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Basic Guidelines on How to Pick a Pot

A large part of practicing Bonsai is how to be able to spot the right pot. Some go by their gut feeling. But that may be difficult for a beginner... So here are some basic rules and guidance for you to stick on to. Good luck and have fun in the pursuit of your tree´s future home.

  • Sex of the tree
    Everything is about sex! The first thing you must do is to decide if your tree is masculine or feminine. Usually, a tree is a mix of both and question is which sex is the dominant. This is absolutely crucial and perhaps the most important rule in choosing a pot. Some attributes that can help you along the way is that the curves, grace, smooth bark and sparse branches is considered feminine. The corresponding masculine traits are strength, old bark, deadwood, thick trunk and dense branches.


  • Size
    The general rule is: The pot should be of the same height as the trunk is wide above the nebari (Nebari - A very important aspect of a Bonsai is its Nebari (or: root-flare), the surface roots that provide visual balance to a tree- follow the link for more info). Oval and rectangular pots are usually 2/3 of the trees height. Round or square pots is 1/3 the height of the tree - unless foliage is unusually large , then the pot is also becoming wider , this is compensated by lowering the height of the pot. Trident maples (which has rapidly growing roots) need , just as fruit and flowering trees deeper pots.

  • Design
    The pots design should match the degree of masculinity or femininity of your tree. The closer you get, the more harmonious the experience of your final Bonsai. To accomplish this, I have as a potter several tools / attributes to work with. Should it be concave, convex, angular, round, oval, rectangular. Then to adjust the degree of feminine or masculine I can work with choice of rhyme, feet and glaze and decor.

Generally masculine pots are deep, angular, have clean lines and stout feet. A lip on the rim strengthens the masculinity, an inward rhyme reinforces the pot femininity. Feminine pots often have soft lines, delicate feet and are relatively low and sleek. Round pots, drum pots are generally considered to be androgynous.

The most general rule when it comes to choosing the glaze for a pot is that the color should appear in the tree. Either in the bark, the color of the leaves, and fruit or flowers. Therefore, the unglazed brown, gray and earth tones are usually safe choices. They also provide warmth and stability to the tree. But we can also work with contrasting colors like blue or cool green. They provide balance and refreshes the composition.

The goal is to create harmony. Observe what choices others have done for their pot, discuss with others. Visit exhibitions, go to shows, read books. Do not hesitate to contact a potter. We are used to draw sketches and submit proposals for a pot that would suit your tree. Remember that there is not only one fitting choice of pot for your tree. There are usually multiple and what is best is a matter of your taste and it is you that first and foremost should be happy with your choice.

Size equals health. According to basic rules a pot should not be more than 2/3 of the height of the tree. But here the pot has deviated from this rule because of that the crown is so big, almost as wide as it is high. So it is large not only because of aesthetics and balance, but also because the branches of the tree corresponds to an equally large root system that needs space. Because of that the crown of the tree is so big, almost as wide as it is high. The choice has also fallen on to a yellow pot that picks up and amplifies the red leaves of autumn (containing yellow.)

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