Kokodema Bonsai

by Ardith Beveridge, Tastemaker in Residence

In the Bonsai style, Kokodema is an intriguing Japanese art form, wherein a plant's root mass is encased in a moss ball instead of a pot, to be displayed in a dish or hung from string.

The origins of Kokodema can be traced to the Nearai style, popular in the Edo period (1603-1868) in Japan. With the Nearai style, the plant is first grown in the pot, until bound, and then removed to showcase the root structure. Over the years it has transformed from this to the charming moss form we know today.


Soil (Keto tsuchi) or (a mix of peat moss and soil choice) or Akadama soil (made without soil with moss)
Thread/string/wire/decorative wool/twine


  1. Mix soil with water to make it moist, resembling clay
  2. Moisten the moss
  3. Make the desired shape      
  4. Remove plant from container, or from your garden tease root ball by lightly shaking. Leaving enough soil to completely cover its roots. Use your thumbs to pat down the soil, forming a sphere. Add more soil if you wish – this will create a better growing area for the roots.
  5. Make a hole/space in the soil shape. Place your ball of soil directly in the center of the sheet moss, with moss-side facing down. Wrap the base of your plant completely; pressing thumbs down gently to make sure it stays together.
  6. Grab the end of your string or your choice of tying material and wrap away! You can wrap your string in any pattern or design you like – or with none in mind at all! It’s cool to see the different string patterns that emerge when you’re not even trying. Just be sure that the moss is adequately covered – the string is what helps keep the ball shape, and it will support the plant once it’s hanging.            
  7. When you’re finished wrapping the string around your moss, tie a strong knot. You may want to double or triple knot it, just to be sure it holds.

If you choose to hang the Kokodema use the same or different materials for hanging. Hang and enjoy! You can truly have a Kokodema hanging garden anywhere you like, as long as it’s in an ideal living environment for the plant you choose. This plant will make a huge statement on its own, and an even bigger one in a cluster with others! You can experiment with different string lengths, sphere sizes, and types of plant to create the Kokodema garden of your dreams.


  1. Dunk the base (moss end) into a bucket of water and watch for bubbles. When you no longer see bubbles, your plant is fully watered.
  2. Remove the base from the bucket and give it a little squeeze to remove excess water. If your plant hangs indoors, you may want to hang in outside in the sun or over a sink directly after watering, until your plant has completely finished draining.
  3. Some plants will stay hydrated for up to a week – it all depends on the type and size of the plant. When your plant is ready to be watered, it will feel very light in weight, so always check its weight before watering!
  4. Set in or on any container or hang- Enjoy ☺