Houseplants

Replanting a Kokedama

Question: I was gifted a very pretty kokedama with ivy, but it died. Is there a way I can replant without undoing the string and layers?

Knitbakecreate

Answer: Kodedamas, those little plants grown in moss-covered balls, are very popular these days, but they certainly aren’t the easiest plants to grow (read Kokedamas: Trendy but Hard to Keep Alive for more information). In fact, I’m sure there are far more dead kokedamas in the world than live ones!

Since kokedamas are held together by string or wire, you can’t readily remove a dead plant from a kokedama nor add a new one: the whole thing would likely come apart. Instead, I suggest starting a new plant from cuttings, directly in the moss ball.

Pick the Right Plant

First, choose a plant adapted to your conditions. I’m not sure why your kokedama died the first time, but you don’t want that to happen again! Incorrect watering (again, I refer you to Kokedamas: Trendy but Hard to Keep Alive for info on how to water them by soaking, the only way you can really succeed with them) is the main cause and is easy enough to fix, but if your plant died because of incorrect lighting conditions or dry air, you’d need to find a tougher plant.

If you have full sun, succulents cuttings would be a good choice to insert into a kokedama. Photo: nunoandgreendotcom.wordpress.com

Most houseplants that produce stems can be grown from stem cuttings. Might I suggest a small houseplant of your choice adapted to your light conditions? Two kokedama subjects most people find easy are heart leaf philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum) and pothos (Epipremnum aureum). And if the air in your home is very dry, you might need to choose a succulent. 

Rooting Cuttings in a Dead Kokedama

First, cut off the dead plant at its base. There is really little use trying to dig it out. 

Give the moss ball a thorough soaking. Ill.: laidbackgardener.com

Now, soak the moss ball thoroughly and let it drain. 

Prepare the cuttings by harvesting a few healthy stems about 3 to 6 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) long and removing the lower leaves. I’d suggest taking three cuttings: this will give you backup in case they don’t all root.

Make a few holes in the moss ball with a pencil and insert the cuttings. Ill.: laidbackgardener.net & clipart-library.com

Now, punch two or three holes into the kokedama about 1.5 inch (3.75 cm) deep. You could use a pencil for that. Slip one cutting in each hole and push down a bit on the moss at its base so it is held solidly in a place. 

Keep the cuttings under high humidity for a few weeks. Ill.: LH & clipart-library.com

Keep the newly started kokedama moist during rooting. Unless you’ve chosen to root a succulent (they are fine in the open air), it’s probably best to place the entire kokedama under a clear plastic dome or inside a clear plastic bag as rooting is going on. This will ensure high air humidity, ideal for rooting.

When you see new growth, the cuttings will be rooted. This can take from a few weeks to a few months. You can then remove the kokedama from its “mini-greenhouse” and adapt it to your growing conditions. 

Cuttings of succulents are an exception to the rule that cuttings root best under plastic. They don’t need high humidity to root and, in fact, do best when their kokedama remains a bit dry, so just leave them in the open air to root. 

Note that, depending on the plant you chose, you may need to pinch it (remove its growing tip) every now and then to get a fuller appearance, since pinching promotes branching.


Best of luck in “renewing” your kokedama!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

2 comments on “Replanting a Kokedama

  1. Fads are SO lame! These things are fine for those who will take care of them, but like you say, there are likely more dead ones than live ones. Those that are suspended by stakes that English ivy can climb up to from a pot are much easier, but even these dry out easily. The succulents would be easier than ivy to keep alive. If groomed occasionally, and sometimes replaced or ‘re-tucked’, they could last a good long time. Many plants that are naturally epiphytic might seem like they would work well, but most tend to grow out on one side and become awkward. Stakhorn ferns will do this very nicely however. They can start out in a hanging pot, and then be allowed to consume the pot.

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