The original Kokedama came from a form of bonsai called the Nerai Form. This form of bonsai was grown in a spherical ceramic container, instead of the more popular flat dish. At some point it was discovered that when the ceramic sphere was removed (for root maintenance) the roots had often formed a dense sphere themselves. Eventually it was discovered that the roots themselves served as an adequate container for the bonsai and so they were left as is. This style became more common, to have naked spherical Bonsai trees amongst a collection.
Over time these root sphere bonsai tress were colonised with moss spores which covered the outside of the sphere. This was discovered to be incredibly aesthetically pleasing and appealed to the Wabi Sabi philosophy of Bonsai enthusiasts. The process by which the Bonsai had become a moss covered ball was quite long,spanning over a decode normally.
In order to fulfil a new demand for this new and beautiful form, Bonsai artists started to explore ways to speed up the process. It was discovered that with the addition of clay to the Bonsai soil, a mixture could be made which was malleable and sturdy enough to hold a spherical form whilst providing some nutrients to the tree. Sphagnum moss was used a growing medium directly around the roots. The clay/soil exterior was kept damp and exposed to moss spores which would colonise the ball and cover it in a dense blanket of lush green. This was kept lush with daily misting.
There were many different forms of Kokedama, but the form made by the Bonsai artists is now what is commonly referred to when speaking of Kokedama. But really, any plant or tree encased in a ball, which has moss as part of it, is a Kokedama.
Here at Pickled Whimsy we have experimented with many different techniques of making a spherical self contained plant form which would suit the current demand. We have found that since beginning almost 4 years ago, the most suitable form is to have a soil mix around the roots, with a thick layer of sphagnum moss tied around that. This form requires no "bonsai" maintenance as such by the new owner. The roots are free to travel where they please and will naturally want to stay inside the ball where there is moisture. Due to the disinclination of the roots to spread, the plant will often become a miniature version of it's wild self. Completely healthy, just smaller to reflect the size of the root ball.
Almost any plant can be prepared this way, but care must be taken to provide the correct environment for the roots, and also the leaves. So if a shade loving moisture hungry plant such as a fern is used, the kokedama must be made with a moisture rich soil mix and kept in a low light environment subsequently. Often times the leaves will require misting to keep the plant happy. Conversely, if a desert type plant such as a succulent,cactus or desert grass is used, a very porous soil mix must be used to make the kokedama and it must then be kept in bright light and allowed to dry out completely between watering.