The art of bonsai makes a wonderful hobby. There’s nothing like taking a young seedling and turning it into a graceful and unique bonsai tree. Many species, from flowering tropical plants to hardy evergreens, make beautiful bonsai, but in order to cultivate a bonsai tree, you will need the right tools and supplies.
To keep your bonsai looking vibrant, both maintenance trimming and pruning are key. Full Japanese bonsai tool kits are available, but it can be less expensive to purchase the most basic tools individually. Here are bonsai tool kits you will need for routine bonsai upkeep:
Bonsai Tool Kits
- A pair of long-handled shears to trim branches.
- A pair of smaller scissors, often called bud scissors, to nip back new shoots, buds, leaves, and smaller branches.
- Concave cutters for branches. These cutters are designed to leave a small wound in the bark that heals smoothly without a scar.
- Copper wire to train your tree’s limbs during the shaping process.
- A pair of pliers to bend and then cut the training wire.
- A root rake or root-pick to help untangle roots when you re-pot your bonsai.
Almost as important as the tree itself is the pot you select for your bonsai. The practice of growing and shaping a tree in a container began centuries ago in China; the word bonsai literally means “plant in a pot.” The Chinese and Japanese often grew their bonsai in handcrafted, ornamental porcelain pots. Many people today still use porcelain containers, but most bonsai enthusiasts use unglazed or glazed stoneware pots. Your pot’s color, shape, and texture should complement the tree. Once you have picked out your bonsai, find a pot that matches. Generally speaking, evergreen trees are placed in unglazed, earth-tone pots, while trees or plants with colorful leaves or flowers are placed in either glazed or unglazed pots in a color that highlights the tree’s foliage. The size of the pot should be deep enough to accommodate the tree; this is especially important if your tree is a cascade-style bonsai with branches that dip below the edge of the pot. Drainage holes at the bottom are a necessity, no matter what kind of pot you choose.
You’ll also need a good soil mix because your bonsai tree will need to be re-potted when its roots outgrow the pot. Bonsai need to be repotted every one to five years, depending on the species. The soil should retain moisture while allowing good drainage and aeration so that oxygen can get to the roots. There are two types of soil mixes available to bonsai growers: organic mixes made with peat or bark and inorganic mixes made from volcanic lava or clay and containing little or no organic material. Most serious bonsai hobbyists prefer inorganic soil, in particular akadama, a Japanese baked clay, because it retains water well and doesn’t break down over time in the pot. You can find akadama and other inorganic soil at the nursery or garden store. Some gardeners use a mix of both organic and inorganic soil types.