How to Create a Japanese String Garden

Learn the Japanese art of kokedama and introduce a new form of gardening to your indoor or outdoor space.
DIY String Gardens

DIY String Gardens

Photo by: Photo by Melissa Caughey

Photo by Melissa Caughey

A wide variety of plants can be used in string gardens.

Kokedama is a Japanese form of art. It dates back hundreds of years and is based on bonsai gardening. It began when one bonsai artist removed a bonsai plant from its growing vessel. The roots were wrapped very tightly around the plant, so that there was no need for a planter. Therefore, the artist left the plant out of its pot. Eventually moss began to grow on the plant's root ball and kokedama was born. Originally, kokedama artists let nature take its course and did not speed up the process by using moss and twine to achieve this look without pots as some do today. 

Often kokedama are hung and clustered together, creating a string garden. Many varieties of plants can be used to create kokedama. These string gardens can be hung inside or outside. Ferns, blooming bulbs, perennials, houseplant, orchids and annuals all can adapt to living in these moss covered balls. I first discovered kokedama when I attended the Boston Flower Show and was enamored with this new type of planting and knew that I had to try it myself.

For my kokedama, I selected a maidenhair fern, verbena and the house plant peperomia. I had a blanket of moss in a shady portion of my garden that would work perfectly around the root base. You can also use clumped moss that you find at the craft store. The types of strings can also vary. I stuck with the tried and traditional garden twine. I love the rustic look and I didn't want to detract from the beauty of the plants but I have seen them wrapped with colored twine, yarn and cording.

Make a Bunch

Make a Bunch

Photo by: Photo by Melissa Caughey

Photo by Melissa Caughey

Try making a few and hanging them in a cluster for a living piece of art.

I decided to attempt this craft outside as it can get messy.  It was really a fun project and I picked up a couple of tips to share with you. When you mix the bonsai soil and the potting soil together add the water slowly. Mix it up until you have very moist but workable soil. The soil should hold a ball shape when you let go and put it down. If your mixture is too wet, just add a bit more soil and go from there. Also add the moss to the soil ball as you wrap the twine. 

I hung this string garden on the side of my garage where the garden gate greets visitors to the backyard. The possibilities are endless. Try hanging them in a tree, under the picnic table umbrella and even on shepherd's crooks that bird feeders are not currently occupying.  Inside they look lovely hanging from the center of a curtain rod or over a kitchen sink.

The kokedama will dry out more rapidly than potted plants. Therefore a good soaking of the root ball is required one to two times per week depending on your temperatures and humidity. To water, simply submerge the entire moss covered ball in water for at least 5 minutes. Then let it drip dry. Here's what you will need to get started on making your own string garden:

Supply List:

  • Assorted plants
  • Potting soil
  • Bonsai soil
  • Gardening gloves
  • Mixing vessel
  • Water
  • Garden twine
  • Moss
  • Scissors

String Garden How-To

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DIY String Gardens

Photo By: Photo by Melissa Caughey

Gather Your Supplies

Photo By: Photo by Melissa Caughey

Mix it Up

Photo By: Photo by Melissa Caughey

Loosen Up

Photo By: Photo by Melissa Caughey

Take a Bath

Photo By: Photo by Melissa Caughey

Make a Ball

Photo By: Photo by Melissa Caughey

Add a Plant

Photo By: Photo by Melissa Caughey

Add Moss

Photo By: Photo by Melissa Caughey

Hang it Up

Photo By: Photo by Melissa Caughey

Soak in Water

Photo By: Photo by Melissa Caughey

Endless Possibilities

Photo By: Photo by Melissa Caughey

Kokedama Shortcut

Photo By: Photo by Melissa Caughey

Make a Bunch

Photo By: Photo by Melissa Caughey

Now take a peek at the photo gallery and its captions below for all the step-by-step directions.

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