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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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!