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Popularized by the Karate-Kid films, think of bonsai and Juniper are likely the trees that come to mind. With over 60 sub-species available, Juniper bonsai is easily one of the most common bonsai trees available. However, one of the most important aspects of caring for these trees is potting soil, so what is the best potting soil for Juniper bonsai?
The best potting soil for a Juniper bonsai is an inorganic bonsai mix that contains equal parts lava/volcanic ash rock, pumice, and akadama. This mix will allow for good ratios of aeration, water retention, and drainage.
Are there any available brands that you can purchase over the counter? And can you use traditional soil and compost for your Juniper bonsai? Keep reading to find out more!
Just a quick heads up, over the past three years of running Plantpaladin, hundreds of people have asked for product recommendations. As such, You can find my favorite indoor bonsai tree here (link takes you to Bonsaiboy), my favorite outdoor bonsai tree (link takes you to Bonsaiboy), or have a look at all the products I recommend here.
Best potting soil for Juniper bonsai?
My favorite species of bonsai has got to be Juniper bonsai.
They look like traditional bonsai trees, and their evergreen needles ensure my backyard stays visually appealing year-round.
When I started growing my Juniper bonsai, I had a common question: What was the best potting soil for Juniper bonsai?
As such, I got in touch with a few experts, visited my local botanical gardens, and have since undertaken a quick survey of 10 plant paladin readers to get to the bottom of this.
- Inorganic bonsai soil mixes are the best potting soil for Juniper bonsai.
- Typically, using equal parts volcanic ash rock such as lava rock, pumice, and akadama (a type of Japanese clay used in bonsai) will give the best properties for Juniper bonsai.
- This delicate balance of grit will allow perfect water retention, moisture flow, and aeration.
- Juniper bonsai trees also prefer slightly acidic soil, so using soil with higher concentrations of Sulfur, Aluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron may prove beneficial.
- You can create your potting soil significantly cheaper than purchasing store-bought bonsai soil simply by purchasing your stones and mixing them.
- While there are over 60 species of Juniper, you can use the same potting mix for most bonsai trees.
Now, this is a lot of information, so let’s explore this in a little more detail:
What is the best Juniper potting soil composition?
So what exactly is the perfect soil composition for your Juniper bonsai tree?
After all, Juniper bonsai love nutrients and can absorb many more nutrients than other bonsai tree species.
A nutrient-dense soil mix (containing the 13 nutrients that Juniper trees need to thrive) is essential.
On top of this, the soil needs to be neutral to slightly acidic, which can rule out some soil material that can contaminate and make the solid more alkaline.
The best potting soil mix for Juniper bonsai is 34% akadama clay, 33% volcanic ash rock, and 33% pumice. These elements will allow for equal water retention, moisture flow, and aeration for your Juniper bonsai.
To explain why these different elements have been selected as the best Juniper potting soil mix, I’ve created a table:
Why it is used in potting soil
Akadama is a clay created in Japan. Using akadama clay in your soil will ensure your tree gets all the nutrients vital to growing your bonsai. Using this, however, in a smaller percentage than 50% will ensure the tree does not become waterlogged.
Volcanic ash rock
Is fantastic at allowing moisture to flow through. Using volcanic ash rock and pumice in even parts will ensure that your bonsai can retail and let moisture pass through your tree quickly.
Is a small grit-like substance. Pumice is fantastic at retaining water and will be used to retain the water in your potting soil, ensuring your tree has an ample supply of moisture. Sand can also be used.
Top 3 picks for the best Juniper bonsai potting soil
So now that we know what the best Juniper bonsai potting soil mixes are and what they contain if you want to cut to the chase and buy a store-bought brand of potting soil – what are the best picks?
Thankfully I’ve used quite a few different varieties of potting soil on my Juniper over these past few years and have found the following three picks to be my top choice:
Best overall Juniper bonsai potting soil
For me, the best overall potting soil I’ve found has got to be easter leafs akadama volcanic ash rock mix.
This soil mix contains a nice even mix of all the vital elements required in a perfect blend, meaning you have to worry about purchasing your types of rock separately, saving you a significant amount on cost.
On top of this, it is reasonably priced and comes in various sizes, meaning that it won’t break the bank.
You can read more here. (link takes you to the Eastern Leaf website)
Best cheap option
Now, if you are in a rush and want a cheap and cheerful option to use for your Juniper bonsai, then a brand I have used a few times – that I was surprised by how good the spotting soil was – was Oupengs Potting soil mix.
This, too, contains an even mix of volcanic rock needed for Juniper bonsai to thrive.
Please be aware, however, that this soil will likely need to be changed quite a bit more frequently than the others on this list.
You can grab it here. (link takes you to Amazon)
Best premium option
So, while the previous options will work well for 90% of weekend warrior bonsai owners, I recommend a premium brand if you want to take your Juniper bonsai to the next level.
For me, the All things bonsai large stone Akadama, lava, and pumice mix is the best potting soil on the market.
They opt for giant stones, which ramp up the quality of the three vital elements ( water retention, moisture flow, and aeration) on not on;y Juniper bonsai but any bonsai tree using an inorganic potting soil mix.
I have been testing this brand out recently, and I’m impressed by the results.
You can find out more about it here. (link takes you to all things bonsai’s website).
What makes up an excellent potting soil for Juniper bonsai?
So regardless of whether you decide to go for my pick, understanding what makes up an excellent potting soil for Juniper bonsai is vital.
We touched upon this earlier, but there are three key elements that all tremendous potting soil requires:
- Water retention.
Let’s explore these in more detail.
The first element that all good Juniper bonsai potting soils have is good aeration.
Juniper bonsai, like all trees, need their roots to access air to help process food and grow effectively.
Next up, all great Juniper potting soil will have excellent drainage.
Water needs to flow easily through the potting soil to prevent water from pooling in the soil.
If the water does start to pool, this can lead to fungal infections such as root rot and prevent your Juniper bonsai trees roots from absorbing nutrients from the soil.
Now, as a side note, if you are worried that your potting soil isn’t draining correctly, consider investing in a shallow bonsai pot with plenty of holes that can aid in the drainage of your tree.
Good drainage will also prevent the build-up of elements such as chlorine which can increase the PH level of your soil, transforming it into a potentially dangerous alkaline mix.
So great potting soil for Juniper bonsai not only needs to allow water to flow through it but also to allow water to retain in the soil.
It’s one of the reasons why most bonsai owners recommend watering your bonsai every other day or using mosses such as sphagnum moss to increase the amount of moisture in your tree.
Any good bonsai potting soil mix then requires the ability to hold on to water to help give your tree moisture during periods when you are not watering your tree.
Remember to only water your bonsai when the topsoil is dry, as overwatering can also be quite common in bonsai.
Inorganic vs. organic potting soil for Juniper bonsai?
So what exactly is better? Inorganic vs. organic potting soil for Juniper bonsai.
Inorganic potting soil is a better option to use for Juniper bonsai when compared to organic potting soil. Juniper bonsai are typically kept outdoors year-round, so organic soil mixes can freeze or deteriorate during harsher winters.
Organic soil mixes, however, can still be used in Juniper bonsai trees, and Juniper can still be successfully grown with organic potting soil mixes.
Use a mix of akadama, volcanic ash rock, and pumice for your Juniper potting soil mix for best results.
Inorganic Soil Mix
Organic soil mix
Is Great for trees that need to be kept outdoors year-round such as Junipers.
Perfect for bonsai trees that are planted directly in the ground.
Lower chance of insect infestation
Higher chance of insect infestation
Lower nutrient content
Higher nutrient content
Beter for moisture flow
Better for moisture retention
Juniper trees are robust, and you can use organic soil mixes should you not have enough inorganic soil mix.
What’s the difference between organic and inorganic Juniper bonsai soil?
The big difference between organic and inorganic Juniper potting soil is simply the material used in the soil.
Inorganic soil typically contains hard grit, such as volcanic ash rock, clay, lava rock, pumice, or sand.
Organic soil for Juniper bonsai will typically contain a traditional soil element, such as peat moss soil, leaf mulch, compost, or general potting soil, as well as a mix of some grit elements, such as volcanic ash rock or sand.
What is a good organic soil mix for Juniper bonsai soil?
So if you have decided to opt for an organic bonsai soil mix, then ensure your organic Juniper bonsai soil has the following mix:
30% organic material consists of peat soil, leaf mulch, general soil, 30% akadama clay, 30% volcanic rock, and 10% sand.
How to make your Juniper potting soil?
If you are tight on money but have the time, then you can make your own Juniper bonsai potting soil.
The following then will work well for a small one-handed Juniper bonsai:
- Akadama clay (300g)
- Perlite (300g)
- Volcanic ash rock (300g)
- 100ml of water.
Start then by mixing the perlite and volcanic ash rock.
Place these into one bowl and, using your hand, mix until combined.
Once mixed, you then want to add the Akadama clay.
Mixing the Akadema at the end is essential, as working it too much or for too long can cause it to break down or melt.
Place the Akadama clay then and mix as you heve just done for the other two items.
Finish off then by adding the water and stirring thoroughly.
You can then use this soil mix on your Juniper.
I recommend finding a potting soil mix that works for you and testing different types of grit and material, as you may stumble across a Juniper bonsai soil mix that works exceptionally well for your tree.
Why make your own Juniper bonsai potting soil?
Typically many people will create their Juniper potting soil as they have many pebbles and stones lying around.
On top of this, purchasing these stones is usually cheaper than buying a pre-bought mix.
What to avoid when selecting potting soil for Juniper bonsai?
The biggest thing to avoid when selecting or making potting soil for your Juniper bonsai is to ensure it does not contain any harmful items to your tree.
This includes items such as cat litter, charcoal, or ashwood, as these can exacerbate the amount of water held onto by your tree.
Another critical thing to avoid when selecting potting soil is if your soil contains chalky stones such as limestones.
These can increase your soil’s PH level, making it more alkaline.
Finally, you want to ensure that your bonsai soil hits all three key areas: aeration, moisture retention, and moisture flow.
How is Juniper potting soil different from regular bonsai soil?
Juniper potting soil is no different than any other inorganic potting soil mix. Juniper potting soil can work incredibly well on most other common bonsai species, such as Ficus, Elm, Oak, Cherry, or Jade bonsai tree.
Succulent bonsai, in particular, will work very well with the soil mixes described in this post.
How often should you change Juniper potting soil?
You should change Juniper potting soil once every one to two years. Should the inorganic material break down, or your Juniper bonsai start developing root rot or yellowing leaves, this is a surefire sign of changing the Juniper bonsai potting soil.
Is cactus soil good for Juniper bonsai?
Cactus soil is not recommended for use with Juniper bonsai. Cactus soil typically contains more organic material than is recommended for the best Juniper bonsai potting soils. Instead, consider using an entirely inorganic potting mix for Juniper bonsai soil.
Cactus soil, however, can be used for other bonsai tree species, such as Ficus or Chinese elm trees, as these trees are incredibly robust and easy to take care of.
Best Juniper bonsai potting soil by season?
Inorganic potting soil is the best for your Juniper bonsai to be used every season.
Should you live in a mild climate, consider using organic soil in the spring and fall. To do this may require you to change your Juniper soil too frequently, so I recommend sticking with an inorganic potting soil mix of akadama, volcanic ash rock, and pumice year round.
Inorganic potting soil mixes can easily survive very harsh cold winters and sweltering, dry summers.
Organic soil mixes may be more beneficial in the spring and fall growing seasons and may dry out in the summer or freeze up in the winter.
Can you use regular potting soil for Juniper bonsai?
While not the ideal potting soil for Juniper bonsai, you can use regular peat potting soil to successfully grow a Juniper bonsai tree. Just ensure you use no more than 30% regular potting soil and mix grit such as sand perlite or lava rock into the mix.
What is the best fertilizer for Juniper bonsai?
Liquid fertilizers are the best fertilizers to use for your Juniper bonsai. For best results, using a liquid fertilizer with an even NPK ratio of 10-10-10 will work best for your tree. Lower nitrogen fertilizers can also improve your Juniper bonsai’s ability to absorb nutrients.
While volcanic ash rock does contain the 13 vital essential nutrients your Juniper bonsai needs, the rocks become less efficient at providing these nutrients to your tree as time goes by.
As such, fertilizer should be considered.
Use the fertilizer then once per month during the spring and summer.
Place the fertilizer on the potting soil and work until the fertilizer is four to six inches deep in the bonsai pot.
Avoid placing the fertilizer on the Juniper’s needle-like leaves at all costs.
Mixing water-soluble fertilizer will work best for Juniper bonsai for an even excellent distribution of nutrients as the weeks go by.
Do Juniper bonsai prefer acidic or alkaline potting soil?
Juniper bonsai trees prefer slightly acidic soil at a PH range of between 5.5 to 7. Using volcanic ash rock in your potting soil will give a slight acidic boost to your potting soil.
To ensure that the soil remains acidic, ensure you change the soil every one to two years, depending on the size of your bonsai, and avoid using tap water to water your Juniper bonsai.
Using too much tap water can add salts to your potting soil, making it slightly more alkaline.
Can you plant Juniper bonsai in the ground?
Juniper bonsai can be planted in the ground due to Juniper being incredibly hardy. For best results, dig a hole about twice as deep as the size of the roots of your bonsai. Gently place your bonsai and use an organic soil mix so as not to impact the surrounding fauna.
Most Juniper bonsai trees can survive outdoors in harsh winters, and due to them being evergreen, they will require only minimal winterization.
Organic soil is then used in this scenario as opposed to inorganic potting soil mainly because we don’t want to disrupt the surrounding plants, trees, or grass that can be impacted negatively should an entirely organic soil mix be used.
Survey on the best potting soil for Juniper bonsai
Finally, I am undertaking a quick survey of 10 plant paladin readers, asking them what the best potting solid for Juniper bonsai was.
You can find the results below:
My top picks for the gear you will need!
So like I mentioned earlier, over the past three years of running PlantPaladin, hundreds of people have asked me for my recommendations on the best bonsai gear on the market.
Having spent thousands of dollars on bonsai items these past few years and tested at least 100 bonsai-specific products, I’ve listed my favorite products below – All of which I highly recommend and think you can get great value.
They can purchase directly by clicking the link to take them to Amazon.
Bonsai Tool Set: One of the significant challenges I’ve had is finding a toolset that was not only durable but didn’t break the bank. SOLIGT has recently developed a fantastic bonsai tool set that covers all the tools you need to trim, prune, and repot your trees. – You can grab it here.
Complete Bonsai Set: Many of you will want to grow your bonsai trees entirely from scratch, but finding the varicose seeds, pots, and other items in one place can be challenging. Leaves and Sole then have created a complete bonsai set that I’ve personally used that ticks all the boxes. You can grab it here.
Bonsai wire: The number of times I’ve run out of wire for my bonsai or purchased cheap bonsai wire that doesn’t do the job is embarrassing for me to admit. After a lot of trial and error, I found that using Hotop’s aluminum bonsai wire is one of the best options on the market. This can easily be used for both indoor and outdoor bonsai. You can grab it here.
This post was written by Fehed Nicass, who has been passionate about bonsai for over three years.