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BONSAI SOIL, RECOMMENDED MIXTURES

Using the right soil mixture for your Bonsai trees is crucial. Soil is important
to supply your trees with nutrients, but it also needs to drain properly,
provide enough aeration and retain water. Though most (online) Bonsai
shops sell ready-mixed soils, doing this yourself will save money and
enables you to adjust mixtures per tree-species.
The quality of soil used directly affects the health and vigor of your tree. It is
our experience that unhealthy trees, that lack vigor, are very often planted
in a poor (often organic) bonsai soil. Or worse; planted in normal garden
soil. Such soil easily hardens when it gets dry, which give no advantage to
the growth of bonsai, in fact, it is very harmful to the tree.

There are a number of qualities that are required in a good soil mix

Good water-retention. The soil needs to be able to hold and retain


sufficient quantities of water to supply moisture to the bonsai between
each watering.
Good drainage. Excess water must be able to drain immediately from the
pot. Soils lacking good drainage are too water retentive, lack aeration and
are liable to a build up of salts. Too much water-retention will also cause
the roots to rot, killing the tree.
Good aeration. The particles used in a bonsai mix should be of sufficient
size to allow tiny gaps or air pockets between each particle. Beside the
need of oxygen for the roots, it is also important to let the good bacteria
and mycorrhizae intact, so the processing of food will take place before
being absorbed by the root-hairs and send to the leaves for
photosynthesis.
A particle-based, well-structured inorganic soil allows fast drainage of water
and allows fresh air to continually enter the soil. A compacted organic soil
that lacks any structure also lacks aeration and drainage and this can lead
to ill health in the roots and tree and root rot.

Organic or Inorganic Soils


Soil mixes are described as being either organic or inorganic.
Dead plant matters such as peat or leaf-litter or bark are described as
being organic soil components.

Inorganic soil mixes contain little to no organic matter such, for example
volcanic lava, calcite (baked) or fired clays.
Bonsai soil movie
Recommended Bonsai soil mixtures

Bonsai soil components


The most important components for any bonsai soil mixture are Akadama,
organic potting compost and fine gravel (grit).
Akadama is hard-baked Japanese clay, specifically produced for Bonsai
purposes and available at all (online) Bonsai shops. It needs to be sifted
before using it. Keep in mind that after about 2 years akadama starts to
break down, significantly reducing aeration. This means that regular
repotting is required. Akadama is rather expensive and is therefore
sometimes substituted with similar fired/baked clays that are easily
available in any garden center. Even cat-litter can be used as a substitute,
check our bonsai forum which brand is recommended in your country.
Organic potting compost includes peat moss, perlite and sand. It has
several disadvantages (it retains much water and doesn't aerate/drain
very well), but as part of a mixture it can be used perfectly well.
Fine gravel / grit is of great importance to create a well draining and
aerated bonsai soil. It is also used as a bottom layer in Bonsai pots to
enhance drainage a bit further.

Left: Akadama Right: Potting compost

Left: Grit Right: Mixed Bonsai soil


Recommended soil mixtures
Different tree-species demand different soil-mixtures, so make sure to
check our tree-species bonsai guide to find the optimum mixture for
individual trees. We can however describe two main mixtures, one for
deciduous trees and one for coniferous trees. Both mixtures consist of
Akadama (to provide the mixture with aeration, drainage and medium water
retention), organic soil (nutrient rich, water retaining) and split (drainage).
Note that both mixtures can, and should, be adapted to your local
circumstances. When living in a relatively wet climate, use more
grit/akadama for your bonsai plants.

Deciduous tree bonsai soil


50% Akadama
25% Organic potting compost
25% Grit
Coniferous / Pine tree bonsai soil
60% Akadama
10% Organic potting compost
30% Grit