Bonsai is the ancient art of growing miniature trees in containers. It has been practiced for centuries in China, Japan, and other parts of Asia. Bonsai is a great hobby that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. To get started with bonsai, you will need some basic supplies.
Tending your bonsai tree – or trees takes a great deal of time and effort, more so than for practically any other type of plant you can cultivate. It’s important, therefore, that you use the proper tools for the job.
Bonsai trees need to be potted and re-potted regularly, so you’ll need potting tools. They also need to be pruned and shaped regularly, you’ll need pruning and shaping tools, as well.
It’s possible to get all kinds of tools at your local garden center, and some of these tools can be used for doing the potting if you so desire. But when it comes to cutting-type tools, for pruning branches, tree roots, or wire – these tools should be made specifically for bonsai. For example, the concave branch cutter has blades that are angled, so that when you cut off a branch, they scoop some tissue from the trunk or main stem, and leave a dent in the surface. When a scar forms, it will therefore heal at level with the surrounding plane. (Regular pruners will leave either a bump of scar tissue or a stub at the base of a pruned branch, which is undesirable.)
Buy the best quality tools that you can afford – because these tools will last longer than cheaper varieties, and so will be more economical in the long run. You must Don’t use your bonsai tools for any other purposes – they were made for working on trees and that’s all they should be used for. When you need to cut a screen or other material, for example, use a plain old pair of scissors instead.
You’ll need a sieve – a holder with screen sets of different sizes, to enable you to sift fine particles from the soil.
You’ll use a small broom to brush the surface soil smooth
Scoops come in different sizes, and allow you to transfer potting soil into the container with ease.
Potting or Root Rake, with dirt patter
Use the root rake to loosen and remove soil from the root ball. Rake down the top, sides, and bottom of the root ball to remove unneeded soil, and to expose the roots for cutting. Use the pattern to tamp moss around the bonsai. (You can also use the chopsticks to help you with this task.)
Once you’ve removed excess soil from the root ball, and pruned the roots, you place the bonsai into the container, (wiring it in place) and then use the chopsticks to tap soil into, around, and under the ball. This helps stabilize the tree and removes air pockets. You can also use chopsticks to smooth the soil around the base of the tree.
Plastic Drainage Mesh
This is placed over the drainage holes in the pot to prevent soil from falling out.
The soil around a bonsai must be kept moist at all times. Use a spray bottle to mist the foliage, and a watering can with a head to produce a gentle shower.
Concave Branch Cutter
bonsai scissors are designed to be able to cut at all parts of the blade, from the tips to the hinge. This allows you to get into the foliage of a tree without having to open the blades any wider than necessary, and possibly damage the surrounding foliage. This tool, used to remove branches close to the trunk and limbs, comes in many different sizes.
Bonsai scissors have big, bowed handles which allow you to get a good grip, and short, sharp blades.
Wire cutters used for bonsai have a rounded head. This prevents damage to the bark. This allows you to get close to the branch or trunk to cut wire. As with the concave branch cutter, the wire cutters come in different sizes, depending on the size of the wire to be used.
Tweezers are used to remove a leaf, needle, or small twig, without disturbing the remaining foliage. They are multi-purpose, however, use the spatula end to smooth soil, for example, or to scrape moss and tamp it onto the soil, or firm it against the rim of the container.
After pruning back your bonsai, it’s necessary to apply the cut paste to the wounds. It keeps the cut from drying out and prevents invasive pests and diseases from entering through the wound. The cut paste comes in tubes or jaws.
As you become more ambitious in your bonsai efforts, you’ll want to acquire more specialist tools.
Bud and Detail Shears
This scissor is used for detail work. Experts use this, for example, for trimming pine candles (partially expanded shoots).
The Japanese saw cuts on the “pull” stroke, which allows a neat, even slice.
The knob cutter is used to eliminate knobs and stubs from trunks and branches. Rather than making flat wounds, wounds should be concave, so that they will heal level with the surrounding surface.