ISSUE 43  |  Lessons from Japan

Small Space DIY: Kokedama Planters

October 27, 2014 4:00 PM

BY Erin Boyle

Everyone loves a self-sufficient houseplant. And a houseplant that doesn’t require a planter? Even better. In the tradition of Japanese kokedama–which uses moss to retain moisture instead of a pot–here are instructions for making a planter-less houseplant of your own. 

Photography by Erin Boyle for Gardenista.

Above: A tiny fern kokedama lives on my dresser. Here’s how I made it:

Above: Soils, moss, tiny plants, and waxed string are the basic materials you need to make your own kokedama.


Above: Sphagnum moss, bonsai soil, and peat moss are the magic three ingredients you need to retain water and keep a kokedama healthy and happy. 

Above: Begin by mixing soil in a 7:3 ratio of peat moss to akedama, or bonsai soil. After mixing, wet the soil until it’s moist enough to form a ball without falling apart. Note: Peat moss should be available at most hardware stores, but the more-difficult-to-find bonsai soil is best found online or at specialty bonsai stores.

Above: Use your hands to form round balls. I wanted to make small planters, so my balls of soil were about 3 inches in diameter.

Above: After forming the soil balls, use your fingers to make a small hole in the ball. Don’t panic if the ball cracks a bit as you bore the hole; you can pat it back together afterward. 

Above: To prepare the plant, remove as much excess soil from the roots as possible.

Above: Next, tuck the plant’s roots into the hole. If the soil ball crumbles, mold it back into shape.

Above: To hold in moisture, you’ll need to wrap the soil ball in moss. You can use either sphagnum moss or sheet moss. Sheet moss will create a greener moss ball, while sphagnum is more golden. (N.B.: Sphagnum moss usually comes dry and needs to be reconstituted with water–follow the seller’s instructions.)

Above: Holding the moss-covered soil ball in one hand, use your other hand to wrap the ball in twine. I used a random criss-cross pattern to hold the moss in place. You can use any twine you like; I found that sticky waxed twine held everything together easily.

Above: After wrapping, secure the twine with a knot. 

Above: If you decide to hang the kokedama, tie two lengths of twine on opposite sides of the moss ball and suspend from a hook.

Above: A 6-inch Iron Hook from Brook Farm General Store is a simple option for hanging a small kokedama; $8. Depending on the wall, you might want to use a drywall anchor. A package of 50 Self-Drilling Dry Wall Anchors from Lowes is $13.48.


Above: If you don’t have a spot to hang a planter, rest it in a small ceramic bowl or dish instead.

To care for a kokedama, give it diffused sunlight and water once a week (dunk it in a bowl of water and allow it to drip dry over a sink or saucer).

The perfect ceramic dish? See All The Freshness of New York: Katakana Ceramics on Remodelista. Looking for low-maintenance houseplants? See Expert Advice: 10 Best Low-Maintanence Houseplants.