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Whilst bonsai trees can be a fun hobby to get into, one of the things that I found frustrating when I first started, was the costs involved. It’s not unheard of for some bonsai trees to sell for upwards of $100 to well over $10000. One of the costs that surprised me the most was bonsai pots. So why are bonsai pots so expensive?
Bonsai tree pots are expensive because they are usually hand-made out of premium-grade materials. The technique to make bonsai pots is a special skill, taking years of practice, hence why bonsai owners will pay a premium for good or antique pots. Older antique pots or larger pots may also come at a cost.
So how much should you spend on a bonsai tree pot? And what are the main reasons why bonsai pots are so expensive? 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.
Why are bonsai pots so expensive?
Whilst I knew before getting involved in bonsai that the trees would be quite expensive, one of the expenses that I was not aware of was the cost of bonsai pots.
It’s not uncommon for some premium-grade bonsai pots to cost hundreds of dollars.
The question however a lot of us new to bonsai-like myself will be asking is why?
Well after researching the marketplace, working out how much you should spend on a bonsai pot, visiting a few garden centers, and even asking 10 plant paladin readers I’ve come up with the following reasons as to why bonsai pots are so expensive:
- The pots are antiques
- Design complexity
- The material it is made from
- Difference from other pots
- The trees you own
Let’s explore these below.
Most of us bonsai owners know that, typically, if we are going to buy older bonsai trees we will have to pay a premium.
Some imperial bonsai trees have fetched six-figure sums at auctions and so premium bonsai trees can come at a cost.
That being said, one of the things we often forget about is that bonsai trees that have been maintained to remain the same size for hundreds of years will often be housed in the same pots.
This means that while the pots themselves might not have been that expensive when they were first planted with the tree, due to the care over hundreds of years these pots will have appreciated too.
It’s not uncommon then, for these bonsai pots to also become antiques when the bonsai trees they house die, costing upwards of hundreds of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars if the pots are hundreds of years old.
On top of this, most of the older antique bonsai pots on the marketplace are not mass-produced meaning they are often based in small family factories in china or japan.
These antique dealers will often also charge a premium to ship these pots to where you live.
Now if your bonsai pot is not an antique, another reason why it can be expensive is the craftsmanship involved in creating a premium bonsai pot.
Premium bonsai pots are not mass-produced meaning that they are often crafted by hand.
Now luckily the people crafting these bonsai pots are often master bonsai keepers themselves.
This is important as they will often build bonsai tree pots to meet your specifications.
These experts, through years of experience, will understand:
- The exact thickness of the pot needs to be for the tree
- A precise number of drainage holes your bonsai pot will need
- How much water or moisture your bonsai pot will need to hold on to
All of which will give you the best chance of successfully maintaining and growing your bonsai.
The experience of your pot maker
Another key factor when it comes to the craftsmanship of bonsai pots is the years of skill your pot maker will have.
Often premium pot makers have the skills to create bonsai tree pots by honing their craft for generations, passing the required skills down in families from decade to decade.
On top of this, the amount of skill and time it can take to make one pot can be weeks when compared to mass-produced pots that can typically be made in the space of a few hours.
One of the biggest positives of taking up bonsai trees as a hobby is the creative license it gives you to create your tree.
Whatever design you want your tree to look like in your head, within a few years of patience and a little bit of hard work your design can be achieved.
Now, this benefit also can lead to one of the major reasons why some premium bonsai pots are so expensive.
You see, the more complex the design of our bonsai tree, the more complex the design of the pot you will need.
Bonsai pots then need to:
- Ensure the health of your bonsai
- Nurture a healthy soil composition
- Be pleasant to look at
The more complex the design of your tree becomes, the harder and more expensive it is to monitor and manage the above 3 points.
Ensure the health of your tree
First and foremost your bonsai design must maintain the health of your tree.
Root systems usually reflect the size of your tree, so if you have a complicated design you will likely have a complicated pot to avoid your bonsai getting root rot or other fungal or mold infections.
Failure to have a bonsai pot that allows your roots to grow then will stunt your bonsai growth during the growing season potentially impacting its ability to maintain its health – especially in trees that are complex in design
Nurture a healthy soil composition
Another key point why premium bonsai pots are so expensive is that bonsai pots have to nurture a healthy soil composition.
Most bonsai soil mixes such as volcanic ash, akadama, or cactus soil are usually good, however, if the pot they are in retains too much water, does not give enough air, or passes too much water through – it can be easy to overwater your bonsai.
A premium bonsai pot that has been designed correctly will take care of a lot of the guesswork, being made of specific clays that can help with creating a healthy soil composition.
This will allow you to not need to water your bonsai as frequently or make the growth of your bonsai a lot easier.
Be pleasant to look at
For a lot of you, the main reason you will be looking to invest in an expensive bonsai pot is that you have a complex bonsai tree design.
As such complex bonsai pots will be needed to maintain the look of your tree.
Most bonsai pots are shallow or tray-like – to help with how much maintenance is required, and to give the owner more control over its growth.
If its design sticks out like a sore thumb then it won’t help with the overall aesthetics of your tree.
This is especially important if you take your bonsai to competitions with differences such as having a glazed or unglazed bonsai pot needing to be taken into consideration.
As premium bonsai pots are more often than not antiques, they are also incredibly rare to come by when compared to mass-produced bonsai pots.
It’s basic economics that when demand is high but supply is low, products can charge a premium for their offering.
If then, you have a bonsai tree species that is not too common such as ivy bonsai, then it can be more challenging to find a bonsai pot that ticks all the boxes, when compared to a premium prices pot for a Chinese elm.
Now if you are unsure how common your bonsai tree is, I’ve listed below the most common bonsai species on the market sold by retailers in Europe, North America, and the west:
|Bonsai species||Growth type||Average growth per year|
|Chinese Elm||Fast||12 to 36 inches|
|Juniper||Moderate||5 to 12 inches|
|Jade||Slow||2 to 5 inches|
|Maple||Fast||12 to 36 inches|
|Fukien Tea||Slow||2 to 5 inches|
|Ficus||Fast||12 to 36 inches|
|Wisteria||Slow||2 to 5 inches|
|Cotoneaster||Moderate||5 to 12 inches|
|Pine (most varieties)||Fast||12 to 36 inches|
|Azalea||Slow||2 to 5 inches|
Now, these bonsai trees can grow at different rates and age differently so I would recommend checking out the following posts to find out more on the topic:
It’s sad to say it but it’s true that often mass-produced items just don’t have the quality inspection or quality care that hand-built items do.
It’s one of the reasons why a lot of items are not as good as they used to be, breaking more frequently and having a lower life span.
This then can be said for most mass-produced bonsai pots – a lot of which damage within the first few years of being owned or during the reporting process.
Premium quality bonsai pots have to maintain the health and life of your bonsai, ensuring they do not become waterlogged, attract insects, and are strong enough to survive even the harshest of winters.
As such traditional materials used in premium bonsai pots such as plastic ceramic or porcelain are often of the highest quality.
Alternatively, more expensive materials are also used to improve the build quality of bonsai pots such as cement, clay, stone, and wood which can further aid in maintaining and strengthening the health of your bonsai – all at a premium price.
Typically, the larger the size of your bonsai, the more expensive it will be.
It’s one of the reasons why hundreds of years ago, imperial-sized bonsai (the largest size classification for bonsai trees) were reserved strictly for the emperors of Japan.
The larger a bonsai tree, the more complex its root systems become, the harder it becomes to maintain and the more care is required to ensure a healthy bonsai.
As such the same goes for the pot you decide to keep your bonsai in which has to support an ever-growing root system and ensure it is made of a material strong enough not to crack under the weight of the tree or the strength of the root system.
In these instances, premium bonsai pots made of strengthened clay or precious metals will often be used.
This too will help maintain the thickness of the trunk of the bonsai, improving the nutrient flow in a tree which is vital for its continued longevity.
One way to avoid this if you do have a larger bonsai is just by plating the tree in the ground.
The material it is made from
We touched upon this earlier on but some premium bonsai pots are expensive because of the materials they are made from.
Bonsai pots need to be gentle enough to maintain the health of the roots of your tree, supporting them with air and moisture but also strong enough that they do not get overpowered by the tree or the roots.
Typically then expensive bonsai pots will be made out of expensive materials or premium quality materials.
These materials include:
Now it’s worth mentioning that whilst some of these materials might not sound too expensive at a first glance, premium bonsai pots will use a premium version of these materials and so will charge for it.
For example, a lot of you might be thinking clay is relatively inexpensive – and it is.
However, the clay used in bonsai pots from bespoke bonsai pot makers such as Tokoname pots or Yama-iki pots are made in those regions out of homegrown materials and so they will charge a premium
For premium bonsai collectors with large wallets, premium bonsai pots can be made from precise metals to further extent d the cost such as:
Difference from other pots
Whilst a lot of us (myself included) probably started our bonsai journey by planting our trees in regular garden pots (or yogurt pots if your me), after time, we know that specialist bonsai pots are needed.
Bonsai trees have a lot of unique attributes.
Their roots often grow into root ball structures, the trees often require more watering and sunlight than regular trees and they are incredibly sensitive to changes – regardless of the species of tree.
Bonsai also require a lot of wiring and drainage holes to maintain their health.
Regular pots typically can’t deal with this which is why specific bonsai pots are needed and contribute to why bonsai pots are so expensive.
The trees you own
As bonsai come in many different species it’s important to find a pot that matches the aesthetic of your tree with variables like color, material, and finish all being needed.
After all, if you have a beautifully complex bonsai, the last thing you are going to want is to give it a bog-standard pot and so the premium price of bonsai pots will factor this in.
More often than not bonsai pots are expensive because of the trees containing them.
The world’s most expensive bonsai tree went on auction for $1.3 million and so buying the bonsai pot for that tree would also be expensive.
Finally, we come to a point that not too many people want to admit about bonsai trees.
Typically bonsai can attract people who are, how should we put this, a little snobby about the best practices for keeping a tree.
As such they will usually charge a premium for items to keep bonsai tree keeping as a prestige hobby.
The bonsai industry is typically very small with a few major players in every country and so it is not uncommon for prices to be artificially high for the sake of it.
“35% of plant paladin readers spend between $20 to $50 on their bonsai pots”
What contributes to the cost of a bonsai pot?
The main cost associated with premium bonsai pots is the skill and amount of hours it takes to create one from hand. Bonsai pot makers have trained for years to create the perfect pots, using only the best materials available to them.
The majority of premium-priced bonsai pots are also antiques, which further adds to their price point.
Where can you get inexpensive bonsai pots?
Now whilst some antique or premium bonsai pots can set you back a couple of hundred or in some cases thousand) of dollars, there are a few resources that I have found that offer quality bonsai pots for a relatively inexpensive amount.
- Herons bonsai ( if you are based in the Uk or Europe)
- Eastern Leaf (if you are based in the USA or North America)
Both of these have a wide range of bonsai pots to fit even the most complicated bonsai tree designs.
Where can you buy premium bonsai pots from?
If you are interested in purchasing premium antique bonsai trees pots (and have the resourced to do so) I would recommend looking at the following two resources which I have found to have a wide selection of bonsai pots:
You can rest assured by buying on these sites that the bonsai pots you will be getting will be genuine.
Just be warned that it is not uncommon for premium antique bonsai pots to sell on Etsy for a couple of hundred dollars and on eBay for a few thousand.
How much does a bonsai pot cost?
Bonsai pots cost $166.72 per pot on average. Cheap mass-produced bonsai pots will retail between $13.80 to $29.95. Medium quality bonsai pots will cost between $69.95 to $137.95. Premium quality antique bonsai pots will cost between $204 to $520.
To find out how I came to these results I contacted and scoured the web for 12 of the best-selling bonsai trees in a range of sizes and brands.
These were the results:
(5.9 x 5.1 x 2.0 in)
(7.4 x 5.7 x 0.9 in)
|Yixing purple sand||Small
(10.6 x 8.46 x 8.14 in)
|Antique Lingnan bonsai pot||Small
(6.8 x 4in)
(17.5 x 12.5 x 5.1 in)
(14.5 x 11 x 3.5 in)
|Yixing purple clay||Medium
(18.5 x 14.9 x 4.9 in)
(13.4 x 20.1 x 5.7 in)
(21 x 14 x 3 in)
(27 x 15 x 2.7 in)
(16 x 14.1 x 5.1 in)
How much do premium bonsai tree pots cost?
The average price for a premium bonsai tree pot is $329.20. Smaller premium-sized bonsai pots for fingertip, Keshitsubo, and shito bonsai will cost $20.69. Larger-sized premium bonsai pots for Dai, Hachi-uye, and imperial bonsai will cost $520.
How much do mid-market bonsai pots cost?
The average price for a mid-market bonsai tree pot is $98.44. Smaller mid-market-sized bonsai pots for fingertip, Keshitsubo, and shito bonsai will cost $87.36. Larger-sized mid-market bonsai pots for Dai, Hachi-uye, and imperial bonsai will cost $137.95.
How much do cheap pots cost?
The average price for a cheap bonsai tree pot is $22.18. Smaller cheap sized bonsai pots for fingertip, Keshitsubo, and shito bonsai will cost $20.69. Larger cheap bonsai pots for Dai, Hachi-uye, and imperial bonsai will cost $29.95.
Are premium bonsai pots worth it?
So throughout this article, we have talked about why bonsai pots are so expensive, and exactly how much bonsai pots cost, but a question we need to ask ourselves is are they worth it?
Whilst expensive and premium bonsai pots will aid in the condition and health of your bonsai tree, allowing you to maintain them easier.
Antique and expensive bonsai pots may prove to be more of a hindrance than a help.
This is because antiques often require a lot of upkeep to maintain them, making you feel nervous about using them for your tree in case of damaging the value of the antique pot.
These antique bonsai pots are usually only for decorative purposes so frequent watering or repotting can damage antique bonsai pots.
Instead, then I would invest the money you would spend on an antique bonsai tree pot for a premium quality bonsai pot.
These will still be handmade and well looked after however, they will be brand new and able to withstand the day-to-day maintenance you will throw at your bonsai.
Can you avoid getting an expensive bonsai pot?
Whilst premium-priced bonsai pots will benefit your tree’s overall health specifically when it comes to the moisture levels and letting the roots of your tree grow, premium or expensive pots are not essential for the health of your tree.
Many bonsai owners invest in cheaper bonsai pots that cost $10 to $30 and have had no issues in successfully maintaining and growing their bonsai.
How much do small bonsai tree pots cost?
Small bonsai tree pots cost on average $84.26. Cheaper small bonsai pots will cost $20.69. Mid-market small bonsai costs will cost $87.36. Premium-priced antique small bonsai pots will cost upwards of $204.
How much do medium-sized bonsai tree pots cost?
Medium-sized bonsai tree pots cost on average $174.18. Cheaper medium-sized bonsai pots will cost $13.80. Mid-market small bonsai costs will cost $69.96. Premium-priced medium-sized bonsai pots will cost upwards of $373.
How much do large bonsai tree pots cost?
Large-sized bonsai tree pots cost on average $249. Cheaper large-sized bonsai pots will cost $29.35. Mid-market large bonsai costs will cost $137.95. Premium-priced, large-sized bonsai pots will cost upwards of $309 to $520 with some retailing for thousands of dollars.
What is the most expensive bonsai pot on sale?
The most expensive bonsai pot in the world is valued at around $100,000. This belongs to the $1.3 million pine which was sold at auction at the International Bonsai Convention in Takamatsu, Japan. It is not uncommon for antique Tokoname bonsai tree pots to retail upwards of $5000 per pot.
This Tokoname Rectangle Signature pot for example is for sale on eBay for just over $9500.
More often than not, however, most unique premium bonsai pots will retail for around $300 – $600
Study on why bonsai pots are so expensive?
So I didn’t just want to use the data I found to explain why bonsai tree pots are so expensive but I wanted to get some expert advice on the topic too.
First I visited my local botanical gardens and asked them why bonsai tree pots are expensive:
“All our bonsai trees in our collection are around 100 to 200 years old, so the pots we use for them are antiques which is why they can be pricey”
I also surveys 20 plant paladin readers and asked them how much they pay for their bonsai pots – here are 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 2 years.