how to choose the right bonsai soil

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how to choose the right bonsai soil

The bonsai plant is dependent on a small volume of soil in the pot, where it receives the right amount of water and nutrients. Unlike in natural conditions, where the roots can search literally forever for more nutrients to grow into a massive centuries-old tree, a potted bonsai plant in an equally tiny bonsai pot has limited resources to pull from in the soil.

As you can imagine, it is important that you select the best type of bonsai soil for your plant. That’s what I’ll do in this post.

I’ll go through the basic elements of a good bonsai soil mixture, how the bonsai root system works, and the best bonsai soils for your lifelong hobby. I’ll also give my own recipe for a diy bonsai soil mixture (DO NOT use normal soil) so that you can make like a true bonsai grower and adjust your bonsai mix according to your plant needs.

As they say, let’s dig in.

jump ahead

    what soil is best for bonsai trees

    The soil quality of your bonsai mix has a direct effect on the tree’s health and vigor, and it is essential that you consider several qualities in a good soil mix for bonsai trees.

    • water retention. The soil should provide excellent water retention that can supply moisture to the plant between each watering session.
    • good drainage. It is also ideal that the soil offers good drainage, which means excess water should drain easily from the pot. Soil that lacks proper drainage tends to be overtly water retentive, liable to salt buildups, and lacks aeration. This can also lead to dreaded root rot.
    • good aeration. Bonsai roots need space to breathe, literally. The air pockets that form in between hard, chunky materials, like pumice and lava rock, allow organic material to break down and efficiently pass nutrients onto the bonsai roots.

    With these qualities in mind, you should opt for a well-structured and inorganic particle-based bonsai soil.

    With these qualities in mind, you should opt for a well-structured and inorganic particle-based bonsai soil.

    The bonsai grower Reddit community has a lot of thoughts on what kind of soil mixture is best for growing bonsai. What you’ll notice is that it’s always some mixture of pumice, clay, coarse soil, Akadama, lava rocks, and some organic compounds. 

    how to make bonsai soil

    Any tree may be shaped and styled to become a bonsai tree. Typically, indoor bonsai trees are of tropical origins such as the Cape Honeysuckle, Hibiscus and Ginseng Ficus, and Gardenia bonsai. They can grow well even when placed indoors, as long as they are given the right amount of sunlight and water. On the other hand, other species thrive better outdoors because that is where they are originally grown.

    Generally, there are two main types of bonsai trees: coniferous trees and deciduous trees. These types of bonsai trees respond and thrive well when you use the right bonsai soil mix for them.

    Deciduous trees are best planted in soil that is 90 percent akadama (or mixed with peat soil) and 10 percent kanuma, while coniferous trees grow well in 70 percent akadama and 30 percent kanuma.

    Deciduous bonsai trees include the Crape Myrtle, Pomegranate, Chinese Elm, and Japanese Maple. The best soil mix for these trees is 60 percent akadama, 30 percent peat soil, and 10 percent kanuma. However, you may decide to change these soil mixtures depending on what works best on your trees.

    If you prefer to cultivate coniferous trees, excellent choices include the Juniper, Cedar, and Black Pine, to name a few. In fact, there is a wide variety of bonsai trees that you can grow. Just make sure you select the suitable soil mix to ensure the health and remarkable appearance of your bonsai trees. 

    Conifers prefer higher blends of the Akadama soil, so you may need to use 70 percent Akadama and 30 percent peat soil. Another option for the soil mix is 50 percent Akadama, 30 percent peat, and 20 percent Kanuma soil.

    soil mix

    adjusting the soil mix

    If you notice that the original soil mix you have prepared tends to dry up easily, you may increase the number of akadama while reducing the percentage of other soil types. After all, good drainage of water is very essential for the growth and health of your tree. In case water fails to drain easily, you may use haydite or sandy soil for better drainage. While it may take quite some time before you can obtain the perfect soil mix for your plant, you will soon realize that your perseverance is worth it.

    where to buy bonsai soil

    Whether you have coniferous trees or deciduous trees, you’ll want a good bonsai mix that provides lots of drainages, aeration, nutrient delivery, and water retention.

    I know, a mix that does it all.

    I like to make a bonsai soil mix made up of a few different types of bonsai soil mixture. Some include more organic matter than others, so I find this to be a winning combo:

    This is the best option since it ensures good nutrient delivery, proper water drainage and adequate aeration.

    should you use potting soil?

    Beginners choose to use ordinary potting soil as they try to grow their first bonsai tree. While this may be acceptable, experts do not recommend this practice since bonsai trees prefer the right texture of soil mix for their species. Furthermore, bonsai soil mix drains better and requires less amount of fertilizer than your regular potting soil. Although your bonsai tree may survive in normal soil, it is impossible for it to thrive and flourish. You may only end up being disappointed when you notice your bonsai plant lacking vigor and shape in spite of the amount of time and energy you exert in growing and caring for it. So, if you are dedicated to making your bonsai tree look its best, you should start by choosing the suitable type of soil mix for it.

    bottom line

    The appropriate soil is one of the most important elements to consider in caring for your bonsai. Primarily, soil mix for bonsai serves key purposes such as by maintaining a secure base for your tree, holding the right amount of water and air to help it grow healthier, and providing essential nutrients for its roots to absorb. By keeping in mind these guidelines in choosing the best soil mix, you can come up with the right mixture of soil for your bonsai tree.

    more about soil

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