The Japanese plant art of Kokedama….

Wednesday, 20 February 2019  |  Alison

The Japanese plant art of Kokedama….

Intrigued and wanting to experience a bit of Japanese culture for myself, having watched Monty Dons recent Japanese Gardens series, I signed up to a morning making Kokedamas, in deepest darkest Warwickshire.    

Kokedama. Loosely translated ‘koke’ means moss and ‘dama’ means ball. It is a form of Japanese bonsai, the ancient art of growing trees in miniature. But with Kokedama, the plant roots are cocooned into a round shaped “moss ball”, negating the need of a plastic pot or other container.

Houseplants, for indoor use, like the spider plant, peace lily and maiden hair fern are ideal and ivies, small pines, grasses (and at this time of year spring bulbs), can be used for outside displays. In fact, almost any plant can be utilised, as long as it is given the right care, and if it outgrows its space it can be moved into the garden border or a pot.

Danzey Barn is the perfect location for creative workshops and on a sunny spring-like day, coffee in hand, we watched Lisa, our knowledgeable florist make a Kokedama, using a spider plant, garden string, a small amount of sphagnum moss, cotton thread, sheet moss (Hypnum curvifoilium), water, multi-purpose compost and cat litter!  Who knew?

Well, if you can’t get hold of bonsai soil ,7 parts compost to 3 parts cat litter is the next best thing and, if you are making a few, it is a less pricey option and because the cat litter is absorbent, holding moisture in, it is ideal for this type of planting.

It was our turn next. Kokedamas are wonderfully messy to make and this is where the fun begins. You mix the compost and cat litter together in a bowl with water ( it’s a bit like making pastry – adding small amounts of water gradually until the required consistency is reached) until it makes a squidgy ball that you can squeeze out the excess moisture, then, you gently ease the soil ball in half. If the right amount of water is used then it will not drop to bits. If it does, you need more water and you start again.                                                

Taking a small piece of plant material, in my case maiden hair fern, remove most of the compost taking care not to damage the fibrous roots and wrap a small amount of moist sphagnum moss around the roots, tying in place with a small amount of cotton thread. You then place the plant in between the two halves and begin moulding them together again into a ball. Sheet moss, which grows naturally in a carpet-like sheet, is then used to cover the compost and tied in place with lengths of string all artfully strung together to encase the moss.

You can create any number of Kokedamas and either display them in saucers or hang them in threes or fives, in a brightly lit spot inside, although not in direct sunlight. Keep them well watered as they do have a tendency to dry out quickly.

After all the mud pie making it was time to have tea served by our host, Helen, and munch on her delicious homemade Lemon drizzle cake, Florentines and yummy cashew, apricot and date balls whilst we laughed about the fact everything in life does not have to be a perfect circle in the moss ball world and our variations on a theme were just as gorgeous!      


*Helen hosts different creative workshops so check out the facebook page - Danzey Barn Workshops for more information.

*Lisa from showed us the plant art of Kokedama.



Brookside Nursery