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Vol#7 How Do I choose a Bonsai Pot?

Vol #7   Written by Yusuke Ogawa

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Bonsai is the result of balancing the tree and the pot containing it.

The tradition states that bonsai pots should match the spirit of the tree as well as their age. And, if we go deeper into that, that natural clay pots are great for White pines while colored glazed pots can serve a wide range of trees.

I don’t think many people understand what means to match the spirit and age of the tree. Even I am still trying to grasp the full meaning of that.

So today I will explain to the best of my abilities what I have learned so far on how to choose a bonsai pot.


First and foremost, the most important thing is size. If the pot is too big, the tree will be drowned by the visual display of the pot and it will damage the roots.

The same applies to unglazed pots and other containers during the growing stage. It will vary depending on the height and shape of the tree, but I personally think that the pot should be a little smaller or about the same size than the canopy.


Next is shape. There are many types of shapes when it comes to trees and pots. For tall trees, I use shallow pots. And I pair taller pots with low trunk trees to help the balance of the whole composition. Apart from that, it really comes down to how the pot and tree matches each other strength.

For example, a Black Japanese pine has a very robust wood and trunk. This gives the tree a strong appearance, so a rectangular pot with a strong impression works well. And if it is a Japanese maple with a robust trunk, an oval or elliptical shaped pot with a more soft and feminine aspect.

The general atmosphere of the tree changes depending on the nebari or surface roots, the thickness of the trunk, the density of the foliage and branches, etc, so the best course of action is to choose a pot that matches all those aspects. Basic shape is important, of course, but the general impression will slightly change depending as well whether there is or isn’t edges to it, the shape of the corners and the glaze pattern.


For example, take the following rectangular basic shape. The one with a glazed pattern of color is strong. But the one with long outer edge facing outwards makes a bigger statement.

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Left: Rectangular Glaze Bonsai Pot
Right: Rectangular Bonsai Pot with Edges

You can see the difference in the pictures, right?
Finding a pot is part of the real thrill of bonsai.
Don't be too obsessed with preconceived notions. Enjoy finding new matches and establish your own style!

Mr. Ogawa (owner of reBonsai, collaborator of Wazakura Japan)


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