Choosing the correct pot for your bonsai tree when repotting

After caring for the tree itself, selecting an appropriate pot is the most important aspect of creating the bonsai overall aesthetic effect. It should be a complimenting and well-balanced unit. However, the enormous variety of different shapes, colours and styles can be overwhelming, making choosing the perfect pot for your bonsai tree difficult. Below are some pointers to keep in mind when finding a suitable bonsai pot.

Why bonsai pot quality and material matters

  • Suitable materials include plastic for training, ceramics, porcelain and some metals.
  • It should have drainage holes at the bottom.
  • It should have feet or be slightly raised to encourage air flow around the base of the pot.
  • As a general rule, opt for glazed or semi-glazed pots for deciduous trees and matt (flat) unglazed pots for conifers and evergreens.
  • All pots should be unglazed on the inside to help keep the tree stable inside the pot.

How to select the correct size and shaped pot for your bonsai

  • The pot should be of the same height as the trunk and is wide above the Surface roots (Nebari). 
  • Oval and rectangular pots are usually 2/3 of the trees height. 
  • Round or square pots is 1/3 the height of the tree – unless foliage is unusually large, then the pot is also becoming wider.
  • Trees with thick trunks are best balanced in deeper pots while group plantings or trees with slender trunks look best in shallow pots.
  • The pot should be slightly narrower than the spread of the tree in order to create the correct visual proportion.
  • Usually the pot should be about the same height as the width of the base of the trunk.
  • Trident Maples and flowering trees need deeper pots to avoid drought.
  • Cascade and semi-cascade bonsai need to be potted in much deeper, narrower pots to suit the tree’s style and tend to be taller to show off the graceful shape.

How to match coloured pots with your bonsai

  • Never choose a brightly coloured pot: the pot should complement the colour of the trees leaves and/or bark.
  • It should accentuate but not dominate the tree: heavy patterns and a lot of glazing will draw attention away from the tree
  • Dark-leaved deciduous trees, serissas, elms and azaleas are suitable for deeper colour pots while those with delicate or bright foliage such as maples look best in subdued pastel colour pots.
  • Junipers and yews are best suited to neutral colours like beige, brown and dark burnt orange and unglazed. These best complements their reddish bark.
  • If you have a pine, look for a pot that is a deep and rich red or brown to accentuate their vibrant green needles.
  • Flowering bonsai must be balanced in colour by their pot: choose a colour that is your personal preference and compliments the flowers. However, avoid really bright colours and super shiny glazes.

The main aim when choosing a pot is to create an image of harmony and balance. Unglazed brown, grey and earth tones are always a safe option to support and complement your tree but personal taste is important too. The pot is part of the design of the tree so have a look at what other people have gone for in the past, visit exhibitions and shows and do not be afraid to ask for advice.