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A Guide to Choosing a Pot For Your Bonsai Tree


Oval Unglazed pot with cloud feet and belt with an outward projecting rim



When we are learning about Bonsai we often get so wrapped up in learning the horticulture of the trees and learning how to the style them we often forget a big part of the art of Bonsai. The Bonsai Pot. Bonsai is a tango and it is a perfect balance between plant and pot, so if you don't know how to choose the right pot for your tree this balance can be disturbed.


This article is not going to tell you what tree to put in what put but rather equip you with the knowledge to help you make that choice for your self.


Types of pots


In Bonsai there are many variations of pots so lets begin by listing some of the different variations you may see or may not know of so you can look them up.


Shapes - Rectangle , Oval , Round , Square Hexagonal and Free Form.


Depths - Deep , Medium , Shallow , Tray .


Corners - Cut Out ( Sumi-Kiri ) , Inward Projection ( Sumi-Iri ) , Rounded ( Nade-Kaku )


Rims - Outward Projection ( Soto-En ) , Inward Projection ( Uchi-En ) , Straight Up ( Kittate )


Design - Pictured ( E-Iri ) , Bulging ( Fukuro-Shiki ) , Rivet Headed ( Taiko-Doh ) , Belted ( Doh-Himo ) , Framed ( Gaku-Iri ) , Coloured Glazed , Un-Glazed , Dark Clay


Feet - Cloud Pattern ( Kumo -Ashi ) , Straight Cut , ( Kiri-Ashi ) , Tripod ( Kanae-Ashi ) , Stepped ( Dan-Ashi )


Size: This is generally measured from rim to rim and presented for example as 8" Pot.

You may get some stores that will give you a measurement of Height x Width x Length in either Cm or mm


Now that we have listed all the types of designs and features you may see on pots how do we implement these in our own trees?


Choosing a Bonsai Pot


One of the first things you will need to consider is the size of the root mass on your tree and how far you can trim it back before the tree begins to suffer from it. this will help you choose a Depth for your pot. Obviously if your tree needs a fairly large root mass you wont be planting it in a shallow pot or on a tray. So when choosing your pot do some research on how much of your trees root mass you can take off and see how much of the root ball you a left with and get a container that is deep enough to house the roots comfortably.


The next thing to consider is the style of your tree. For example if you have a literati style of tree meaning you have a fairly straight up trunk with all the foliage in the top 3rd of the tree then you wouldn't put that in a rectangle or oval pot. that would be much more suited to a round pot. Trees like informal up rights, Or any other style with lower more evenly spreading branches are more suited to rectangle or oval pots, Semi cascade Trees are more suited to Square or Hexagonal, and Cascade Trees suit Square or Hexagonal pots. You can also Plant trees in free form pots but it would be up to you to decide if the tree suits the pot or not.


You also want to consider the colour. This is a hard one to try and give a guideline on because it really comes down to the tree if it suits a lighter or darker colour, or if it suits a pot with art work on it. For the most part deciduous trees look nice in glazed pots and conifers and pines suit un glazed darker clay pots. But once again this will be up too you to decide if the pots is taking away from the tree too much, remember it is a balance. if you have a fairly simple tree then you can let the pot be a little more dramatic, but if the tree has a lot going on your want the pot to be fairly under stated.


Tray pots are generally used for things like landscape plating or if you have a planting on a rock or a root over rock tree then trays look nice for this. Deeper trays are also perfect for forest planting where you have 5 or more trees.


Here is a rough Guideline though to follow if you cant make a choice for your tree


Deeper Rectangular and Oval Pots or anything with a strong rim line;

These are good for most Conifers and Azaleas or any tree that has a Thick Powerful trunk.


Shallower Rectangular and Oval Pots or anything with an unobtrusive rim line;

These are good for Decidous tree or anything with a thinner trunk and more delicate and spare branchs and foliage


Deeper Round Pots;

These are good for trees with thicker irregular shaped Trunks


Shallower Round Pots;

These are Good for Literati style trees with the foliage in the top 3rd of the tree and trees with smaller thinner trunks.


Deeper Square Pots;

These are good for Semi Cascade and cascade Trees.


As for the colouring and design this is up too you but as mentioned earlier there are general guides to what looks better with different kinds of trees.



I hope this has helped shiine a little more light on different pot choices and helps you make a better choice when potting up your next Bonsai Tree.


Until next time enjoy your bonsai Journey.



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