How To Choose The Right Bonsai Pot - Bonsai-En

How To Choose The Right Bonsai Pot

When it comes to Bonsai Pot purchases it can really be up to the person buying the pot to decide if that is the right pot for them and their tree, After all Bonsai is an art and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But if you are new to the art and want a bit of help selecting the right bonsai pot for your tree then there are some basic guidelines we can follow which will give you great results every time.

So lets jump in and take a look at how we make these decisions when we buy a bonsai pot.
We will break this article up into a few sections
  1. Quality
  2. Shape
  3. Size
  4. Colour
So lets take a look at section 1.

What Is A Good Quality Bonsai Pot?

There are a lot of different quality pots out there on the market and this can be a difficult road to navigate when purchasing a bonsai pot. Much like our tool discussion there are poor quality pots made from poor quality clays and are made in a mass production environment. These pots are very cheap and affordable but are also very wonky, have many defects and are prone to breaking in colder environments. The reason they break is because when the clay is moulded they don’t work out all the air bubbles, this causes water to make its way into those openings. If your environment gets cold enough that water can freeze outside and your pot is full of air pockets that are full of water then that water will freeze, expand and break the pot. You can usually avoid this how ever by burying your pot up to the lip in mulch to keep the pot from freezing. This is probably the biggest problem with the cheaper pots, but it isn’t a massive loss because they don’t cost a lot too begin with, Here at Bonsai-En in our store a 6” pot of this quality will run you about $8.99. The obvious up side to these pots in that you can get many of them for much less money and you can have some sitting around for when you need to re pot your trees.
There are some other pots that are made in a mass production environment that are a higher quality and use much nicer clays, obviously these pots will be more expensive then the pots mentioned above but they will be a lot less un stable, they will be less prone to breaking and the glazes will also be much nicer and much more vibrant. This is some what of a sweet spot for most people between quality and price.
Lastly there are hand made pots by ceramicists. The prices on these will vary and there is no real set price structure. But with these pots you will always end up with something that is much much higher quality, and more unique because 9/10 the pot you have will be the only one that was made like that.
Now lets take a look at section 2.

What Are The Different Bonsai Pot Shapes?

There are a few common shapes when it comes to bonsai pots so we will take a look at those and the types of tree that will suit them more. Please keep in mind these aren’t  rules but what usually looks best.
Rectangle : Rectangle Bonsai Pots are suited to much more masculine trees typically. Especially if the pot has sharp lines and edges, You would expect to see a tree like a pine or juniper with corked bark and exaggerated lines in the tree. This is also suited to trees that have more of the “ Stocky “ appearance with a short fat trunk. Although you can get some rectangle pots that have much more gentle lines and curves to them, generally these pots will be shallower and will be glazed which would suit some of your deciduous species that have that same kind of style we spoke about above with the short thicker trunk. The styles utilized are generally informal up right, formal upright and slanting.
Oval : Typically your oval pot is suited to more of your smoother barked trees with gentle lines, Oval is usually a good choice for most broadleaf evergreen trees. Most of the time you will see more oval pots with glazes and less oval pots with an un glazed finish, In saying that though there are some very nice un glazed oval pots out there on the market. The styles utilized are generally informal up right, formal upright and slanting.
Circle : When it comes to circle pots this is generally best suited to literati trees. Now this is not a hard and fast rule but its difficult to give a tree what it needs from a pot if it is a formal upright or in formal up right in a circle pot. Usually with a circle pot you want the apex to land either right on the rim of the pot or to the outside of the pot which is why literati makes a great choice for a round pot.
Deep Square & Hexagonal : I’m putting these 2 together because generally we use the same style of tree for both, That style is Semi-Cascade. Given that most square and hexagonal pots are fairly deep this allows us room to have the tail fall into the space between the bottom of the pot and the rim of the pot. You can get these pots in smaller sizes like mame size but you will always notice that the depth will allow for semi-cascade styles.
Cascade : These pots are made for 1 style of tree, yep you guessed it, Cascade!. These pots are mostly square in shape but are about 2/3s taller then they are wide. This allows you to grow a nice big long cascading tail which will run down the front face of the pot. If we tried this in a regular sized bonsai pot we wouldn’t be growing the tail for long before it hit the table we are growing it on or the ground.
Free Form : Free form pots are not any particular shape but are more of a free and artistic vision of the ceramicist who made it. Free form pots can be very unique and a lot of the times can represent a rugged environment which is why you will usually see conifers planted in a free form pot, but once again this is not a rule but rather a general practice.
With the basic shapes out of the way lets look at section 3.

What Size Bonsai Pot Do I Need?

Size can play an important role in how your Bonsai Looks aesthetically and how it grows horticulturally. If you plant a small tree in a large pot this can dwarf the tree even further taking away any power the tree might have had, if the pot is too small this can make the tree look unstable and also affect the health of the tree. We want to get an even balance between having enough room for a healthy root ball ( each species will require a different size root ball ) And not too much room that will cause a tree in refinement to grow to vigorously which will quickly ruin any branch structure we might have created or prevent you from getting the fine ramification you desire. The height of the tree can also determine how deep a pot should be, the short and fatter the tree the deeper the pot should be, the taller and slender the tree is the shallower you can go. This all just comes down to proportions so always consider the horticultural requirements of your tree before the aesthetics. But you can almost always find that sweet spot for both.
Now our last section 4.

What Colour Bonsai Pot Do I Need?

When we talk about colours in Bonsai Pots we normally hear of Glazed Bonsai Pots and Unglazed Bonsai Pots which breaks the colours up into 2 sub sections of colours. Unglazed is more neutral earth tone colours and glazed pots are usually more vibrant colours. Unglazed bonsai pots are suited to mainly conifers for the most part as they give a more masculine look and suit the bark colours of conifers a lot more. The glazed bonsai pots on the other hand usually suit deciduous trees and evergreen trees. We try to match the colour of the pot to a specific feature on the tree, this might be spring foliage colour, autumn foliage colour, fruit colours or flower colours. This all depends on when you think the optimal time to display your tree is and what the feature is you are trying to highlight. To choose the right colour take the colour of the feature you are trying to highlight and look for its complimentary colour. You can look this up online.
I hope this guide on how to buy bonsai pots has helped you understand a little more some of the decisions we make when choosing the right pot for our trees.
Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Bonsai Journey.

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Author : Joshua Hooson

Joshua Hooson is an author and enthusiast of the art of bonsai. He has built his knowledge and understanding of bonsai through a combination of self-experience, lessons learned through hands-on practice, and extensive research. His articles reflect his passion for the subject and offer insights gained through his own personal journey in the world of bonsai. All the information provided in his works is a result of his own experiences and the knowledge he has gained through his studies. He is dedicated to sharing his love of bonsai and helping others grow in their understanding and appreciation of this ancient and beautiful art form.

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