When it comes to bonsai soil, A recipe for every bonsai adept exist. There is so many options, opinions and requirements per tree species that one could get quickly confused with the lingo.
Bonsai Soil mix
Each species of tree will require some specifics elements while some species will frown on same elements. To simplify it, some bonsai vendor will provide two type of bonsai soil recipe in various sizes. They usually provide a recipe for deciduous bonsai
and a mix for evergreen bonsai
Another debatable point when it comes to bonsai soil is whether you opt for an organic bonsai soil recipe or an inorganic soil recipe or you try to obtain the best of both by making a bonsai soil mix of your own.
Organic bonsai Soil
Organic bonsai soil is composed of natural elements that do provide some type of nutrients when they decompose or get wet. Some popular options are peat moss, tree bark, garden soil, black earth etc… These elements make a good addition to a bonsai soil recipe however; bonsai adept tend to reduce the proportion of organic elements to about 30% of the entire composition. Organic elements are good to retain water and humidity but this quality is also why bonsai enthusiasts tend not to use it. Too much water retention and poor drainage will eventually cause low root growth and even root rot.
Inorganic bonsai Soil
Inorganic soils are usually composed of inert elements, such as rocks, lavarock and clay. The major advantage of an inorganic soil composed of these elements is that it is usually very fast draining. Sometime to help drainage of a soil recipe you have to add some perlite pebble.
Akadama Bonsai Soil
Clay is an excellent inorganic material for bonsai soil because it is a water retentive element. Japanese bonsai
masters have long used some 100% clay bonsai soil recipe. The clay is usually a calcined clay and the most popular products are akadama and kanuma soil. Akadama soil is imported in America and cost a lot. When you have a lot of bonsai tree, the bill could rise fast at bonsai repotting season. Another disadvantage of akadama clay is that it eventually crumbles and creates a dust that will compact the soil. A compacted soil will be not as efficient when it comes to fast drainage.
Turface bonsai Soil
Another clay product is popular and cost less then the previous options. It is known as Turface MVP; A calcined clay composition that is widely used in sports to maintain a good playing field. Turface will retain water but will allow a fast drainage.
Cat Litter Bonsai Soil
For an even cheaper solution, you can check your local superstore for cat litter. Most cat litter that are unscented and non-clumping are made of clay and diatomite. This type of litter product is also indistinguishable from clay based oil spill absorbent product used in many car mechanic garages. Some litter products are made of corn and sand, these litter products are not suitable bonsai. You must find a litter that is unscented and non-clumping and composed of clay and diatomite. Many bonsai adept have successfully reported using 100% cat litter as bonsai soil with great success.
Bonsai Soil sieve
All of these soil recipes will need some preparation before being used. A popular bonsai tool would be a soil sieve. They are usually sold with three types of screenage to help screen big and small particles from soil. It is important to remove very small particles to prevent soil compaction. Using larger particles will create a faster draining soil. On the contrary, leaving big particles will not favour root development.
Make Bonsai soil
In conclusion, you can try to do your own bonsai soil and find your perfect recipe. This method of doing bonsai soil on your own will result in a much cheaper alternative then buying a premade bonsai soil. Many will sell a bonsai soil bag label "juniper bonsai soil" targetted for juniper bonsai
. If you are at a nursery, you can judge by the quality and health of the in house bonsai tree, if the recipe is credible and seems to really work. Some have allready tested their recipe and this is the kind of recipe you should opt for. Ordering bonsai soil online can be expensive because of the weigth. When you need a few big bags of soil, the charge for shipping could kill a sweet deal.