Kokedama Care: How to Care for Kokedama String Gardens March 18 2015 9 Comments


Kokedama is a Japanese word that, simply translated, means “moss ball”. Sometimes called the “Poor Man’s Bonsai” or “string gardens,” the of art of binding plants into green, mossy orbs dates back centuries to the Edo era in Japan (around 1600 AD).

Birds Nest Fern Kokedama

Making kokedama is a fun process that involves stripping soil from the plant's roots, and using a special-clayrich soil blend to sculpt the plant into a ball, which is later bound with moss. Check out our step-by-step instructions for the  project, or sign up for a workshop to have us walk you through the process!

Caring for these living sculptures varies widely depending on the species of the plant used. Here’s the procedure that we use to water our kokedama, as well as a list of the plant types and species we commonly use to make ours, with the care needed for each plant.

Watering Procedure:

How To Water Kokedama "String Gardens"Soaking: Depending on the size of your kokedama, fill a bowl, bucket or sink with room temperature water.

Place your kokedama in the water, plant side up. Push the moss ball down so that it is fully submerged and begins to absorb water. Allow to soak for 10-25 minutes, or until fully saturated with water.

Remove kokedama the water, and gently squeeze the moss ball to allow excess water to drain. Allow kokedama to drip dry in a colander before replacing it to its given home.

Misting: Many kokedama appreciate misting in addition to soaking (see below). Use a bottle that casts a fine mist and spray on and around plant foliage. Take care to mist in the morning, when the light is gentle, so that the plant is not burned.

Kokedama care requirements by plant type and species

Jungle Cacti Kokedama:

General care: Jungle cacti are epiphytes that grow in the crooks of trees in warm, humid forests. As such, they’re tolerant of lower light and more moisture than most of their succulent and cactus counterparts. They’re ideal for kokedama because, as epiphytes, they require little root space. Jungle cacti kokedama can be hung outdoors in summer, as long as they are protected from direct sun.

  • Rhipsalis sp: Tolerant of a wide range of light, from low indirect to bright filtered. Protect from direct sun. Drought tolerant. Allow to nearly dry between waterings.
  • Hatiora salicornioides ‘Drunkard’s bones’: Place in medium to bright indirect light. Protect from direct sun. Drought tolerant. Allow to nearly dry between waterings.
  • Lepismium cruciforme: Place in medium to bright indirect light. Protect from direct sun. Drought tolerant. Allow to nearly dry between waterings.
  • Epiphyllum sp: Place in medium to bright indirect light. Protect from direct sun. Drought tolerant. Allow to nearly dry between waterings.

Fern Kokedama:

General care: Fern kokedama prefer brighter light and less water than might be expected, though they should not be allowed to dry out completely. Protect from direct sun

  • Asplenium ‘Bird’s nest fern’: Place in medium to bright indirect light. Water when moss feels dry but not crispy to the touch and soil around base of plant is barely moist.
  • Asplenium ‘Mother fern’: Place in medium to bright indirect light. Water when moss feels dry but not crispy to the touch and soil around base of plant is barely moist.
  • Davalia ‘Rabbit’s foot fern’: Place in medium to bright indirect light. Appreciates frequent misting. Water when just moist. Can go dormant when shocked; new fronds will appear from the furry rhizomes as long as the plant is kept moist.

Tropical and Vining Kokedama:

General care: Tropicals tend to appreciate high humidity and more frequent watering than their succulent counterparts. However, they are susceptible to over-watering and should not be kept too moist. Care needs vary widely by species. All enjoy misting.

  • Philodendron: A widely tolerant genus. Place in low to bright indirect light and protect from direct sun. Drought tolerant; Water when leaves show signs of wilting, or when the soil at the base of the plant is just barely moist.
  • Pothos: A widely tolerant genus. Place in low to bright indirect light and protect from direct sun. Drought tolerant; Water when leaves show signs of wilting, or when the soil at the base of the plant is just barely moist.
  • Muehlenbeckia: Requires attentive care; must not dry out fully. Place in medium to bright indirect light. Can go dormant and defoliate when shocked. Keep cool and just moist until new foliage emerges.
  • Hoya: Hoya’s waxy, succulent leaves and stems means that they require less water than other tropicals. Place in medium to bright indirect light and protect from direct sun. Variegated varieties need more light than non-variegated. Water when moss ball is nearly dry.
  • Anthurium: Anthurium prefer medium to bright indirect light. Allow to nearly (but not totally) dry out between waterings. Anthurium like warm temperatures and high humidity- take extra care to maintain these conditions during winter.

Feeding

During spring and summer, fertilize your kokedama monthly with a liquid indoor plant fertilizer at 1/2 the recommended concentration. Simply mix the fertilizer into the water and soak as usual.

Leaf Browning

Kokedama are susceptable to over- and under-watering just like any other potted plant. Leave browning and crisping around edges tends to indicate under-watering. A brown "mushiness" of the leaves or stems, black stems at the base, and leaf-yellowing tends to indicate over-watering. Remember; all plants require less water during dormancy (in fall in winter,) and more during periods of active growth (in spring and summer.)