A winter gardening project

January 13, 2019
Kokedama translated means "moss ball." They can be maintained indoors without a planter.

The weather outside is frightful, yet many are looking for a project that gets their gardening juices flowing. A suggestion might be the new trend that hails from Japan and seems to be coming quite popular. Kokedama, translated “moss ball,” aptly describes this interesting process of displaying plants indoors and out without a flower pot. Many refer to multiple kokedamas as string gardens due to the string that wraps them and of course the string from which they hang.

This art of growing plants from a small moss ball wrapped in string has been around for a long time and is closely related to the bonsai without a pot. Instead of the plant being deposited in a pot it is encased in moss wrapped in string. Making a kokedama is not difficult, but it is important to have all the ingredients on hand at once — this is not a project to be interrupted while you go fetch a missing element.

As was mentioned this whole process is related to the bonsai, so of course the soil required is bonsai potting mix along with some garden clay, peat moss, sphagnum sheet moss and waxed string. The equipment is probably already on hand — scissors, a small tub, a bowl, gloves and a measuring cup. For a 4-inch ball, one will probably need about 2 cups of soil.

Lots of plants will thrive as a moss ball resident but one should choose a plant that will flourish in their particular surroundings whether it is shade or sun. Easy-growing ones like philodendron, ivy or ferns do well in the shade, and for sun consider herbs, sedums and succulents.

The plant should have a small root system, be slow-growing and be a bit tough in that it will quite naturally suffer some drought and overwatering as it ages. Once the hanging ball is complete, the care involves soaking it in a bowl of water every few days then leaving it hanging until it needs another drink. If this regimen is followed along with a little water-soluble fertilizer the plant should do well.

Once all the ingredients are gathered, prepare the soil by mixing equal parts of the clay and bonsai with the peat moss. Once thoroughly integrated, wet it down until it holds together but is not a sloshy mess. Press out a ball of the soil and once it is solid enough to toss into the air like a baseball then it is ready for the next stage. Set it aside while knocking the excess soil off of the plant.

The next step takes us back to the ball of soil that will be broken in half at this point and the plant laid between the two halves and then the halves stuck back together with the plant in between. Extra soil may be added to cover the roots and to maintain the orb shape. Pick out a large sheet of sphagnum moss and cover the ball, more than one sheet could be necessary to get the job done. Next, start wrapping it in string to hold the moss in place — it should take about three yards of string. Tie a loop at the top for hanging purposes and you are done. As the plant ages the string will disappear into the moss.

Kokedamas make an attractive display hung in groups and are interesting to watch as they grow and mature. There are numerous sites and videos on the Internet that offer more details, and, just like good cooks, each has a bit of variation on the same process.

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