokedama

As an indoor plant, the plant inside the moss doesn’t have the same access to nutrients that wild plants do. Epiphytic plants have the ability to gain nutrients and minerals from the tree they live on, so when we bring it inside, they need a little help from time to time. Fertilizing your plant once a year at the start of the growing season (spring/early summer) will help immensely. When you are watering your plant, add a pinch or two of soluble fertilizer into the water so your Kokedama can soak it up.

showing off Tropical Houseplant Sticker Set
Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

If you have created an orchid Kokedama, try to find a fertilizer that is specific for orchids as their nutrient requirements are a little different from many other epiphytic plants.

Specific Plant Notes

Different plants have unique growth requirements. What sort of plant did you use? Below are some helpful pointers for a handful of species:

  • Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) – Keep in bright indirect light, water when ball feels dry.
  • Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) – Does well in low or bright indirect light, water when leaves start to droop.
  • Rabbit’s Foot Fern (Phlebodium aureum) – Likes bright indirect light. Keep the ball moist. They live in subtropical regions and like high humidity environments.
Tillandsia air plant
  • Philodendron (Heartleaf & Ivy Philodendron’s are great, manageable options, Philodendron cordatum or Philodendron hederaceum) – Best in bright indirect light, water when leaves show start to droop.

  • Ficus bonsai (Ficus retusa) – Likes bright indirect light, water when ball feels dry. These are not epiphytic and grow in soil substrates, rather than on another tree. These are well-suited for kokedamas since they tolerate low-humidity.
  • Scarlet Bromeliad (Guzmania lingulata) Likes bright indirect light, water when ball feels dry. The area where all of the leaves connect at the base forms a cup. In nature, rainwater fills this cup and provides the plant with extra water. Fill that cup and wash it out regularly to prevent stagnation and salt/calcium collection if your water is hard. Tillandsia (in the Bromeliad family) are also suitable for kokedama!
  • Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium nidus) – Likes medium to bright indirect light, water when plant feels a little moist.
  • Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) – Best in low to bright indirect light, water when the the base feels dry.
Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii)
Lucy McGinty – 2022 Intern
Lucy McGinty – 2022 Intern

I am an environmental studies college student, and The Art of Ecology’s new intern! My career goal is to become an environmental microbiologist—a person who studies the microorganisms in the environment and their relationship to pollution! I am so excited to [learn more about ecology] and ways we can do better.

2 Comments on “Kokedama: What is it & how do you make one?”

  1. Very useful! A friend gave me an epiphytic plant for Christmas, and I didn’t think I needed to ever give it water. Just gave it a spray, so my plant thanks you.

    • Epiphytic plants grow on trees, so in whatever way they natural get water (usually through air moisture or rain on foliage), they still need when they become houseplants! Some plants are okay with mistings (air plants are a good example), but others are used to tropical rainstorms that dump a ton of water on them at once. Drainage is key! Glad you were able to learn from it to keep a happy houseplant!

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