What Soil is Used for Bonsai?: With a DIY Soil Guide

Bonsai aka miniature tree can be your next plant for your home collection if given the proper soil and care to know what soil is used for Bonsai, you have come to the right place. This beauty is grown with practice and patience as an art by many bonsai enthusiasts but they are intimidating for beginners.

If you are, like me, wondering and willing to explore the world of Bonsai then you are on the right page. Let us start with the soil. Most of the Bonsai tree comes in potting soil which may lead to vigorous growth. If you want to know more then read on to get your guide on bonsai types, care, and fail-proof recipes for Bonsai.

Types of Trees for Bonsai

Bonsai is the Japanese art of growing trees of specific types in pots to give a miniature look to the tree or shrubs. They need special care with the soil, pruning and root growth, and container selection. Nearly all perennial trees or shrubs can be grown to be bonsai. Yet, some species are well-suited because of their appearance and care. Let us learn about some variety of tree ideal for Bonsai,

  • Juniper is one of the popular genera for growing the Bonsai. They can withstand heavy pruning and have mini leaves which makes them ideal for Bonsai. 
  • Pomegranate bonsai is best for outdoors in warm areas. They have strong bark with a striking shape when growing along with the fruit to make them a desirable type for Bonsai.
  • Ficus are low-maintenance indoor Bonsais and are best for beginners. This Fiscus is hardy and best for pruning and practicing.
  • Jade is the same as fiscus and is good for beginners, best in indirect indoor sunlight. Best known for their tiny leaves.
  • Chinese Elm is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. They grow very slowly with only up to two feet in height. 

Testing the Soil for Bonsai

The first thing you should do is test your soil if you want to grow a bonsai. Bonsai will last for years if grown in the right soil. Testing the soil for your bonsai will make sure the soil is acidic enough for the plant. Starting from before planting the plant to every period, keeping a regular check on soil pH is a must. To do the soil pH test, 

Litmus Paper Test– This traditional paper test is used to find if the soil is acidic or not. Mix the water and soil in a container and dip the paper. If the Litmus paper turns red, then the soil is acidic. 

Digital Tester– The Digital Tester is used in the soil to find the soil pH. This electronic device is made of metal which also shows the mineral levels that are present in the soil.

Lab Soil Test– Send your soil sample to a nearby soil lab or extension office to know about the soil. They also give more information to grow the plant along with the soil pH and contents in soil.

What is the Good Soil pH for Bonsai? 

What is the Good Soil pH for Bonsai? 

The best soil pH for Bonsai can range from 6.0 to 7.0. Bonsai can grow best in slightly acidic to neutral soil depending on the variety of plants. If the soil is too alkaline, it may affect the plant. To make your soil acidic, add peat moss to it. 

pH is tested to find the potential of hydrogen and uses a chemical scale to identify the nature of the soil. Testing for soil pH is the first step in getting to know the soil. Ph can range from 0 to 14. Any soil with a pH higher than 7 is alkaline and less than 7 is acidic. Do a pH test to find the soil pH level.

Can I use any soil for Bonsai?

No, you can’t use any soil for Bonsai. Bonsai is the art of growing a tree or shrub which is grown in a pot or container so a special soil that is made for bonsai is best. One should avoid garden soil in any situation as it does not have the right drainage for bonsai. Also, avoid peat soil as it breaks the plant with too much draining of water. Potting soil which is used for other plants can’t be directly used for bonsai. Special potting mix for cacti and succulents should be used for Bonsai. Using soil that gives the right drainage, is gritty, and well-aerated is the best soil for Bonsai.

Components of the Perfect Bonsai soil

 The Three main components which should be present in the soil to make it the Perfect soil for Bonsai are,

Proper Drainage- Proper draining soil is essential for Bonsai. Grown in a pot, it does need a special drainage hole for drainage. Water sitting in the pot is not acceptable. If grown on land, add Peat to nourish the soil and improve drainage.

Water retention– Water retention should be enough for the need for water. Some varieties of Bonsai ask for moist soil while some need well-draining soil. Adding a combination of ingredients that have equal water retention and drainage will help in tree growth. 

Good aeration- Bonsai like damp soil but they should have good aeration too. As some types love dry and light soil to get the proper aeration, giving that will help them grow. Providing extra aeration for potted plant soil will boost the growth of the plant.

What soil is used for Bonsai?

What soil is used for Bonsai?

The best soil for Bonsai trees is Sandy soil. Sandy soil will give the right amount of drainage, retention, and texture as well as nutrients in the soil for the plant. Sandy loam also will give the extra sandy content for well drainage.

In the case of indoor plants, Select soil that does have all the best drainage components mentioned above for the tree soil. Buying potting soil or potting mix and making amendments with compost is not good for bonsai. They need a special mix for the plant according to the tree or the shrub chosen.


Use tropical and sub-tropical trees as indoor bonsai for better adaptability of the tree.

The recommended fertilizer ratio for Bonsai is 0-10-10.

How to Prepare Soil for Bonsai? 

To prepare the soil for Bonsai, add One part of the Organic matter to one part of the inorganic matter. Organic matter includes soil, compost, bark, coir, moss, and plant waste such as lawn clipping, leaves, stems, and branches. 

Inorganic or mineral matters are rocks, sand, gravel, marbles, and charcoal.

Depending on the texture of the mix, add one or two parts of coco coir to it to improve the aeration. You can add perlite to increase the drainage of the soil.

The preparation of a potting mix for the Bonsai is a little costly but is worth the value. Succulent, cactus soil is quite opposite to garden or potting soil or orchid soil. Succulent soil is even more nutritious and suitable for Bonsai rather than Garden soil. Adding a potting mix directly for plants is not good. But if the soil is made specially for bonsai, mending the soil to improve drainage and aeration will make the potting mix doable for Bonsai.

DIY Tips to make soil for Bonsai at Home (Complete guide)

DIY tips to make soil for Bonsai

Soil for most plants can be made by mixing potting soil or some minerals and organic matter. Bonsai need soil that is suitable for it. Bonsai is very picky about their choices to grow in draining and nutritious soil. So, making a Do-it-yourself soil is your best choice. To make your own DIY soil for your bonsai,


  • Collecting all the ingredients before making the soil.
  • Take time to mix the ingredients.
  • Learn other items like reading a pH tester, types of nutrients, and their uses.

Now you can start making the DIY with the below-given ingredients and follow up,


  • Gear up with gloves to avoid dirt from the soil.
  • Measuring cup or instrument to measure the ingredients.
  • Bucket or vessel to make space to mix the soil.
  • A small shovel/ Trowel to mix the soil.
  • Dust mask.


Inorganic matters

  • Coarse sand– Coarse sand is added to give a loose texture to the soil. The sand is added to reduce the clay content in the soil.
  • Volcanic rocks– These are rocks from volcanic lava. The rock contains many minerals which help in plant growth.
  • Gravel– Gravel is rock fragments that are formed from the breakdown of rock. They are used in decorative and to provide aeration to the soil.
  • Grit
  • Akadama
  • Stone

Organic matters

  • Bonsai Potting Mix
  • Loam
  • Compost– Compost is a mixture of organic waste formed and added to soil to enrich it. 
  • Manure– Manure is a natural source of nutrients to the soil. It is made from decomposed plant and animal waste.
  • Peat moss– This soil amendment is made from peat bogs. This active decomposing peat moss is used to hold water in the soil.


Mix 1

1 Part Bonsai Potting mix

1 Part Gravel or lava rock

Mix 2

1 Part Loam

1 Part Peat moss

2 Parts Gravel


After collecting all the required ingredients and tools add the measured ingredients to the bucket with the help of a trowel and add one part of organic matter to one part of inorganic soil and mix it well so both are mixed. This will give the best soil for your bonsai plant. Add one part Loam, one part peat moss, and two parts of gravel, and mix all well to make the best soil for your Bonsai. When using a potting mix add the required amount of sand to it and other nutrients to reach the pH requirement of the plant.

Where to Buy Soil for Bonsai?

Soil for Bonsai can be bought in a nearby commercial store or online. Store-bought soil is ready-made to use but may contain fertilisers. Online, you can make your choice based on your research with the review, rating, and the right mix mentioned in the label. With whatever way of buying the soil, adding some soil conditioner will help for the betterment of the plant as well the soil.

Can I use Regular Potting soil or Garden soil for Bonsai?

No, you can’t use garden soil for Bonsai. Garden soil will be heavy, damp and moisture pretended with lots of organic, and inorganic patterns in it. Indoor Bonsai can’t thrive in garden soil. Garden soil will be loamy, and perfect drainage and nutrients will make it not suitable for Bonsai to grow. But add some more drainage amendments to make it good for some varieties. 

No, Bonsai can’t be grown in regular potting soil. Potting soil tends to have a high acidity which is not suitable for the plant. Potting soil has good drainage and is porous which makes it good only when they have more drainage and are adjusted for the Bonsai.

Can I use Cactus Soil or Succulent Soil for Bonsai?

Can I use Cactus Soil or succulent Soil for Bonsai?

Yes, cactus or succulent mix can be used for Bonsai. Keeping a check on sand in the soil will only make the difference. Cactus plants need more sandy soil like Bonsai. Often the term cactus and succulent are used indifferently. You may find labels in soil bags stating cactus and succulent soil. As the characteristics and needs of both cacti and succulents are common, they can be used for one another.

Selecting the Right Place and Pot for Bonsai

The right place to grow a Bonsai plant is in a partially shaded area. Some Bonsai prefer a shady place but some species can tolerate hot sun. Bonsai are not temperature tolerant even though they have moist soil.

Picking the right pot is essential for every houseplant. The right pot for a Bonsai is categorised with the size and material of the pot. 

The pot for the plant can be plastic, ceramic, or wood. But the best one for Bonsai is Terracotta or porcelain because of its nature. This will help to keep the plant moist even at high temperatures.

The Size of the pot for Bonsai can not be fixed. There is no perfect size pot for plants. Giving the plant a pot that is a half size bigger than the plant will be good. Bonsai having too much space in the pot may lead to overgrowth. Choosing only a pot that is half bigger or less than half bigger for the plant will be good.

Potting and Repotting for Bonsai

Potting and Repotting for Bonsai

Repotting a young Bonsai plant every two years once in early spring will enrich the plant with nutrients in the new soil. Repotting a bonsai every 5 years once when fully matures can avoid many problems for the tree. Repotting can be done at certain times:

  • When the plant has outgrown the pot or container in which it grows.
  • When its plant is externally damaged due to any cause like animal accidents and many such.
  • Fungal or bacterial infection can damage the soil during such times there is a need to repot the plant.
  • Root rot is not a major problem and the plant can recover on its own. But at times, when it gets severe repotting should be done to save the plant and root.

Repotting should not be done in yellow leaves, dropping leaves, dryness, sunburn, and insect invading the soil.

To report a plant, selecting a container or pot regarding the size of the plant is the first step. The two factors which determine the pot size are Water requirement and growth space.

  • Loosen the plant from the pot with a shovel and dug it out.
  • Remove the soil rock and remove any debris from the root to add it to the new soil.
  • Place the plant in a new pot with a ⅔ new soil and fill in the sides to make the plant straight.
  • Add water and potting mix to make up for the lost nutrients.

My Verdict is that picking the right variety is equally important as selecting the right soil for the Bonsai. No matter which way of growing, they will succeed and stay for decades until it is cultivated in the right soil for the plant.


Do Bonsai grow in soil?

Bonsai grow better in a soilless potting mix.

Is Indoor potting soil good for Bonsai?

Yes, only when drainage components are added to it.

What kind of soil should I use to report my Bonsai plant?

Use a Bonsai potting mix for repotting a Bonsai tree.