Bonsai pots, choices you thought you would never have to make

Disclaimer: I am in no way a professional bonsai grower, the contents you read here are of some of my own thoughts/common sense as well as bits and pieces of ideas I have plucked from the bowels of the internet

Okay so, as you may have gathered previously, I live in Edmonton, Alberta. Edmonton is not exactly known for their bonsai masters and although the 10 people that live in Edmonton that take a interest in growing bonsai’s will find this information useful, I’m going to try to break down how to select a bonsai pot based on several aspects.

After coming across a guy on kijiji that was selling bonsai pots, I had to jump on the opportunity and go and look, I mean how many times do you actually come across bonsai pots in this city. Umm never.

This is the selection that the guy had available.

After doing some extensive reading and talking to many people, choosing a pot for your bonsai is an art in itself. I’m going to try and break this down based on aesthetics, size, shape and material with additional considerations like tree type and logistics.

Choosing the right pot will help you imagine the tree in it’s natural setting. Consider the tree, the pot and also the style of the tree you are growing.


Probably the most difficult part is choosing the right style pot for your tree. Big, small, glazed, unglazed, brightly colored or dark?

This is one of my favourites that I bought from the gentlemen that sold me my bonsai’s pots.

Another beautifully vibrant pot I acquired.

And then there are dark pots for more earthy colors.

I don’t have any to show you but unglazed pots are generally used with Conifers and other dense foliage trees. Generally unglazed pots are an earthy brown to black color and complement the darker  foliage on conifers.

Glazed pots come in many different colors. Personally I think that the more colorful pots should be used with bonsai’s that bloom regularly. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it is entirely your preference which you want to use. Choose wisely however because once you have transplanted your bonsai you should wait a considerable amount of time before moving it to another pot to allow the plant to acclimatize to the changes.


Although it may be tempting to just purchase a large planter from Wal Mart, keep in mind bonsai pots come in many different shapes and sizes. In Edmonton, bonsai pots are not easy to find, if you come across some in your area, buy them even if you aren’t going to use them right away.

Some things to consider when choosing pot size is that choosing a tree larger or smaller than the pot will look unbalanced and unfavourable. When you choose a size you should also already have an idea of the style and size you are going to grow your bonsai.

It is also important to note that trees that are still being trained should be placed in larger pots to allow for adequate root development. Basically the rule of thumb is, the older the tree the smaller the pot you can grow it in because the root system is more compact.


Deciding on the shape of the pot is dictated by the style of the tree. Tall pots are applicable for cascade style trees. Round pots are more commonly used for less formally styled trees whereas rectangular pots with straight edges and curved bodies are used with formal styles.


There are many different types of materials pots can be made out of but my personal choice is clay for two reasons. First, because it gives you that authentic feelling that you are this old japanese man in a zen garden. Secondly, clay is an important cofactor in the health of your bonsai. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find much information on the benefits of the use of clay pots so if there are any professionals out there who read this please comment and tell us why clay is better.

Of course hind sight is twenty – twenty thanks to my readers.

One of the most important considerations when searching out that one special pot that is going to transform your little tree from a dilapidated weed to a aged cedar is soil drainage. Most bonsai artists (bonsologists) will use a mixture of different soil types to create well draining soil however, your choices here will only help if you have a pot that has drainage holes. So if you haven’t figured it out by now, yes you need a pot that drains, which literally can mean the difference between life and death…of your bonsai of course. Unless you are really into bonsai’s but we won’t go there.

In addition to drainage, you must also have a tray for your pot. More importantly, this will allow for adequate air flow to the roots, prevent root rotting and allow for a healthier bonsai. You can go without a tray but this is more ideal for out door bonsai’s since it doesn’t really matter where your runoff is going. Apparently you can also sit the entire assembly on a bed of rocks in a tray filled with water as well which will create a humid environment.

So there you have it, i’ve found pots, i’ve told you how choose pots and now I just have to figure out which ones I want to use when I transplant my bonsai’s in the fall!


10 thoughts on “Bonsai pots, choices you thought you would never have to make

  1. natural clay breathes…. plastic does not. If the tree is outdoors..
    just think of the temperature and humidity changes in a single day.
    The pot helps the tree deal with those changes by giving a buffer
    zone. Remember that you are asking a tree to grow in just an inch or so of soil…. that is no small task. Every little bit helps. Chris.

  2. You are absolutely correct… bonsai pots are hard to come by.
    I hope that you bought all of those pots in the picture. It was a well balanced collection for a beginner…small, big, shallow , deeper, cascade… and no doubt at a fraction of replacement cost…
    (never mind shipping which is no laughing matter). 🙂 Chris.

    • Unfortunately I did not buy all of them since he had some set aside for a guy that was coming that afternoon. There is an older couple in my area “Vriends Bonsai” that are liquidating their supplies because they are getting rid of their business, so I will most likely hit them up for their pots. I’ll probably purchase some from you as well Chris. 🙂

  3. Have you been to Apache Seeds on 149st and 101ave? Last time I was there they had a fair size selection of bonsai pots.

  4. I would steer well clear of plastic pots. The Bonsai roots need a surface that they can grasp onto and you wont get this from a plastic pot, clay pots are the way to go.

    If you are still looking to replant, look into some traditionally made pots. If you like get in contact and i can put you in contact with a friend who would be willing to send some out (for a fee of course) but he has access to some very beautiful old Bonsai pots.

    • I agree. What are your thoughts on Korean Mica pots? That is very generous of you 🙂 Id love to here from your contact. One can never have enough pots. Ive finally found a local distributor, if you read my post “Hit the jackpot” you’ll find the selection i have access to there. Thanks for reading my blog!

  5. You guys think that it is difficult to find pots up there. Try looking in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia PEI. NFLD or New Brunswick. Nothing. I have bought a few from a dealer in Montreal. There good people but your buying a picture.

  6. I’m just looking in to Bonsai. I would love to try it. My son lives in Japan and I’m going to ask him to send me some pots. If anyone else is interested get back to me. I also live in Edmonton.

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