Updated: Nov 21, 2021
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 pot but rather equip you with the knowledge to help you make that choice for yourself.
Types of pots
In Bonsai there are many variations of pots so lets begin by listing some of the different common 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.
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 are 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 slender elegantly moving trunk with all the foliage in the top 3rd of the tree and an apex that sits outside the pot boundaries then you wouldn't put that in a rectangle or oval pot. that would be much more suited to a round pot. Trees like Formal or Informal up rights that are thicker and more masculine, 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. There are many other factors that could change a pot choice but for simplicity sake we wont go too deep.
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. In traditional standards most conifers will go in Unglazed pots and the shade of the clay will come down to the masculinity of the tree. the more masculine the darker the clay. As for broadleaf, fruiting and flowering and Deciduous trees glazed pots are commonly used, The colour can be decided by a few factors. Usually we want to choose complimentary colours which you can find opposite of the colour you want to compliment on the colour wheel. for Deciduous material we need to decide when we are most likely to show that tree as the srping colours may vary from summer colours and summer colours may vary from autumn colours, in the winter there is no colour at all so choosing the colour can be a task of finding out when you want the tree to best suit the pot and what its leaf colour will be.
Trays or suibans are generally used for things like landscape plantings 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 Deciduous trees or anything with a thinner trunk and more delicate and spare branch's 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 where the apex falls outside of the pots boundaries 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 shine 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.
If you want to further your education consider out online bonsai courses at : www.TheBonsaiDojo.com