page contents The Little Bonsai: The Right Pot for Your Bonsai

Growing and Caring for Bonsai Trees

Growing and Caring for Bonsai Trees

The Right Pot for Your Bonsai


Choosing the best pot for a particular tree is not easy. As well as the more mundane factory-made Chinese and Korean pots there are a number of bonsai potters and potteries throughout the world that are able to offer individual and diverse pot designs and glazes to the enthusiast. There are so many available colors sizes and designs that it can become very difficult to identify exactly which ones are best for your tree.


Pot choice is also subjective; ultimately some of the final decision will be made according to your own personal tastes. Some enthusiasts prefer more conservative pot shapes, textures and glazes, other enthusiasts prefer to make more unusual 'individual' choices.
 
Choice 1: Pot Dimensions

The first thing to consider is the size of the pot that you will need. The correct pot dimensions can be achieved using some basic rules according to the dimensions of the tree itself. The general rule of thumb is that the pots depth should be equal to the diameter of the trunk just above soil level. For oval or rectangular pots, the length of the pot should be 2/3 the height of the tree. For round pots, the diameter of the pot should be 1/3 the height of the tree.


For trees with especially wide canopies a wider pot can be necessary and this can be compensated by using a slightly shallower pot. As equally, a tree with a very thick trunk (in comparison with the height of the tree) may suit a slightly deeper but narrower pot It should be remembered that these guidelines are based on aesthetics only. For horticultural reasons, some tree species require larger or smaller pots. Species with very fast growing roots such as Trident Maples often require deeper pots whilst flowering and fruiting species such as Crab Apples require more root run and therefore deeper pots.



Choice 2: Pot Shape

The style of pot that you choose will need to harmonize with the tree. You need to take a look at your tree and evaluate it's characteristics. Try to decide whether your tree is masculine or feminine. Many trees are a combination of both although usually one is dominant than the other. This is very subjective; for some people a tree may be masculine, for others, it might be feminine. Ultimately as the owner of the tree it is for you to decide. It should be noted though that a firmly masculine tree will never look right in a very feminine oval pot; in turn a feminine tree will always look awkward in a masculine pot.




 


What makes a tree feminine or masculine?

A masculine tree gives an impression of strength, it might have a heavily tapered trunk, have craggy, mature bark, strong angular branching, it may have deadwood. It may have a straight, powerful trunk or a dense canopy. A feminine tree will have a more delicate appearance, a smooth trunk line, smooth bark, sinuous movement in it's trunk and branches. A light canopy and slow taper.


Some tree species are predisposed to being considered feminine or masculine; Pines or angular Hawthorns are often considered masculine whereas delicate Japanese Maples will be considered as naturally feminine. However, a strong, heavily tapered Japanese Maple with delicate leaves and branching could be considered to be a feminine species with masculine features, whilst a tall Hawthorn with craggy, rough bark, gentle curves and very gradual taper could be considered a masculine species with a feminine characteristics. With trees such as these it is necessary to identify which is the strongest feature and reflect it. Is it the craggy, fissured bark of the hawthorn or the gentle curves of the trunk that have the strongest visual impact? Is it the delicate branching of the Maple or the powerful tapered trunk that attracts your eye most? Fortunately, it is possible to find pot designs that can reflect both femininity and masculinity.

Pots are considered feminine or masculine. Deep pots with strong angular features are considered masculine whilst more feminine pots are shallower with softer lines. For instance, strong chunky, deep rectangles with sharp corners are very masculine pots, as are square pots. These are suited to thick heavy trunked masculine trees, especially conifers. For thick-trunked deciduous trees, the corners of the rectangle can be rounded thus reducing the masculinity of the pot a little. Working down through the scale of masculinity, deep chunky ovals come next and then we have drums/round pots that are androgynous i.e are suitable for a masculine or feminine tree. After this we move into the feminine pots which are shallow delicate ovals and very shallow round literati pots.

Pot Shape Basic Guidelines

Rectangular pots are suitable for coniferous species and big deciduous trees with very pronounced taper, wide base, heavy buttressed nebari. These are used for masculine trees to add a feeling of strength in the tree


Oval pots Suitable for reflecting the femininity of deciduous trees, clump style bonsai, groves and forests. The less taper the tree has the more feminine it tends to become, sinuous curves can also dampen the masculinity of a tree.


Round. Suitable for coniferous or deciduous feminine trees, particularly (but not exclusively) for literati bunjin trees. Tall straight or sinuously curved trees with very little taper are the most feminine and the pots that tend to suit these trees are very shallow rounds.


Pot Lip or Rim

A lip on the upper rim gives additional strength to a masculine tree.
A straight rim is softer for more androgynous trees
A bowl/convex side is more suited to feminine trees


Pot Corners

Sharp, right-angled corners are masculine and suitable for masculine trees
Indented corners on a rectangular pot soften the masculinity of a pot.
Rounded corners softens the pot further, beginning to resemble a oval pot and more suitable for masculine deciduous trees

Feet of pot


The main purpose of feet on a bonsai pot is to allow for good drainage and airflow, but feet can also be used to change the pots appearance. Feet can be subtle and decorative or strong and robust. These qualities can be used to influence the over all feel of the pot, big chunky feet can add strength to the design and understated delicate feet will have the opposite effect.


Interesting Books on Bonsai can be found here:


The Complete Book of Bonsai --> I've been into bonsai for 25 years and this is the basic Bible for beginner and intermediate bonsai enthusiasts. It has an excellent section on techniques, including pruning, wiring and whatnot, and it has a large species-specific tree guide. If you're into bonsai and want only one book, this is it.

Indoor Bonsai The Great Selection --> Creating beautiful, healthy bonsai is a wonderful skill that anyone can learn, with a little time, patience, and this all-inclusive manual. With color photos and drawings to illustrate the points, it introduces all the cultivation techniques; offers expert advice on location, soil types, watering, and pest control; and provides intricate instruction on training the bonsai--including pruning, wiring and stretching it.

The Secret Techniques of Bonsai --> In The Secret Techniques of Bonsai, the author of the groundbreaking Bonsai With American Trees teams up with his son to offer not only the basics for creating perfect bonsai, but also secret techniques they’ve developed over years of careful work and observation.

Bonsai Survival Manual --> Problem solving when your Bonsai get sick. Expand your gardening repertoire as you create a captivating and exquisite miniature world. In this introductory guide, Colin Lewis covers everything you need to know to design, grow, and successfully maintain attractive bonsai.

Bonsai and the art of Penjing --> Bonsai & Penjing, Ambassadors of Beauty and Peace describes how Chinese penjing and North American bonsai were later added to the Museum, making its collection the most comprehensive in the world. Stories of individual trees and forest plantings are featured, as are the roles played by the skilled and talented creators of these living art forms people such as John Naka, Saburo Kato, Yuji Yoshimura, Harry Hirao, and Dr. Yee-Sun Wu.

Bonsai with Japanese Maples --> With their delicate foliage, seasonal color changes, and intricate pattern of branching, Japanese maples are among the most popular and suitable plants for bonsai design. In this long-awaited book, internationally renowned expert Peter Adams discusses both the specific horticultural needs of Japanese maples as bonsai subjects and illustrates proven techniques for creating and maintaining beautiful specimens.

The Modern Bonsai Practice --> The most current, useful information on growing Bonsai. Fresh, practical, definitive, comprehensive reference guide to the finest art of horticulture: growing miniature trees. Common sense bonsai answers separating myth from fact with depth and detail. Appropriate for both bonsai hobbyists and experienced practitioners.



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