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Keeping bonsai trees is a fantastic hobby that almost anyone can start, and in a few short months of practice, become an expert at. One of the things that will drastically increase your ability to get better at bonsai is selecting the right accessories. So what are the essential bonsai must-have accessories?
Scissors, shears, branch cutters, copper wire, saws, and pliers are all essential accessories needed in the day-to-day upkeep of your bonsai. Lime sulfur, brushes, and bonsai pots can all be fantastic accessories to improve the look of your tree.
So what are these accessories used for? Do these accessories make good bonsai gifts? And when should you invest in these items? 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.
Possible the most essential accessory you will need to invest in is bonsai pots.
Mass produce pots, however, that might not be that visually striking can be bought for a much cheaper price.
To find out exactly how many, check out my post here or the table below:
Number of penny-sized holes
Number of pencil-sized holes
1 to 3 inches
2 to 4 inches
2 to 6 inches
5 to 8 inches
6 to 10 inches
10 to 18 inches
Chiu or Chumono
16 to 36 inches
Dai or Omono
30 to 48 inches
40 to 60 inches
60 to 80 inches
Avoid using regular, deep pots for bonsai which your trees will struggle to grow in.
Potting soil is essential for bonsai trees.
Without potting soil, your tree will not be able to grow its roots, absorb water and oxygen correctly, and gain any nutrients in the soil.
This typically needs to be changed every time you repot your tree.
Whilst different species have different potting soil mixes, for most bonsai trees, using an inorganic potting soil mix containing akadama or volcanic ash rock works best.
Using organic soil such as cactus soil or peat soil can also work well.
For an in-depth breakdown of potting soil mixes, check out my post here.
It can be easy to forget that bonsai trees are not one species of tree and instead are made up of literally thousands of tree species that can be transformed into bonsai.
As such, it’s important to remember to regularly fertilize your bonsai tree.
Fertilizer then is a vital accessory that will be needed to keep your bonsai tree healthy.
Most bonsai varieties only need to be fertilized once per month in the summer and don’t need to be fertilized during the fall and winter.
I’d also recommend using a balanced NPK ratio of 1-1-1 (equal parts nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) which I found works best for bonsai tree subspecies.
If you have an indoor tree such as ficus, then using a liquid fertilizer will prove more beneficial as it can be absorbed by the tree and into the leaves faster.
Fertilizer should be an essential must-have accessory not only for bonsai, but other plants you keep too such as orchids.
Try as you might, sooner or later bugs will start to attack your bonsai.
Using a good pesticide then is essential for the health of your tree.
The good news is that there are a few methods to removing bugs from your bonsai tree.
Two of the most popular are using a solution of vinegar and water to spray your tree which will burn these insects off.
Alternatively using a solution of liquid soapy and water will also work as an effective pesticide.
Store-bought specific pesticides will have the best results but opt for the natural methods first to avoid your tree from burning from the chemicals.
For a natural solution, consider investing in parasitic wasps or ladybugs as a natural solution to removing pests.
The ultimate accessory for watering your bonsai tree has to be a watering can.
Using a watering can as opposed to a hosepipe will ensure that your tree gets a nice even distribution of water.
Be sure to water your bonsai over its leaves and onto the topsoil.
Water for 30 to 50 seconds and stop when the water starts to pour out of the drainage holes of your pot.
As always only water your bonsai tree if the topsoil is dry.
A good rule of thumb is to water once per day as a minimum in the summer and once per week in the winter.
Sadly it’s not just insects and bugs that you will have to deal with when it comes to bonsai keeping.
The best way to avoid this is by using audio scares of the sounds of predators and playing this near your tree.
This will interrupt these predators’ behavior and prevent them from wanting to attack your tree.
So next up is cutting tools, and to start with, you can’t go wrong with a simple pair of sharp scissors.
More than any other item on this list, a sharp pair of scissors will be used to not only to trim back the thick branches of your tree and the leaves when defoliating your tree but also to help trim the smaller roots when repotting your tree.
The two main types of scissors you should invest in are:
- Regular scissors – Have a thick grip allowing you to apply maximum pressure, which is great for cutting thick branches or dead branches that can sometimes be tough.
- The second pair of scissors should be smaller but still sharp enough to cut secondary and tertiary branches as well as worn out roots of thin roots.
While scissors will work best for most people when pruning their bonsai branches, on some occasions and for some species branch cutter might be a more viable option.
Branch cutters are specifically designed for cutting thick, weighty branches and will stop you from getting tired when pruning.
If then you are cutting your tree with scissors and the blades have become blunt then consider investing in these.
Branch cutters typically come in the following options:
- Concave cutter – These have a rounded curved edge and are perfect for stubs that are close to the trunk of your tree that can be hard to remove via traditional scissors. These are also good for removing bark and cambium during repotting bonsai trees.
- Standard branch cutter – These come with a flat edge and are perfect for removing normal-sized branches directly from the trunk
- Hybrid cutter – My recommendation as these allow for both stub and branch removals.
Sometimes scissors aren’t enough to help cut branches and leaves and you need specialist tools.
Pruning shears then are a fantastic option to help, especially if your bonsai tree has a dense canopy, branches, or leaves that are hard to reach by traditional scissors.
Pruning shears work best when kept upright so use them for those trees that have dense nests of branches to save you dulling your other blades.
Repotting a bonsai tree is a regular task, with most trees needing to be reported every 2 to 3 years in their first few years of growth.
Repotting is mainly done when the roots of the bonsai tree, grow beyond the space in its pot.
When repotting a bonsai then you will need to trim back some of the roots that have grown excessively.
Think of it as like a hairdresser who is trimming your loose ends to promote new growth.
Whilst this can be undertaken with scissors, some bonsai tree varieties such as oak, have incredibly strong roots making it quite tough to cut these down to size.
Root cutters can easily cut down the toughest of roots.
What’s even better is that most root cutters also double as branch cutters or concave cutters making them an essential must-have bonsai accessory.
One of the hardest parts of growing bonsai is the art of defoliating a tree.
Defoliation is the process of removing some or all of a bonsai tree’s leaves to promote new growth.
This in trunks, helps create a thicker bonsai tree with more leaves.
In then come leaf pruners.
These then, with their sharp blade are ideal for removing the leaves at the petiole so new growth can occur.
These can also double up as branch cutters for smaller secondary and tertiary branches too.
Whilst the blades of your shears and scissors might be sharp enough to trim your bonsai branches, sometimes you need some leverage to adequately remove bonsai branches – especially in larger trees.
Whilst saws can be a great option, they do require a large amount of force and time.
Another great option then would have to be bonsai loppers.
These come with long handles giving you the extra force needed to remove tough branches.
Just ensure you use these on larger bonsai trees only as they might damage smaller, younger trees.
Whilst using your hand to separate the bonsai soil and roots when repotting your tree will work best for most of you.
If you have left your bonsai tree to grow for a while without repotting then you might need to use a root claw.
Root claws are like mini rakes that will stop the soil from clumping to your roots.
Using the root claw then let out the excess soil to ensure you have clean roots that you can then prepare for repotting.
So you’ve tried to remove your branches with scores shears branch cutter and still they won’t cut.
In then comes the nuclear option with bonsai saws.
These are fantastic at cutting through dense branches.
Electric buzz saws will also save you a lot of time.
Bonsai saws are smaller, precision counterparts to their big brothers.
These are used for more precision cuts where you don’t want to damage or remove branches or bark from the cut you are making surrounding areas.
This will give you more control and is essential when creating a more visually appealing tree.
Adding a bend in the trunk of a bonsai tree is essential to help create bonsai tree styles such as informal upright, cascade, and semi-cascade.
Whilst bending the branches of a bonsai can usually be achieved with wires, trying to bend a trunk can prove more difficult.
Whilst removing chunks from the trunk is the obvious option, another option would be to use a trunk splitter.
Trunk splitters apply small holes in the trunk of your tree which will weaken them making them easier to move.
These holes should be placed a few times on the trunk of your tree a few CM apart.
When using the tool, push the blades through the trunk until they meet together.
You can then follow this up by wrapping the trunk in wire to create movement.
So as you can tell, a lot of the essential bonsai must-have accessories have blades or sharp edges to prune acute and style your bonsai.
In an ideal world, the tools you will have purchased will have sharp blades for the next few years, however, the reality is that after a few months of using them will start to dull.
To prevent this from happening, simply invest in a tool sharper, ideally a sharpener made from galvanized steel to help keep your blades as sharp as possible.
Another pair of essential bonsai must-have accessories that you will be using every few weeks will be wire.
Wire and wiring techniques are used to help move the branches and trunk of your tree into position, to give your bonsai a more appealing look.
This is traditionally done with two types of wire:
- Copper wire
- Aluminum wire
Copper wire is usually thicker and works well for species that are kept outdoors year-round such as Junipers or pines.
For trees that might be smaller and easier to move then I would recommend using aluminum wire.
Avoid any other types of metal wires however as these might be more damaging to your tree.
Now if you are against using metal wires entirely but still want to shape your tree, I suggest reading my post on how to shape a bonsai without wire here.
Alternatively, consider reading up my post about writing bonsai and all the best practices about that here.
So we touched upon wiring and the importance of copper and aluminum wire, but one of the most common mistakes that people make when wiring their bonsai is ripping the wire off once wiring has been completed.
If then you were to unfurl the wire of your tree, this would cause significant damage, especially in younger trees.
One of the best things you can invest in then if you feel as though you will be doing a lot of wiring is a pair of wire cutters.
These allow you to remove the wires in one quick easy cut, prevent any damage to your tree from occurring.
A good pair of bonsai pliers has multiple functions when growing bonsai.
They are a fantastic option when trying to secure the wire to your tree and make sure they are as tight as possible against your branches.
Bonsai pliers are also great at holding onto the bark and cambium when peeling this back when creating things like Jin.
Whilst purchasing all the individual tools such as a root rake, bonsai shears, and scalpel can be costly, one way to save on costs is to simply invest in a toolset.
Bonsai toolkits typically contain the essential bonsai must-have accessories, and tools specifically, you will need to manage the pruning and cutting of your bonsai tree.
When planting a bonsai tree from a cutting, typically the cambium and bark of your tree are peeled back from the bottom cm or two of a cutting to help it propagate and grow new roots.
Peeling back this bark can sometimes be difficult and so for the best precision tool, I would suggest using a scalpel.
Scalpels can also be used for creating jin, or whittling down and carving branches for precision work.
Jin is a bonsai deadwood technique that is used to create a more visually appealing tree.
This is usually done by peeling back and exposing the inner wood from sections of a tree to give it a more natural look.
Whilst this can be achieved with some of the accessories we talked about earlier on such as pliers and a scalpel, there are specific Jin sets that you can buy that make the process of creating jin in your bonsai a lot easier, especially if you are a beginner.
if then you are keen at implementing jin into your overall bonsai style ensure you incle a jin set on your list of essential bonsai must-have accessories.
A lot of the metals tools are made from will rust if let out in the garden where a lot of you keep your bonsai tools.
As such, ensure you oil your tools or spray them with a rust eraser before every use to ensure that your tools are maintained as best as possible.
No matter how clean you try to keep your bonsai, sooner or later it’s going to get dirty.
Potting soil has a habit of getting everyone and the general wear and tear of keeping a bonsai tree mean that you will be left with a lot of potting soil, leaves branches, and even dead insects in and around your tree.
Brushes then for bonsai can be sussed for the following:
- To remove debris from the top of potting soil and to clean surfaces when working on bonsai – soft fiber brushes work best for this.
- Removing algae and cleaning the bonsai trees – wire bruises with brass filaments works best for this.
If you have a bonsai tree that is going to be transported, have seeds or seedlings that you need to keep most, or just generally want to make the topsoil of your bonsai tree more appealing, then consider investing in mosses.
Sphagnum moss then is commonly used in situations where you want to make sure your tree is getting enough water.
This can prove beneficial if you are going through a heatwave or live in a warmer climate.
This works especially well during the winter to prevent your tree from drying out.
When working on bonsai trees, it is not uncommon to remove large chunks of wood from your tree to create a more stylish-looking bonsai.
This is common when creating things like sabamiki to make it look like your bonsai tree has been hit by lighting, or when splitting the trunk of your bonsai tree open.
While these methods are striking, if you were to leave them as they are, they could potentially cause your tree to rot, with fungus, bacteria, and water all entering your tree through this wound.
An essential must-have bonsai accessory then has to be wound sealant.
This will create a layer of protection on these wounds, ensuring your tree stays nice and healthy.
If you have been growing your bonsai tree for a few years, you know just how unmanageable bonsai trees can get.
Trees with a lot of ramification then can be difficult to prune, especially when getting into hard-to-reach areas.
The same goes for adding things like insecticide in the hard-to-spot areas of your tree.
One of the best ways to get around this is by using a turntable.
This will allow you to view these areas of your tree, that you traditionally don’t give a lot of attention to and ensure an even distribution of care amongst your tree.
Now if you want to save a little bit of money on this, consider using a cake turntable.
Either way it is important one of these makes your list of essential bonsai must-have accessories
A good pair of tweezers, or better yet, needle-nosed tweezers is always worthwhile keeping when practicing bonsai.
Tweezers can be used when removing small hard-to-find bugs from your tree, removing stubborn or small debris, to removing any weeds that have sported in your topsoil.
When dealing with insects that commonly attack bonsai such as aphids, spider mites, scale caterpillars, and slugs, these can all sometimes be quite hard to spot.
One of the best things to do then, to help find out if you do indeed have a pest problem, is to invest in a magnifying glass.
This will allow you to see exactly the types of critters that you have in your tree and the levels of damage they are causing.
One of the hardest parts about bonsai is growing your bonsai tree from scratch.
Using root hormone has been how bonsai owners have gotten around the issue whereby they fill up the tray with a mixture of water and root hormone and then place their bonsai tree in the pot so the drainage holes can absorb the solution.
If then, you like to grow your bonsai from scratch consider looking into a dip tray.
These also double as moisture trays which allow you to match your pot to the tray, making for a more visually appealing tree.
Dip trays, also known as moisture trays and humidity trays, can also help provide for better aeration, moisture retention, and moisture flow if used correctly.
Making your bonsai tree your own is one of the most important aspects of bonsai.
After all, you will need to be the one who looks at the tree day in day out so adding some personalization goes a long way.
One of the best ways to do this is by adding accessories in and around your bonsai tree.
This could be as simple as a gnome in your potting soil or a mini batman figurine to make your bonsai tree, will, more your own.
Mesh is important for bonsai when repotting your bonsai.
This is usually placed on top of the drainage holes and secured with copper wire.
This is to ensure that after watering your bonsai tree, the water does not fall out of your pot all at once and instead is filtered.
Using mesh this way will also improve your tree’s moisture retention and oxygen levels, preventing your roots from drying out.
Mesh is also used as a securing device to attach the copper wire to hold your bonsai tree in place when it has newly been repotted.
One of the most popular techniques in bonsai, to make a tree look more visually appealing is to prematurely make your tree look older than it is.
One of the ways in which this is undertaken is by using lime sulfur.
Lime sulfur transforms the wood of your tree, turning it white, resembling the look of deadwood.
If then you warn to have a tree that has many visual elements, investing in lime sulfur as an essential bonsai must-have accessory is a given.
Bonsai trees require a lot of sunlight. On average between 6 to 8 hours during the spring and summer per day.
This can be difficult if your tree is kept indoors in an apartment or you live in a place that does not get a lot of light.
One of the essential bonsai must-have accessories you need to opt for then has to be a grow light.
LED grow lights specifically are cheap to run, have a long lifespan, won’t burn your tree, and are a sound investment should you keep your tree indoors.
If you are feeling festive and want to make your bonsai tree pop consider investing in fairy lights for your tree.
These can be placed on your tree branches and canopy to give you a mini Christmas tree-looking bonsai – regardless of what time of the year it is.
One of the first essential bonsai must-have accessories I would purchase if I were a beginner to bonsai tree would be a good bonsai book.
Whilst caring for most bonsai is a straightforward process, if you have zero experience, you might get lost in some of the terminology or techniques.
The best thing you can do then is to invest in one of the tried and true bonsai books.
This is good advice even if you have a few years under your belt.
Bonsai keeping is a lifelong hobby and is something that you should constantly be learning about to improve your technique.
For my full list of bonsai books, check out my post here.
Most deciduous bonsai tree species or tropical bonsai tree species for that matter do not do well in the cold and so need to be protected in the winter.
One of the essential bonsai must-have accessories you can invest in then is a cold frame to help keep your tree cool but not frozen in winter.
For a cheap and cheerful option, I like to place my bonsai in my garage inside of a chill box with the lid open.
This keeps them cold so they get the seasonal benefits of getting put through winter without any of the excess damage and dehydration they might go through year-round.
Another good alternative would be to build a mini greenhouse to regular the temperature year-round.
Alternatively, consider these other options and accessories for winterizing your tree.
If you are growing your bonsai tree from scratch then a propagator is vital to this, in the few weeks of planting your tree.
Using a propagator in the first 2 to 4 weeks after planting your bonsai will ensure you can regulate things like the temperature, moisture, and light levels. Giving them the best chance of survival and the best chance of propagation.
Soil PH level checker
Bonsai trees prefer neutral soil, ideally between 6.5 to 7.5 for best results.
Over time, watering your tree with tap water increases the alkaline levels in the soil, making your treeless efficient at absorbing the vital nutrients required in your tree.
The best way around this is to monitor the PH level in your soil with an inexpensive device weekly, to ensure you are not creating hostile soil for your tree to survive
Rainwater is one of the best sources of water you can use for your bonsai and does not contain fluoride or other elements that can potentially be damaging to your tree.
Using something as simple as a 50 to 100-liter rainwater collector and using this water to water your bonsai trees, can yield better results than traditional tap water.
If you have a smaller tree, then using watering cans will risk overwatering your bonsai tree.
In these instances using a spray bottle to spritz your tree when the topsoil is dry to touch can be a fantastic option.
This works well if your tree is kept indoors and does not require as much watering as other trees.
Spray bottles can also be filled with soapy water and vinegar and sprayed on your bonsai tree as a good pesticide.
When repotting bonsai it can be very easy for small air pockets to build in your potting soil.
Having too many of these air pockets can cause your roots to dry out and eventually die.
Using chopsticks then, and picking your topsoil to fill in these holes will get rid of these air pockets ensuring your potting soil of choice is evenly distributed across your pot.
If you are interested in using driftwood to create a faux underwater bonsai for an aquarium, or an interested in grafting multiple branches together from different trees, the grafting paste will be amongst your list of essential bonsai must-have accessories.
Most grafting pastes come as clay or glue and can be matched to the color of your driftwood.
Doing this will create a seamless looking bonsai tree,s when in reality you have surgically attached the two.
What makes a good bonsai accessory?
All the essential bonsai must-have accessories in my opinion have the following in common:
- It is relatively inexpensive
- It is an item that you will use repeatedly on your tree.
- There are not many alternatives to said accessory
- The accessories can have multiple uses and are used for different things.
Survey on the essential bonsai must-have accessories.
Finally, I did a quick survey of 10 plant paladin readers and asked them what the essential bonsai must have accessories are – here were the results:
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 3 years.