The Q&A Archives: Bonsai Soil

Question: I just received a bonsai mail order, and I was curious what the best soil consistency would be. Can I use regular top soil, or do I have to use peat moss, etc?

Answer: Bonsai is a fascinating process! Bonsai are very specialized plants grown under specialized conditions (you might enjoy the following web page for a basic discussion of bonsai) and as such need special potting mixes -- and extra care. Most experienced growers develop their own "recipe" depending on the specific type of plant they are growing. Bonsai plants develop a fibrous root system over time and need a soil mix that is able to hold both air and water, supply nutrients and also serve as a weighted base for the plant. As such, most would contain organic matter and some form of grit or sand to ensure that they stay moist and yet are well drained. Commercial mixes are available, or you could mix your own. You might use a combination of compost, peat moss or composted pine bark; some perlite, coarse sand or aquarium gravel for drainage; and a moisture holding ingredient such as vermiculite, crushed brick, untreated kitty litter, or compost or peat moss. In other words, ordinary top soil will not do.

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