Making a kokedama with cat litter

When I visited Japan last year there was one particular item I loved, but could not easily take home with me, and that was a kokedama. It’s basically a plant encased in a ball of soil wrapped together with moss and string; it makes for nice little bundle of greenery and it turns out it’s not too hard to make.

I looked at several places online for instructions on how to make a kokedama, but nearly all of them require akadama, a clay-like soil that is difficult to find in Edmonton and expensive to buy online. From what I could gather, akadama is needed for its ability to hold the kokedama’s shape and to store nutrients/water for the plant. Since I planned on using hardy plants, I wasn’t too concerned about how the nutrients and water would be stored. However, I still needed a way for the soil to hold its form. That’s when I stumbled across a forum discussing the use of clay cat litter in the place of akadama. Since I have a cat and plenty of litter, I decided to try it out.

- 9 parts indoor plant soil
- 1 part clay cat litter – I used Dr. Elsey’s Ultra Precious Cat Litter (Found at most pet stores)
- 2 parts water
- bucket to mix your soil concoction
- scissors
- gloves
- sheet moss – I found mine at a garden center, you can also find them at many craft stores.
- small plants – I chose a young curly spider plant, a craw craw vine and a peperomia sp.
- thread – Black thread ends up blending nicely into the moss.
- small bowl or plate to use as a planter

Step 1: Mix the soil, litter and water thoroughly. I let the mixture sit for 10 minutes, allowing the cat litter to absorb the water.

Step 2: Roll a clump of the soil into a nicely packed ball. I found that the cat litter did a pretty great job of holding everything together. If you have a specific bowl or plate you’d like to eventually place this kokedama in, make sure the ball of soil is about half an inch smaller (the moss can add quite a bit to the diameter). If your ball keeps breaking apart, add a bit more water until it holds its shape.

Tip: Start out with a smaller kokedama, they’re much easier to make. I made a larger one that was 7 inches in diameter and it was trickier to keep together, although it still worked out in the end.

Step 3: Poke a hole in your ball of soil. It should be able to hold its form.

Step 4: Take your plant and remove the dirt from its roots. Put the plant into the hole you’ve made in the ball. Gently pack the soil around its roots so that your plant is securely placed within.

Tip: I used a baby spider plant that I’d been growing in water and that’s why the roots are so clean. Your plant doesn’t need to be this free of dirt.

Step 5: Take your sheet moss and roughly cut out a piece large enough to wrap around your ball. It’s better to err on the side of making this too big rather than too small since you can always trim away the excess. Cut 4 wedges out of your moss like the photo above.

Tip: Wear a particulate mask or wrap a damp piece of cloth around your nose and mouth while dealing with the moss. Breathing in too much dust isn’t that great, especially if there are live spores or fungus in the moss sheets. Spraying it with some water can help reduce dust and make the sheet more malleable to work with.

Step 6: Wrap your ball with the moss. Trim the moss wherever it’s too lumpy…unless you’re going for a lumpy kokedama!

Step 7: Taking your black thread, wrap it around the moss and tie a knot. Continue to circle your ball with the thread until you’ve got a nice spherical shape. If you have some lumps in your kokedama, just push them in gently until you’re happy with it.

Step 8: Place your kokedama in a shallow bowl, plate, or with nothing at all. Now You’re done! (The “bowls” I used above are actually the base part of flower pots, they’re ceramic and were only 99 cents at a garden center.)

Since the soil was quite moist from all of the water that had been mixed into it, I just misted the surface of the moss ball the same day I created them.  I’d read on various sites to mist your kokedama everyday if you have live moss or plan to revive a dried one. I’m too lazy to do this and I’m also not sure if my moss has been pasteurized or not; if it has, then I don’t think it will ever revive. Regardless, I’m perfectly happy with the way the moss currently looks, so I’m only going to be misting it once in a while. I’ll be making another post soon on how to maintain your kokedamas!

Here are some of the helpful sites I visited to learn how to make kokedamas: #1 | #2 | #3