How to Choose Your Bonsai Pot (Part 1)



Planting your prize bonsai into its first pot may be one of the most exciting and daunting times for a bonsai grower. There are so many choices for a pot – from glazed or unglazed to plain or out of the box designs – that you might feel overwhelmed. We have put together a few things for you to think about when making that all-important decision.

Male or female

The most-important factor when picking the right pot is to determine if your tree is “male” or “female”. No tree is 100% masculine or feminine, though. Think of it more as a slider scale, where one side is male and the other is female, and the middle is transgender. Here is a quick “how to” for you to differentiate between the two:

Masculine tree – the tree gives an impression of grandeur, power, and strength, with a thick trunk and heavy branches.

Feminine tree – a slim, delicate tree, a feminine tree has fine branches, a smooth trunk, and a rounded crown or canopy.

There are a lot more characteristics to look at, but keeping these basic descriptions in mind will give you an idea for now. In a future post, we will discuss this topic in more detail. For now, let’s concentrate on the pot.

Optical Weight

The optical weight of a pot describes the force that the pot exerts to attract the eye. When working with composition and balance, we want the eye to move from the pot, up the trunk, into the branches, and then to encompass the entire tree. The pot is the starting point where the eye can be drawn in or lost just as easily.

Optical weight is determined by the following:

  • pot shape,

  • texture,

  • design,

  • glazed or unglazed,

  • pot rim,

  • pot feet, and

  • profile.

To draw the eye into the pot and then up to the tree, one must choose your pot to contrast or harmonise with certain elements of your bonsai. Let’s take this Juniperus Chinensis (Chinese Juniper) as an example: If we deconstruct the tree into elements we have the bark, the deadwood, and the foliage. (Follow this link to our webpage for more info about this bonsai.)


The bark can have multiple tones that we can use, like darker peeling bark or light, reddish tones on the new bark. Deadwood can be white or have multiple tones for depth. The foliage can either be juvenile or adult foliage and various tones of green throughout.

The pot that has been chosen for this bonsai has a blueish-green glaze, with hints of silver and black speckle in places. The green colour harmonises with the foliage of the bonsai, whereas the blue contrasts with the foliage to make the foliage pop. The silver speckle complements the colours in the bark, but more importantly, the black tone in the pot contrasts and works off the bark and deadwood to make them more vibrant in colour.


So, to summarise, we have masculine and feminine qualities in trees and pots to look out for and visual weight that determines the balance to the composition. The pot can contrast or harmonise with the tree and can be multitone instead of just unglazed or monotone. In Part 2, we will discuss various bonsai trees in pots to see where they have succeeded or missed the mark in their composition.

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