Moss Factory

Companion Plants for Office and Home

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What's a moss ball?

Moss balls, or koke dama, are a popular form of house plant or gift plant in Japan. They most likely developed as a variation of the kusamono or grass plantings which are an esteemed art form in their own right as well as often being displayed with bonsai, art objects or viewing stones.

Moss balls consist of a plant or plants growing in a small amount of planting medium which is spherical in shape and is covered with living moss.

Depending on the type of plant in the sphere, mossballs can live indoors or out. I've experimented with many varieties of house and shade plants - begonias, ferns, azaleas, grasses, ficus, maranta, and many more.

Plants thrive in the combination of moist soil and perfect drainage provided by the moss ball.

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How do I make a moss ball ?

Although everyone seems to make them slightly differently, the principle is the same.

You need some finely textured commercial potting soil, synthetic sewing thread, and the plant(s) you want to live in the moss ball as well as some fine-textured living moss (see moss-growing page for info). It's ok if you don't have enough moss to cover the whole ball right away.

Remove any sticks, large chunks of bark, or stones from the potting soil. In a bucket or similar container, mix some potting soil with water to make a very wet slurry.

Choose a plant or plants to live in your moss ball. Remove them from their pots and remove excess soil and roots. Gathering the plant's rootballs together, wrap the roots gently a few times around with the thread, then gradually form a sphere of wet potting soil around the entire root mass, shaping it into a firm ball and continuing to wrap with thread as you go to hold it together.

When your ball is firmly wrapped and seems stable, add some pieces of live moss and wrap them onto the surface. If you only have a little bit of moss, don't worry, it will grow to cover the ball.

It sounds simple but it does take some practice and it does make a mess!

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plypodiium formosanum, "Caterpillar Fern"

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