Tools, Containers, and Soil Mix

Special bonsai tools are available, but a beginner can easily assemble the following assortment:

• scissors

• pruning shears

• copper wire

• a wire cutter

• a strong thin stick such as a knitting needle or chopstick

Bonsais can be started in ordinary clay pots or even greenhouse flats. Repotting is one of the requisites of successful bonsai development, so a more stylish container can be selected later. Ultimately, the container will play an important role in complimenting the style of the bonsai and determining its size. Cascading forms will require a taller container to permit the descending branching habit. Forms that are more suggestive of old, upright trees will require a wide, shallow container. In every case, the bonsai container should not be overly decorative, and what decora­tion exists should suggest the Orient if it is to be in character with the plant. Also, the containers should have drainage holes in the bottom or be able to be drilled without breaking. Unglazed pottery makes an ideal container if all other characteristics are present. To prevent the loss of soil from the container, the drainage holes should be covered with screen wire, metal mesh, or hardware cloth, which can be taped in place with florists’ waterproof adhesive tape.

Soil for the bonsai must drain well. A mixture of equal parts of coarse sand, peat moss, and loam will be satisfactory. Each soil component should be put through a fine-mesh sieve before mixing to remove the smallest particles that can plug the container’s drainage holes. The soil should also be pasteurized before use to kill weed seeds and soil-borne pests. The soil is most easily prepared and used while it is dry. Gravel spread on the bot­tom of the container before adding the soil will aid drainage.