Best Soil For Bonsai – While many plants prefer a dense, rich organic soil, bonsai require a mix of high-quality soil and gravel to allow water to work best, draining without rotting the roots.
I do most of my bonsai gardening in containers, both indoors and outdoors, rather than in the ground.
Best Soil For Bonsai
Over the years I have done a lot of research on the best types of soil for bonsai container gardens, tried many methods and found that some work better than others.
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In fact, I’ve learned that while not watering your bonsai tree properly is the number one cause of bonsai death (learn how to do it right here), having the right soil is a more important factor than people realize.
The best soil for potted bonsai can hold enough water to allow them to absorb the water they need, but still dry out quickly to prevent the roots from rotting.
Constantly being in wet soil can cause the roots to rot, as they absorb too much water – eventually, the cells of the roots and leaves fall apart and the plant dies.
Many environmental factors can cause soil to dry out, so different types of soil work best for different growing areas.
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The region you live in and where you plant your bonsai tree will determine what type of soil your bonsai needs.
As mentioned, I grow a lot of bonsai at home. Due to the poor air circulation around indoor potted plants, I have found that using the correct soil is essential to the health of indoor bonsai.
I strongly recommend using a larger size soil, about 1/4 inch or 6mm. I have learned all there is to know about particle size and its role in well drained soils by reading various forums.
The article provides a recipe for soil ideal for indoor bonsai. I used to make my own soil (since there was no pre-soil). The recipe combines:
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Bonsai can grow in different soils, but I want to explain why this soil works and why you should use it.
Pine bark provides organic elements and holds moisture, but has air pockets for ventilation. As a bonus, it takes a long time to destroy. The surface absorbs part of the water and slowly releases it.
Crushed granite allows water to flow between all the particles in the cast iron. Since the mixture is very porous, the water will flow out easily. Plus, there’s plenty of air, which means the roots won’t get stuck in wet soil or pool water like they would with traditional potting soil.
However, the important part of the recipe is to make sure all the pellets are about 1/4 inch in size. Sifting through gallons of soil to get the same size particles is a lot of work!
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Mixing the soil yourself according to this recipe takes a lot of time and is quite difficult. But you are in luck! You can now purchase a ready-to-use bag of this soil from Bonsai Jack.
He is a soil expert and this mix is especially amazing for bonsai trees.
The particle size and consistency of Bonsai Jack mix is ideal for indoor bonsai. For example, while Surface is normally only available in 1/8 inch pellets, Jack managed to source a 1/4 inch size specifically for this mix.
I highly recommend this bonsai jack soil for your indoor bonsai trees. Especially if you tend to overwater, this soil will help your bonsai thrive!
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But if you don’t want to buy this “sand mix” online, you can also make it yourself. You should be able to find the ingredients at most nurseries.
You can also find Turface at most auto parts stores as a product called “Oil-dri” that mechanics use to clean up oil spills.
If you do not have access to these ingredients, you can substitute them with other ingredients. Remember that the ratio of inorganic to organic material must remain constant.
For example, if you are using a different type of bark, make sure you also mix in another type of rock (such as pumice). As I mentioned above, it is very important to ensure that the particle size is always around 1/4 inch or 6 mm.
Bonsai Tree Soil
On the other hand, if you grow potted trees outdoors, bonsai potting soil may or may not work for you.
Most of my bonsai experience is in Queensland where the weather is often very dry and hot in the summer, I have found that using the Bonsai Jack combination works quite well outdoors, however I need to water the bonsai more often, a hot summer day, this can be through day
I’m not very good at remembering to drink water, so this mix is too serious for me. Instead, I use a mixture of coconut husks and pumice (or surface or crushed granite, whichever is most readily available).
I don’t use coir indoors as I find it doesn’t dry fast enough for most of my bonsai. However, it is ideal for outdoor activities in warm, dry climates.
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The added pumice is also lightweight, allowing the soil to drain faster without drying out too quickly.
If you can’t find any of the soil ingredients listed in the recipes above, your next best bet is to buy a bag of Bonsai Micro Tree Mix from your local Bunnings, Home Hardware or Miter 10 store.
This soil is ideal for bonsai. However, it doesn’t drain very well and tends to repel water when completely dry. I highly recommend adding rock materials such as pumice, crushed granite, or even perlite.
As I said at the beginning, the right soil for your bonsai tree depends on your climate and where you grow the plant.
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On the other hand, if you find that your bonsai is dying frequently and you can’t figure out what the problem is, soil is a good place to start.
While changing the soil mix may not solve all problems, your bonsai will be happier in soil that drains well and has plenty of air around the roots.
Once you bring your new bonsai home, transplant it into new soil as soon as possible, removing most of the soil from the container. Many common bonsai problems are caused by storing bonsai in the original store/nursery purchased soil.
Soil from the store presents two main problems. First, locally purchased bonsai trees are usually root bound (meaning the roots take up most of the pot). If you simply remove the bonsai and plant it in a new pot, the roots will have a hard time spreading.
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Second, the soil used for most bonsai trees sold in nurseries is not designed for long-term growth. Or at least not anywhere but the greenhouse for a while.
This is because large nurseries and growers often use the same soil for all plants. They need a soil mix that works in most situations. If the bonsai are small, they need more water, so use a dense soil (such as regular potting soil) at this stage.
However, leaving the bonsai in this soil for too long can cause the bonsai to rot quickly or, in some cases, prevent it from getting the moisture it needs.
Peat moss is the main ingredient in most potting soils. When the moss is completely dry, it repels water.
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If you don’t let the water sit on the soil and seep through the peat, the bonsai will not receive water. The water just runs down the sides of the cast iron to the bottom.
Therefore, for the health of your bonsai, plant it as soon as possible after purchase. They will be very grateful for the healthy new soil and room for their roots to spread.
The conclusion of the soil you use for bonsai is just as important as the frequency of watering.
Take a moment to check the soil you are using for your bonsai tree to see if it needs to be changed. Bonsai may seem like just potted plants, but they are much more than that. The practice itself is more of an art that can take decades to perfect. Although not the most exciting aspect of bonsai growing, bonsai soil is an important element. What is bonsai soil made of? Like art itself, bonsai are very strict and very specific in their soil requirements. The following article contains bonsai soil information on how to make your own bonsai soil.
North American Collection — National Bonsai Foundation
Bonsai soil must meet three different criteria: it must hold water well, it must have drainage, and it must have aeration. The soil should hold enough moisture, but the water should drain immediately from the pot. The composition of the bonsai soil should be large enough to allow air pockets to provide oxygen to the roots and microorganisms.
Common bonsai soil ingredients are okadam, pumice stone, lava rock, organic potting compost, and fine gravel. The ideal bonsai soil should have a neutral pH, neither acidic nor alkaline. one
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