Greatly simplified, the art of Bonsai could be summed up as "The right tree in the right pot." A Bonsai tree isn't actually a Bonsai until it's placed in a setting which complements it, and completes the artistic statement in much the same way that a frame completes a painting. So, choosing the right pot is absolutely critical for creating a truly great Bonsai.
Of course, part of the fun here is that your Bonsai gets to periodically "change its clothes," since it's going to continue to grow and eventually out-grow its current pot. So as your Bonsai develops, matures, and continues to express its own personality, you get to pick a new pot to match! However, this doesn't happen too often. Depending on the particular species' growth rate, you'll probably only have to re-pot it every 3-5 years.
If you've got a new Bonsai still sitting in its shipping container, or one which is ready to be transplanted to a new pot, it's time to think about finding the right one for your Bonsai!
Bonsai Pots: Practical Considerations
Now, just about any container could be turned into a Bonsai pot, but according to traditional rules, there are a few guidelines. A proper Bonsai pot is only made out of fired clay, porcelain, or ceramics, just as was traditional for hundreds of years.
It's also vitally important that the pot be water-proof! A pot which can absorb\hold water will cultivate mold, bacteria, and other micro-organisms which will harm the health of your tree.
Finally, the pot needs to have some holes in it. It should have holes at the bottom, for drainage, as well as very small holes (or occasionally tie-posts) on the sides for attaching wires when training your Bonsai. The latter isn't 100% necessary, but it is if you're planning on any sort of training that involves pulling the Bonsai to one side or another, such as the Windswept or Cascade styles.
Finding The Right Size Pot
Obviously, the pot has to be large enough to accommodate your Bonsai's roots, as well as leaving room to grow over the course of a few years. Picking a too-small pot can easily damage your Bonsai's health. (Although sometimes, with older trees, a smaller pot can be used to deliberately stunt its growth.)
Beyond that, there are a few traditional guidelines for picking a pot size:
- Height: The height of the pot should be roughly the same as the width of the Bonsai's trunk just above the roots.
- Width: For oval or rectangular pots, the long width should be about 2/3 the overall width of the tree. For square or circular pots, around 1/3.
- Proportions: As the canopy of your tree grows in width, so should the size of the pot - however, its height should then be lowered to compensate. This prevents the pot from being so large it overwhelms the presentation.
Pot Color and Other Considerations
Picking the color of the pot is easy - it should be complementary to the most prominent colors on the tree, sort of like a person with bright blue eyes picking a blue shirt as an accent. The colors are almost always a bit subdued, specifically to bring out the tree's colors.
The other major consideration is the apparent "gender" of your tree. This one is actually somewhat complicated, and we've got another blog article largely dedicated to the topic. The short version is that you should pick curvy pots for curvy trees, and straight pots for straight trees.
And if you're looking for more inspiration, just browse our large selection of pots for ideas!