Kokedama trend – my (literal) Kate Moss
Background information

Kokedama trend – my (literal) Kate Moss

Translation: Patrik Stainbrook

There’s a plant without a pot hovering in my living room – Kokedama. Find out how to make the Japanese moss ball yourself here.

«Seriously?!» The looks on my fellow editors’ faces are, to put it mildly, unenthusiastic when I tell them I want to make a Kokedama at the Giardina garden fair. Hanging a moss-covered mud ball in your window? Really? Do we need this Japanese trend?

I want to find out. Together with my fellow editor Stefanie Lechthalter – and what feels like half of all Swiss senior citizens – I set off for the largest garden exhibition in our country.

Kokedama (translated: moss ball) originates from Japan and is popular there as a window decoration. It’s made from a small plant, soil and moss and requires no pot at all. These moss balls were originally intended as an alternative to expensive bonsai pots. It’s why kokedamas are also known as «poor people’s bonsais».

Into the green

On the fourth floor, tucked away in a far corner, the kingdom of kokedamas awaits us. The little moss balls dangle from the racks everywhere. They remind me a little of the Hallelujah Mountains from Avatar. Kinda magical.

What came first? Kokedamas or the Hallelujah Mountains from Avatar?
What came first? Kokedamas or the Hallelujah Mountains from Avatar?
Source: 20th Century Studios/Disney

We’re still standing around in a dream. Suddenly, a petite woman with reddish hair comes bustling over. It’s Chelsea Morrissey, Co-Founder & Maker at Die Macherei GmbH. «Do you want to start the workshop right away?» We don’t need to be asked twice.

Just a little plant

But first, we’re spoiled for choice – which of the small houseplants should it be? A fern, ornamental grass, a monocot, ivy, a succulent or a mini orchid? We love the ornamental Asparagus setaceus. Now it’s time to get dirty.

Moist houseplant soil serves as a building material.
Moist houseplant soil serves as a building material.
Source: Darina Schweizer

«Plap, plap!» I let the disposable gloves snap over my fingers, holding my ornamental asparagus in my left hand. With my right, like Chelsea, I loosen the dry soil from the roots. I then reach into the bowl in front of me, which contains a wet clump made from houseplant soil. Chelsea shows us how to press it to the roots bit by bit until the little plant is in a small ball of earth.

The first step has been taken – my ornamental asparagus is in the dirt.
The first step has been taken – my ornamental asparagus is in the dirt.
Source: Darina Schweizer

A potential Koked(r)ama?

«It doesn’t look very appealing yet,» I think as the wet earth runs down my fingers. Will my colleagues end up correct, will this all end in a muddy mess? I’m not giving up yet. First we have to wash our hands. Afterwards, Chelsea demonstrates how to detach small pieces from a sheet of moss. This will gradually envelop the ball of earth.

The next step is to give the Kokedama a moss coat.
The next step is to give the Kokedama a moss coat.
Source: Darina Schweizer

This isn’t quite as easy as before when using the soil. Again and again, pieces of moss fly away like strands of hair in the wind. So we press it down a little harder. «Ta-da,» goes Steffi. She proudly holds up her little moss ball. I nod appreciatively.

Nylon, our saviour

Looking at my misshapen moss goblin, however, I wrinkle my nose sceptically. How on earth is this supposed to hold together? Chelsea brings the solution in the form of green nylon cord. «You wrap the Kokedama in it,» she explains and lets the string glide around the moss ball in a circular motion.

We do the same. What initially requires a delicatetouch becomes easier and easier the longer we wind. Finally, I knot the cord. The Kokedama now feels stable. Finally, I give it a haircut, snipping off any stalks of moss hanging out with a pair of scissors. Hey, this is becoming something! «Wow!» Steffi murmurs from the side. The Kokedama spell has caught us.

One last spray and my kokedama wrapped in nylon cord is finished.
One last spray and my kokedama wrapped in nylon cord is finished.
Source: Stefanie Lechthaler

We say goodbye to Chelsea with a small bag and a few care instructions. And we promise to keep each other up to date on how our moss balls are thriving.

Indoors or outdoors? That is the question

At home, I take my Kokedama out of the bag and spray it with a little water, as Chelsea advised. Alternatively, I could dip it in a bowl of water for five to ten minutes, drain it and squeeze it gently. Now I have two options:

  • Option 1: hang the moss ball on a string outside. Then I rarely or never have to water it, especially in spring, as it’ll rain regularly. I could also hang succulents in the living room, as they hardly need any moisture.
  • Option 2: place the moss ball inside in a glass container and close it. This way, the plant retains enough moisture and I only have to water the Kokedama every one to two weeks. Could it also become a bottle garden with its own ecosystem? More on this another time.

I hang my Kokedama in the living room window first. But I soon realise that this isn’t a wise idea – the sun hits it with full force. Instead, I put the moss ball in a glass container in a semi-shady place instead.

My Kokedama is thriving in its mini-greenhouse.
My Kokedama is thriving in its mini-greenhouse.
Source: Darina Schweizer

Until the fog clears

The next morning, the tree is covered in mist or water vapour. Didn’t Chelsea have a tip for this? Oh yes, open the jar briefly. At some point, the humidity should level out. This is already the case with Steffi, as she tells me enthusiastically via WhatsApp. Her Kokedama is a real eye-catcher on the dining table. I can now answer my fellow editors’ question of «Should you hang a mud ball in your window?»: «No. Put it in a jar.» An exciting alternative to houseplants.

Steffi’s Kokedama looks great on the dining table.
Steffi’s Kokedama looks great on the dining table.
Source: Stefanie Lechthaler

Now I hope that the vapours disappear soon in my house too – and that no mould will sprout. We’ll see over the next few weeks. At least my Kokedama has a name. Seeing it’s so small and scrawny, I’ve named it Kate Moss.

If you can think of a better name or have already made a Kokedama, let me know in the comments.

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Potting soil

Ricoter Houseplant soil

10 l, Soil without peat

Flowerbox Dragon Tree White Jewel - Dracaena Deremensis (6 cm, Houseplant)

Flowerbox Dragon Tree White Jewel - Dracaena Deremensis

6 cm, Houseplant

Kakteen Gautschi Succulent Set (10 cm, Houseplant)

Kakteen Gautschi Succulent Set

10 cm, Houseplant

Ricoter Houseplant soil (10 l, Soil without peat)

Ricoter Houseplant soil

10 l, Soil without peat

Header image: Darina Schweizer

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I like anything that has four legs or roots. The books I enjoy let me peer into the abyss of the human psyche. Unlike those wretched mountains that are forever blocking the view – especially of the sea. Lighthouses are a great place for getting some fresh air too, you know? 


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