Pots

The Pot is often referred to as the 'Frame' to the bonsai's 'Picture', Wronnng!!!. A bonsai is the bringing together of both in visual harmony.

Choose the pot carefully and remember that the two of them may be together for a very long time.
Anyone starting a bonsai collection now has a far greater choice of pots than were available ten or so years ago, with some fine potters throughout the world and bonsai traders being driven by customer demand, and their own ever increasing knowledge.

Selecting the pot for your tree if you are developing either a wild, or nursery stock tree can be a hard choice. The illustration below shows a tree (broom style)in three different pots, the  pot on the right is wrong, it's only suited to a cascade style tree. The one in the middle is better, a more appropriate width, length but a bit to deep. Perhaps a rectangle is the wrong shape. The shallow pot on the left while drying out quicker when watered I would suggest is the most suitable.

All pots used in bonsai have drainage holes, often they have smaller holes to pass wire through to secure the tree when repotting.

 

Pot Colour

As a rule, Conifers tend to be planted in plain, often earth coloured pots, however deciduous, or flowering trees may be planted in a pot of a colour that complements the tree at a particular time of year. The maple illustrated to the right, shows the tree with its normal foliage in a pale blue (Cyan) pot. It looks fine in a pot of this colour, however when the tree takes on its autumn tints the blue pot and yellow foliage really come together.

The same rule applies to flowering plants. select a pot that suits the time when they are in flower, but still looks good throughout the remainder of the year.

 

Choosing a pot to enhance the 'Mood' of the tree

Try to select a pot that suits what the tree is trying to 'say'. The example to the left, in a rectangular pot seems to be isolated from the landscape. This is fine on a more formal, or heavier tree, however if you wish to evoke a tree which is in harmony with the landscape, go for a shallower, oval pot .

Ideally the width of the pot should be about the same as the spread of the branches, and the depth, about the same as the width of the trunk at the point where the root flare ends. 

The width of the pot (a), should be about the same as the spread of the branches (b). The Depth of the pot (c) should match the trunk width, just above the end of the root flare (d).

Cascade pots

Selecting a suitable pot for a cascade tree can be difficult, pick a pot that's to wide and it makes the tree seem less substantial than in a narrower pot. Picking a pot that's too deep will have the same effect.

Ideally the pot width should be about half the span of the tree, and it's depth no more than half the depth (hight) of the tree.

Remember that Cascade trees are always displayed on stands, lifting the lowest part of the tree off the surface.

Part of a suppliers pot sales shed.

 

Alternative's to pots

Not everyone has access to 'proper' bonsai pots, so let's look at a number of alternatives. I have seen earthenware casserole dishes, pie dishes and such, used with drainage holes drilled in them. I've seen pots made from cement over a glass fiber mat. although nothing quite comes up to a proper bonsai pot, you sometimes have to go with what your ingenuity will give you.
 
 

Cement

Cement is misunderstood by most people. A requirement of most civil engineering projects is that 'test blocks' of each batch of cement delivered are kept. These blocks when they are set, are stored under water for a couple of weeks, then tested to distruction under a massive press (I worked on the test segments for the channel tunnel linings). The reason for keeping them wet lays in the way that cement works.

As part of the curing process crystals grow between the aggregate used (sand, rocks, etc).The longer the cement remains damp, the bigger and better the crystals and the stronger the cement.

If you are using cement to make pots, then keep it in the shade and when it's solid place it in water if you can, or keep it in a large plastic bag to retain the moisture. Give it at lease two weeks before use.

Low temperatures will affect the curing of cement, try to avoid using it if the ambient temperature is, or is likely to drop below 6c.

Don't forget that cement dyes are available from hardware stores,

You may consider planting your bonsai in a slab of rock, this is a well recognised alernative to a pot. The rock need not have drainage holes but should, if you are able to do so, have holes drilled in it to enable you to tie the tree down. If you cannot drill holes in the rock, try 'supergluing' some metal hoops to the slab, looping the tying material through those. 

Slab plantings suit most styles execept for formal upright and full cascade.

A raft style tree planted on a slab

You should not be in to much of a hurry to get your tree into a proper pot, remember that doing so will restrict the roots and slow down the development of a tree that is still in training. By far the largest number of my own trees are in training pots, generally washing up bowls, when the time comes to show them they're potted up. The temptation, when you have only a few trees to have them in good pots is immense, if you give in to temptation always go for a pot larger than might seem appropriate.

Looking through magazines and books over the years, and of course visiting exhibitions, I've noticed there is a tendancy to pot conifers, particularly Pines in deeper, plainer, darker pots than used for deciduous trees. These pots, often dark brown, and rectangular seem to go well with pines. 

The most unusual pot you will come across is the suiban. This pot is used in Saikei or Tray Landscapes

This tray has a divider and one part of the pot has no holes. Unlike other Bonsai pots it is glazed on the inside. The glazed part is filled with water to symbolize the sea or a lake.

Allen. C. Roffey 18:56 28/11/2006