“What Is Bonsai Soil?
Bonsai ‘soil’ is a mixture of organic and inorganic compounds that provide a
suitable growing media for the cultivation of bonsai trees within the confines
of a bonsai container. A bonsai container or pot is an unnatural and
restrictive environment that, consequentially, requires a very well draining soil
mix to maintain a healthy bonsai tree. Bonsai soils that work well in a specific
set of environmental conditions, may or may not, work well in the specific
microenvironment of your backyard. So, it is recommended that you speak
with your bonsai supplier or another local bonsai enthusiast that has
experience growing bonsai in your locale.
What Kinds of Bonsai Soil Are Available?
There are many kinds of bonsai soils available for sale from your local bonsai
supplier, but the Japanese soils are, in my humble opinion, of the highest
quality and consistency. They are composed of clay granules that have been
heated at extremely high temperatures, so that they will resist compacting
and will maintain their structural integrity for long periods of time. The
Japanese soils include:
Akadama - general purpose bonsai soil that is suitable
for most deciduous trees;
Kanuma - a yellow colored Japanese soil from the
Kanuma region of Japan that is great for azaleas & acid loving bonsai;
- a soil that is suitable for most conifers.”
“What Type of A Soil ‘Mix’ Should I Use?
There are no ‘absolutes’ in bonsai and soil mixes are no exception. There are,
however, some general soil guidelines that work well for certain types of
bonsai trees. All of these mixes contain some combination of the same three
major components: grit, organic, and loam. Grit, also called aggregate and
sand provides vital drainage for the soil mix. Organic, which is peat moss,
pine bark, and leaf mold, provides water retention qualities for the soil mix.
Loam, is a combination of sand, organic and clay, sometimes added by
portion to augment the specific needs for a soil mix.
Is Using The Proper Soil Important?
Yes. All things in regards to bonsai are interrelated: environmental conditions,
water, the time of year, fertilizer use, pruning practice, light, shade and soil.
So, using the proper soil is important for growing healthy bonsai trees.”
“Deciduous bonsai soil mixes should be ‘approximately’ 60 percent organic
material to 40 percent grit and an alternative soil for deciduous trees is the
Azaleas and rhododendrons bonsai soil mixes should be ‘approximately’ 50
percent organic to 50 percent grit and an alternative soil for acid-loving trees
is the Japanese
Conifers bonsai soil mixes should be ‘approximately’ 30 percent organic to 70
percent grit and an alternative soil for conifers trees is the Japanese
Indoor or Tropical bonsai soil mixes should be ‘approximately’ compromised
of 70 percent organic to 30 percent grit.
REMEMBER - local climactic conditions will help dictate what type of soil mix
you should use for successful bonsai in your particular locale, so be an
informed enthusiast.”

“It is important to use both round and sharp shaped particles when mixing
the components for your bonsai soil. The reason for this is that round
components, which do not compact, provide good aeration, however, they
allow a tree's root tips to grow unobstructed and this encourages upright
and very strong top growth - an unwanted characteristic for bonsai culture.
On the other hand, sharp shaped components, which do have a tendency to
compact, interrupt the passage of a tree's new root tips, forcing them to
divide, thus resulting in varied shoot growth and more sideways top growth,
which is a positive growth characteristic for bonsai culture.”
                                                                                     By Tom Regan
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