The Bare Essentials: What You Need To Get Started In Bonsai

2nd May 2016

Interested in Bonsai, but not sure where to start? Or thinking about buying a Bonsai for a friend, and wondering what to include with it? You've come to the right blog!

Today we're going back to the basics and answering the simple question "What equipment is essential for a Bonsai beginner?" There are a lot of specialty tools involved with Bonsai trees, but really, there are only a few things you need to get started and be good to grow for several months to a year.

The Top Four Most Essential Bonsai Items

I. Pruning Shears

The heart of Bonsai cultivation is controlling the growth of your tree by cutting back its foliage. Therefore, the top item on this list is a good pair of pruning shears, designed to cut bits off a Bonsai while creating a wound that's easily-healed. As you're going to be doing plenty of pruning, we recommend strong and comfortable shears which won't wear out your hand while in use.

II. A Humidity Tray and/or Stand

While the Bonsai tree isn't going to care where it is (assuming it's getting light, obviously), your furniture certainly will! Just as with any plant, it's a very good idea to keep something between it and the surface it's resting on. This could be as simple as a plain bamboo mat (although Bonsai Pots have holes in the bottom to allow the water to flow through), which are extremely cheap from craft stores. Another inexpensive alternative is a simple mini turntable, which has the advantage of making pruning easier. BUT, most effective and most common are humidity trays, which capture the excess water and allows it to evaporate.  

III. Fertilizer

While Bonsai farms do their best to protect Bonsai trees during shipment, transportation can be rough on a tree. Or, if you buy one from a store, such as in a mall, there's really no telling how well it's been treated. Either way, it's a good idea to help your Bonsai settle into its new home with a little perk-me-up. Some Bonsai-blend fertilizer or FRIT soil additives will encourage a healthy transition, while helping your Bonsai grow more quickly and lushly.

IV. A Light\Soil Meter

If someone is an experienced gardener or botanist already, they might not need one. But for true newcomers, an affordable all-in-one meter that monitors light, moisture, and Ph (acidity) levels can be a true lifesaver! These are the factors that are most likely to harm or kill a new tree, so a good meter goes a long way towards ensuring a new Bonsai owner keeps it in optimal growth conditions.

Tools For Later On

As your experience with Bonsai trees grow, there are more items that may be on your shopping list for later. These include:

  • Wires and a wire cutter: We don't recommend first-time Bonsai owners immediately start trying to "train" their tree with wire, but it's a major next step once someone is comfortable with Bonsai basics.
  • A larger pot with fresh soil: Most newly-purchased Bonsai have been recently potted, so they probably won't require a new pot for a year or two.
  • Root hook: When you repot the Bonsai, you'll also want to remove the soil clinging to its roots. That's exactly what a root hook does, without harming the roots themselves.
  • Knob cutters: Sooner or later, you'll have to do a major "repair" job on the tree, cutting away a knob. This is one of those tasks that's simple with the right tool, and hard without it.
  • Cut paste: Cut paste is basically ointment for Bonsai. It's not needed for minor trims, but once you start cutting away full-size branches or large knobs, cut paste will speed healing and prevent scarring.

Got questions? Our experts are happy to help new Bonsai owners. Just ask!