Bonsai Tree Soil

How To Choose The Right Soil For Your Bonsai Tree

If you have already attempted to grow a bonsai, you probably will have realized that using the correct form of soil is crucial to your success. Regular plant soil and bonsai soil couldn’t be more different. Regular soil works in the opposite way from bonsai soil in that it is specifically meant to capture any moisture that is poured onto it and hold it so that the plant can drink its fill. Bonsai soil on the other hand is meant to be loose and quick draining so that it doesn’t drown the plant and cause the roots to rot away before the tree can become healthy and fully-grown

Home-Made Bonsai Soil

When you are first starting to grow bonsai, you may find it easier to work with your own mix of bonsai soil. A professional can help you get the mixture just right but the basic recipe for homemade soil is one part loam, two parts sphagnum peat moss, and two parts granite grit. You’ll definitely want to move away from this at some point in the future but to this is a great way to get your feet wet.

Pre-Made Bonsai Soil

Getting pre-made soil is actually as easy as going to your local bonsai grower or garden center. There you will find all sorts of different types of bonsai soil to use for your plant. There is no ‘best’ choice for bonsai soil, so you should not be afraid to experiment and see what will work best for your plants. What works great for one grower may not work at all for another.

When looking for bonsai soil, you must look for two things. The first of the two to is whether it will retain water properly and absorb nutrients from the air around it. Bonsai trees are very sensitive towards moisture and need gases to in order to survive and grow strong. The second most important quality that you should look for in bonsai soil is that it will drain water quickly. If the soil that you put your tree into retains too much moisture then the roots will be prone to rotting and killing the tree before you even realize it.

Premade soils to look out for are: Akadama, Fujiyama, Kanuma, Kiryu, Kyodama


Red Ball Soil is the literal translation from Japanese.  This type of soil is large grained and not at all powdery.  This is what is found in Japanese gardens because of the volcanic activity.  Akadama is dug out of old Cryptomeria Forests, dried by being piled up onto concrete and then fired.

Akadama can not only be used as a potting medium, but also as a decorative top dressing over Fujiyama soil.

  • Provides the perfect ratio of air and water Japanese akadama bonsai soil
  • Has a neutral PH: Ph 6-5-9
  • Retains the perfect amount of water
  • Because of it’s volcanic origin it contains high amounts of natural minerals
  • Indicates that watering is required when the colour changes from reddish brown to yellow

This soil is well suited to many varieties of bonsai (especially Azalea) and is ideal for a beginner.  Can be used straight or mixed with other soils.  It is best to use a fine sieve to remove dust.


Similar to a Nursery type soil and is very useful for all Bonsai plants.  It is advised to use a wetting agent as well as a chelated micronutrient product for best results.  If you use a slow-release fertilizer, this will assist you in the first months as this is a high quality sterile potting medium.  This is not a type of soil easily found on the internet to purchase.


This soil is named after the region of Japan it comes from and is naturally found in people’s back gardens and considered “dirt”.  Kanuma is dug up from 10 feet below, allowed to dry, gets crushed and then is sorted into different sizes.

Ideal for acid-loving plants such as Azalea, Gardenias and Camellias.  You can use it straight, or as an amendment. Low fired soft granules.

Available in small, medium and large Grain Kanuma are largely used for ericaceous plants (acid loving) Azalea, Gardenias and Camellias.

If you have a pine tree bonsai you will require another type of soil, read our info relating to Kiryu.


Kiryu is a Japanese imported mixture which is made up of clay and pumice.  This mixture is ideal for plants which require extra drainage such as pine trees/evergreens/conifers.

Can be used neat or mixed with normal soil mix.  Kiryu allows for good air circulation which promotes a strong healthy root ball.

Kiryu is not widely available to purchase online, however Bonsai Boy has a mixture specially for conifers.


Some have touted Kyodama soil as “the next big thing”.  However it is far from being widely available to purchase online.  It is a traditional volcanic grit and is often mixed with other soils.  There are bags available with Kyodama and Akadama ready mixed if you look hard enough.

The qualities of Kyodama include:  Holds moisture as well as any other soils, has neutral PH and has virtually no inherent nutrients.  Also works well as a top dressing.

Variables to Consider

There are so many types of soil specially for bonsai trees. There is no one best choice so you must be careful when making your selection

The first thing you should consider is what species of bonsai tree you are growing. While all bonsai soil will do essentially the same thing, some soil mixtures are different in their basic components and how they work. Some will have more nutrients and some will have less, so you should investigate the needs of your tree before making a choice. For instance, you should never feed an Azalea bonsai when blooming

Other factors to take note of is: What sort of climate your are in. Is the purchase of organic soil important to you. How often you should water the tree. If you have your plant outside, think about how much rain fall you get. If you are unsure, get the help of an expert, especially if you are new to bonsai tree growing. It can be very confusing and you really should make sure you don’t buy the wrong type of bonsai soil.


Related Entries:

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  • Bonsai Pots - How To Buy Bonsai Pots The word ‘bonsai’ in Japanese is made of two words which mean ‘pot’ and ‘cultivate’; translated would be the practice of growing a plant or tree in a pot. If you are unsure how
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One Response to “Bonsai Tree Soil”

  1. Miquette Dobros Says:


    I’ve been give a beautiful little bonsai Fig Tree, my first, so I’m on a new learning curve.

    My first question is very basic. How often do I water it? What is the ideal mositure condition.


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