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Welcome to the resource page that expands upon the information from Get Started in Bonsai for Around $100. Here, we offer additional tips, references to helpful articles, and a curated array of suggested products to consider as you start compiling tools and supplies.
We’ve waded through available options to suggest those with good reviews at reasonable prices to help make it easy for you to get started in bonsai. In some cases, we’ve highlighted additional products for those who might wish to spend more.
Scroll through the entire selection of items, or jump directly to any section by clicking the category links below.
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Concave Branch Cutter
One of the first tools a new bonsai practitioner needs is a pair of concave cutters. This tool is used to cut branches in a way that helps them heal flush with minimal scarring. For more information, read our article about the five tools we recommend for beginners.
Carbon steel is the most common material used for bonsai tools. While more prone to rust, carbon steel is generally more affordable than stainless and holds its sharp edge longer. This beginner’s quality carbon steel cutter gets good reviews.
This beginner’s quality stainless steel concave cutter is well-priced and well-reviewed. Some enthusiasts prefer stainless steel tools for their shiny appearance and resistance to rust.
While our guide is dedicated to helping beginners get started in bonsai at minimal expense, those willing to spend more might want to consider this highly rated tool kit.
This well-planned assortment of six tools is perfect for those new to the hobby. It includes the recommended concave cutter and long-handled bud shears, plus the specialized bonsai scissors and wire cutters for which we’ve outlined less expensive alternatives. It also includes knob cutters, tweezers and a storage case.
Long-handled pruning shears are a recommended early purchase when assembling a bonsai tool kit. This tool is used to trim foliage, and its thin design helps get into tight spaces.
Beginners who happen to own a good pair of bypass garden shears can start with those and acquire the bonsai shears a bit later.
Beginners will need scissors for root pruning their bonsai creations. While bonsai scissors are nice to have for this purpose, regular scissors can also work until you get deeper into the hobby.
We assigned a zero dollar cost to this tool under the assumption that you will be able to repurpose a household pair for your bonsai toolbox. Just be aware that using scissors for root pruning will dull them over time. If you’d rather purchase a dedicated pair of regular scissors or spend a bit more for bonsai scissors, we’ve found a couple of options.
These highly rated bonsai scissors are made of carbon steel. Reviewers praise their sharpness and ease of use.
While specialized bonsai wire cutters are an important tool, beginners have the option of making this a down-the-road purchase and opting for regular wire cutters to start.
Because we suggest that beginners try to avoid wiring trees for their first couple of projects unless they have help from an experienced hobbyist, wire cutters are needed only for wire intended to hold the tree in place in the pot and for securing screens in place over pot drainage holes.
If you have a regular wire cutter in your home toolbox, that will work fine in the beginning and you can add the bonsai wire cutter later. If you don’t have need to purchase a wire cutter, you might want to spend a bit more to get the bonsai version so you don’t have to purchase two tools. We offer options for both below.
Because chopsticks are reusable in bonsai and readily available for no charge when ordering Chinese food, we have assigned a zero dollar cost to this tool. However, for those who might prefer to purchase nicer quality chopsticks, we outline a couple of low-cost options.
For those who desire a more permanent tool, this pair of stainless steel soil picks are a good substitute for wooden chopsticks.They are designed specifically for working with bonsai.
One alternative to a chopstick for removing soil from roots is the three-pronged root rake. After potting, use the flat end of the rake to smooth and even out the top of the soil. This tool can be also used during routine care to aerate the soil and remove small weeds.
We recommend that beginners start with small, container-grown plants purchased locally. Smaller plants are easier to work with and less expensive. Your neighborhood garden store, nursery or big box store should have plants that make suitable bonsai specimens.
Before heading out to the nursery, check out our article about plants that make good bonsai. It offers suggestions for 10 varieties to keep in mind while you shop. We also recommend you read our article on choosing nursery stock for bonsai. It offers tips on characteristics that make individual plants good bonsai subjects that can help you choose the best plant to take home.
We recommend the nursery stock route over ordering pre bonsai and bonsai online. It is less expensive, plus you have the opportunity to personally evaluate and select your plants. However, for those who prefer to purchase a tree online, we’ve offered a few options below for pre bonsai and plants that come potted as bonsai. Since plants are unique living things, keep in mind that the plant pictured online may look quite different from the one you receive.
A dwarf Hawaiian umbrella pre bonsai is a more tropical species suitable for those who want an indoor bonsai.
Ficus is another species that works as an indoor tree. Specimens are 5″-8″ tall and come planted in a bonsai pot.
Before buying a bonsai pot for your first project, we recommend that you obtain the plant you plan to use determine the most suitable style for your new bonsai. This will help you determine the size and type of pot to purchase. Read our article about pots for guidance on how to choose an appropriate pot and how to properly size your pot to your tree. Below are just a few options you might consider when selecting a pot.
This 7.6″x 5.5″ unglazed ceramic bonsai pot is traditional for housing a pine or other coniferous bonsai, and also works for other types of trees. Unglazed pots in earth-toned colors are always a classic choice.
This 8″ oval bonsai pot comes complete with a plastic humidity tray, stones for the tray, and mesh screens to cover the pot’s drainage holes. The deep blue glaze and styling will complement most trees.
This 6″ rectangular ceramic pot works well for smaller-sized bonsai. The traditional lines and light moss green glaze makes the pot attractive, understated and a good all-round choice.
Pot Drainage Screens
Bonsai pots feature large holes that promote rapid drainage during watering. To keep the loose, coarse soil from washing out of the pot when watering, we install a screen on the inside of the pot over each drainage hole.
This 50-piece set of 2″ x 2″ black drainage screens is reasonably priced and can take care of many repottings.
These ultra-rigid pot screens from Bonsai Jack come in high-visibility orange. The package comes with 50, 2″ x 2″ screens.
Bonsai need coarse soil mixes that allow water to drain freely and promote development of a compact system of fine roots. For many years, hobbyists created their own soil mixes out of necessity. Now, however, practitioners can enjoy the convenience of purchasing commercially prepared bonsai soil mixes. We recommend that beginners check out our article about soils, then start with a commercial mix such as the ones highlighted below.
Bonsai Jack is a trusted name when it comes to soil mixes for bonsai and succulents. Their 221 mix is formulated to work with all types of bonsai. This two-quart bag should be enough for one or two bonsai projects, provided the trees are not overly large.
Conifers prefer a slightly more acidic soil than deciduous trees. If you have chosen a pine, juniper or other conifer for your project, you may want to consider the Bonsai Jack conifer mix soil.
Bonsai soils, as we explain in our soil article, contain very little organic matter. For that reason, frequent fertilizing is important when practicing bonsai. Hobbyists can use a solid food that sits in the soil and releases nutrients with each watering. Alternatively, they can occasionally mix a liquid fertilizer with the water. We’ve highlighted a couple of fertilizers specifically made for use with bonsai.
Bonsai wire is used to shape branches, to secure drainage screens and to anchor the tree in its pot. Traditionally, annealed copper wire was the material of choice, but in recent years, aluminum wire has become very popular among hobbyists.
This three-roll wire set works well for beginners with smaller bonsai. It features aluminum wire in 1mm, 1.5mm and 2mm sizes.
During the repotting process, it’s essential to make sure the roots don’t dry out. A spray bottle. comes in handy for this purpose and also to spritz tropical bonsai kept indoors.
Learn More About Bonsai
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As we’ve demonstrated, the art of bonsai can be practiced and enjoyed at a very modest cost. Read our articles to learn more about bonsai and how to get started in this fascinating hobby.