All you need to know about Bonsai Pots

All you need to know about Bonsai Pots

During this video I will explain why choosing the Bonsai pot is an integral part of creating bonsai.

Bonsai Pots is a subject dear to my heart and as some of you will know the word Bonsai is made up of two separate words Bon and Sai which simply means a pot and a tree. But simply having a tree in a pot doesn’t make a bonsai. It’s the entire composition of the tree in the bonsai pot that makes the work of art.

We have a huge array of pots on the nursery ranging from the Japanese Tokoname, Yixing, Chinese, British pots, antique Japanese pots as well as plastic pots and a variety of other pots. The history of bonsai is inextricably linked with the history of Chinese ceramics and horticulture. You could probably go back 2000 years when the Chinese were making high fired ceramics. Ceramics is pottery clay which is fired over 900 – 1200 centigrade. From very early on the Chinese discovered that firing at these high temperatures they would get these beautiful pots and containers. While making their ceramics they also made flower pots. The discovered that putting plants in these ceramics made the plant and the pot more beautiful so the two fused together and hence the word Bonsai. They aren’t just ordinary plants in flower pots but artistic plants in artistic pots. That is how the art of bonsai developed.

In 1967 I became very interested in studio ceramics – London and the British Art scene in the 1960’s was the be all and end all of all art (David Hockney and the Beetles in those days). London was thriving with culture and art. Around the same time, there was also a movement in ceramics called Studio Ceramics which was started by Bernard Leach a lot of people were inspired by him. And I started to make ceramics in the 60’s when I didn’t know anything about Bonsai Pots. Also in 1967, I was making a lot of contemporary pots and sculptured ceramics these were my experiments with pots.

There are four key criteria in choosing a pot and these are;-

size (bigger the pots the bigger the tree)
shape (rectangle, oval, deep cascade etc)
style (ornate, plain)
color (blue, green brown, cream, unglazed.

The basics rule of thumb is for example if the height of the tree is a meter then the length of the pot would be about half a meter but you can break the rules. It depends on the style of the bonsai you want to create. The thicker the trunk the deeper the pot you’d use.

Certain trees are called masculine and some feminine this describes some of the characteristics of the tree i.e chunky and rugged would be masculine and dainty, delicate and pretty trees would be considered feminine.

Masculine trees would generally suit rectangular pots and the more delicate or feminine bonsai would usually suit oval or circular pots. There are no hard and fast rules they are just guidelines.

As bonsai is an art form and all lining arts need to evolve you will find that there are artists that have developed new concepts of pots. So there are many different shapes and style of pots.

We make landscapes in different shaped pots some in oval some rectangle.

Think of bonsai as a picture, don’t just think of bonsai as a tree in a pot it is really a picture and the pot is the frame of the composition you are making.

Bonsai Masterclass – the best guide I can offer you is a table showing the different styles of trees and the pots that will go with them.

Don’t forget the pot style is influenced by culture and the era.

Be bold in how you choose your pots and enjoy your Bonsai!

More great stuff can be found at

Free - My First Japanese Maple Bonsai eBook

Japanese maple cover

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