Why Bonsai Soil Is Different?


Why Bonsai Soil Is Different

Bonsai soil is not your everyday garden or house plant soil. When one grows a bonsai plant, often a miniature tree, in a very small container or bonsai pots at Home Depot, it becomes critical that the soil the plant is growing in meets its needs for water and nutrition. Ordinary soils are generally not good for a bonsai plant’s health. Not only is it necessary to understand what goes into the makeup of basic bonsai soil, but one needs to take into account the type of plant involved, which can rapidly make things complex.

In general, there are two types of soil, organic potting compost bonsai soil, and inorganic bonsai soil. If you were to ask a room full of people (who knew little about caring for an indoor bonsai tree plant) which type of soil is best, chances are most would respond “Organic soil of course”.

That would seem to make sense, but in reality, is not really the case. Both types of bonsai soil have their pluses and minuses, but overall, inorganic soil appears to be the most advantageous and is usually the soil of choice for advanced bonsai hobbyists. There are two fundamental requirements a bonsai plant has.

It requires adequate nutrition, and it requires an adequate, but not excessive, amount of water. It is the water factor that tilts things towards inorganic soils as a better choice.

What is Bonsai Soil

Bonsai soil is a specialized type of soil that is designed to provide the ideal growing conditions for bonsai trees. Bonsai soil typically has a high level of porosity, which allows for good drainage and aeration and is also able to retain moisture and nutrients for the tree.

Bonsai soil can be made from a variety of materials, including sand, gravel, clay, and organic matter such as peat moss or compost. The specific composition of bonsai soil can vary depending on the type of tree being grown and the climate in which it is being grown.

Bonsai soil is an important factor in the health and growth of bonsai trees, and many bonsai enthusiasts spend a lot of time and effort developing the perfect soil mix for their trees.


Organic Bonsai Soils

Most bonsai plants require soil that will retain a certain amount of water but will at the same time allow an excess of water to drain away. This means the soil must have the proper structure, be light, and be full of air pockets as opposed to being heavy and compacted. The trick is to find the proper mix of materials that will yield light, structured, easily drained soil that still retains sufficient water for the plant’s needs. For many plants, peat moss is ideal.

However as far as bonsai is concerned, peat moss has a tendency to hold too much water once it is moistened, and insufficient water if it is allowed to dry out, without reaching a happy medium. Composted bark is considered to be about the best organic growing media one can find. A mix of bark, peat, sand, and perhaps one of two other materials may do, but getting things just right may be a challenge. Since different plants do best in different soils, there is no “best” bonsai regular soil.

Fired Clay And Diatomaceous Earth

Where inorganic soil shines lies in the fact that, if the right medium is chosen, it will not break down and will provide both water retention and adequate drainage over a long period of time. There are two important factors to take into account.

First, the medium must not break down easily, especially when exposed to moisture, and all the “fines”, or small particles, need to be removed so they won’t eventually clog up the open spaces or pores in the soil, causing its drainage capability to degrade.

A good choice is fired clay, which generally holds its structure well. Another good choice is the diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is made up of fossils of algae, and is readily obtainable, having many uses beyond that of potting soil.

Other choices include perlite and vermiculite. Whatever the choice, the fines have to be shaken out. If you purchase a box of perlite or vermiculite you may find a significant percentage of the contents consists of fines.

Cat Litter?

An alternative to the above inorganic materials, which can be expensive, especially if one is repotting larger bonsai plants on an annual basis, is cat litter. A little research may be needed here, but cat litter is enjoying fairly wide usage as bonsai regular soil.

One does need to purchase litter that consists of pellets made of either fired clay or diatomaceous earth. Many brands of cat litter contain both.

Avoid cat litter made from paper products. Paper-based products will tend to break down when they become moist and create a very unhealthy environment for the bonsai plant.


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Nutrition, A Secondary Factor

A few words should be added regarding nutrition. Most people, in the example given, would vote for organic soil, having nutrition in mind. A bonsai plant needs to be fed fairly frequently, and whether the soil is organic or inorganic really makes little difference. It’s really water retention and drainage that makes the case for using inorganic soils.

Bonsai Soil and Bonsai Soil Mix

Bonsai soil is always a dilemma for the bonsai beginner.  There are two methods in which bonsai soil is put in its place. First; you can buy the bonsai soil from the local nursery and place it there. The second option would be to collect the bonsai soil and place it there in a blended fashion. The soil needs to be suitable for the growth of the tree. Bonsai trees are placed in a container and the soil needs to be best suited for the vertical growth of the bonsai tree.

The soil must have quality ingredients in order for the plant to be healthy, sturdy, and long-lived. There are various opinions in the air with regard to the type of soil best suited for the bonsai tree. This is because everyone has their own way of doing the same. This is further discussed below.

Bonsai soils that are rich in the minerals and other ingredients that a plant needs make the best match for the bonsai tree. Soils that are condensed are not preferred for this purpose. This is because these soil types may lack certain essential ingredients that are needed for the growth of the bonsai tree. However, loose soil is used for this purpose as they are rich in minerals that act as a catalyst for plant growth.

Another opinion goes that the bonsai soil must be able to push away the excess water yet retain some portion of it. This is because moist soil is preferred over dry soil. These two priorities must be balanced and axed in order to get the best results for your efforts. The roots of the plant basically depend on the type of soil in which they reside. If the right conditions are not provided to the roots they may rot. The plant requires air to breathe and the soil needs to be aerated enough for the purpose.

However, there are different varieties of bonsai that have certain specific individual requirements. They may be different with respect to the watering requirements and the soil requirements. All this needs a bit of research before finally making the soil type decision.

For beginners, it is always recommended that you get the soil from the marketplace. This is because the soil in the market is already a mixture of the fine ingredients that are hormones of growth for the bonsai tree. The Bonsai soil mixtures are ready to use and have the essentials to stimulate the growth of the baby bonsai. This will be highly beneficial to beginners as well as the bonsai tree. This is a mutual agreement that has to be made.

But the crux of the matter is not that there is one right soil and one wrong. Neither are we saying that there is one perfect soil. But, we are recommending a soil mixture that has all the essential components that are required for a healthy bonsai tree.

Read More: Bonsai Soil vs. Potting Soil

Choosing The Right Kind Of Bonsai Soil

One of the most asked questions in Bonsai is whether Bonsai soil or normal soil should be used.


The increased popularity of growing Bonsai trees and bonsai tree care has brought with it many more specialist shops; the Internet is virtually awash with Bonsai supplies like (bonsai for sale on Amazon, Home Depot bonsai trees, and bonsai pots wholesale). Many beginners make the mistake of buying everything but the kitchen sink – everything they believe would make a Bonsai grow as it should.

However, there is a good chance you may not need it. If you decide to go with Bonsai soil, this is priced quite affordable at many specialty stores, and has the perfect formula of soil, with enough grit and nutrients added on to it that could make any Bonsai grow properly – but there are Bonsai purists so devoted to their craft that they wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.

As a beginner, it is important that you do what you can to make your first Bonsai as successful as possible Many people will throw in the towel after just one failure, and when you consider how long a Bonsai can take to reach maturity this really isn’t an overnight hobby. You must get into a regime of regular watering, annual potting, and plenty of care and attention in order to be able to enjoy a beautiful Bonsai for your troubles.

How Much Does Bonsai Soil Cost?

Bonsai soil shouldn’t cost you very much more than normal potting compost or bags of nutrient-rich soil that you use in your garden. The best kinds of Bonsai soil, though, have more than just soil in it – they can be mixed with clay or even tree bark.

These soils naturally would be a bit more expensive, but the extra cost would definitely be worth it, as some of the additional ingredients include those healthy nutrients your Bonsai tree would need to thrive that you can buy below with bonsai tree soil mix.

Regardless of whether you are planning to create your own Bonsai soil or buy from a supplies store, you have to take note of the following things before you plant your Bonsai. Bonsai soil is ideally supposed to drain water effectively, so keep track of how the water seeps through the soil, from the roots of the plant to the bottom of the soil, and finally down to your container’s holes. Using two different kinds of soil is an effective technique. The screened variety of soil that you will use will then provide irrigation.

As an aside, you can buy your own nutritional supplements that can be integrated into your soil or added during the repotting process. You wouldn’t always need to do this, though, if your Bonsai tree is grown in a place where it can thrive.

How to Make Bonsai Soil Mix

Creating the ideal bonsai soil mix is essential for the health and growth of your bonsai tree. Bonsai soil should be well-draining and aerated, yet retain enough moisture to support the tree’s growth. Here’s a simple guide on how to make your own bonsai soil mix:


  1. Akadama (or a similar clay-based substrate)
  2. Pumice
  3. Lava rock
  4. Horticultural charcoal (optional)
  5. Organic matter (such as pine bark, compost, or peat moss)


  1. Prepare the ingredients: Begin by gathering and preparing the ingredients you will use in your bonsai soil mix. Rinse the Akadama, pumice, lava rock, and charcoal (if using) thoroughly to remove dust and debris. If you’re using organic matter, ensure that it’s well-composted and free of pests or diseases.
  2. Create the base mix: Start by mixing equal parts of Akadama, pumice, and lava rock. This base mix will provide good drainage, aeration, and nutrient retention for your bonsai tree.
  3. Add organic matter: If you’re using organic material like pine bark, compost, or peat moss, mix it into the base mix at a ratio of about 1:4 (1 part organic matter to 4 parts base mix). This will help to retain moisture and provide nutrients to your bonsai tree.
  4. Add charcoal (optional): If you’re using horticultural charcoal, add it to the mix at a ratio of about 1 part charcoal to 10 parts base mix. Charcoal can help improve drainage, aeration, and nutrient retention in the soil.
  5. Mix thoroughly: Combine all the ingredients well, ensuring that the mixture is evenly blended.
  6. Test the drainage: Before potting your bonsai tree, test the drainage of the soil mix by placing a small amount in a pot and watering it. The water should drain quickly and easily, leaving the soil moist but not saturated.
  7. Pot your bonsai tree: Once you’re satisfied with your bonsai soil mix, you can use it to pot or repot your bonsai tree. Make sure to follow proper bonsai planting and care instructions to ensure the health and growth of your tree.

Remember that different bonsai species may have slightly different requirements for their soil mix, so it’s important to research the specific needs of your tree and adjust the mix accordingly. Additionally, you may need to periodically replace the soil mix as it breaks down and loses its beneficial properties.

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