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How to choose a bonsai pot no 10 - Adansonia digitata

Due to popular demand we have started this series to help Bonsai artists and our loyal customers in their choice of a bonsai container. There are many factors that need to be taken into account when selecting a bonsai pot and we will be diving into the way we select a container for our trees and customers trees.

Masculine or Feminine

The main consideration in choosing a pot is to work out if the tree is masculine or feminine. This is determined by multiple characteristics of each tree, for example the nebari, trunk line, bark texture, leaf density and much more.

A tree that has characteristics of strength, power, formality, harshness, roughness and struggle can be considered masculine

A tree that has characteristics of calm, delicacy, instability, informality and finesse can be considered feminine.


Please note that these are merely guidelines and form a basis on how to break down the elements of tree and pot to help in choosing a correct Bonsai container. Every artist and bonsai enthusiast will have their own opinions and artistic flair which will create a different composition of their own.

Adansonia digitata (Baobab)

Steven Dreyer

Current pot size: 370mm long x 270mm wide x 130mm high

Tree Size: 300mm high, 80mm trunk thickness

Tree characteristics

Lets start by listing some of the characteristics of this tree and how they fit into the masculine or feminine approach.

  1. Nebari - Masculine, Thick base with slight tapering. Shows power and stability

  2. Trunk line - Masculine, elongation from the base with slight taper but consistent with how they grow in nature. Gives the effect of a huge thick trunk.

  3. Bark texture - Masculine, slightly textured bark

  4. Bark colour - Feminine, Very light grey in colour with hints of darker grey tones. Helps to soften the otherwise masculinity of the tree.

  5. Primary branches - Masculine, Thick heavy branches with a lot of visual weight.

  6. Ramification - Masculine, a continuation of the thickset primary branches.

  7. Leaf size/density - Masculine, large ovate leaves with more visual weight than smaller finer leaves.

  8. Leaf colour New/Old - Feminine, lighter green in colour that helps reduce the visual weight of the tree.

  9. Other features - N/A

Masculine 6 - Feminine 2

On the scale below the tree is at no 4 on the masculine side.

Pot selection

Option A: Drum Medium - A 27cm x 6.5cm - Willow Bonsai Pots

Glazed effect: Manganese

A. Pot characteristics:

1. Top View - Feminine, Round shape has the least visual weight of any shape.

2. Side Profile - Masculine, straight sided sides with only slight inward taper. Has lots of visual weight.

3. Rim effect - Feminine, No rim applicable which softens the pot and reduces visual weight.

4. Feet of pot - Masculine, large distribution of the foot design around the pot with high visual weight.

5. Feet design - Masculine, straight sided feet with simple round design.

6. Details and special features - Masculine, stud design, this increases the character of the drum pot and creates more visual weight and horizontal linear flow.

7. Glazed/Unglazed - Masculine, Unglazed effect with manganese oxide application. This subdues the details of the pot and helps to highlight the trees character.

Masculine 4 - Feminine 2


1. Contrast and Harmony - The drum pot is used to highlight the different features of the tree, it firstly contrasts with the bright green foliage of the tree making this feature more pronounced. However it also harmonizes with the dark tones of the bark helping to link the 2 compositional elements.

2. Composition/ Telling a story - Due to this pots lower profile and more powerful stance we can imagine a solitary tree in nature surrounded by low growing grasses and thorn trees. It is quite a rocky setting as well that can be portrayed by the stud design of the pot which in turn implies an arid region with little moisture and bring in browns and greys into the pallet of the imagination.

Option B: Rectangle SS Small 24cm long x 17cm wide x 6.5cm high - Willow Bonsai Pots

Glazed effect: Deep Stone

B. Pot characteristics:

1. Top View - Masculine, Rectangle shaped with sharp corners

2. Side Profile - Masculine, Slight tapering but high visual weight in this pot.

3. Rim effect - Feminine, no rim so this softens the pot a bit but reducing the visual weight.

4. Feet of pot - Masculine, Low profile feet with no detailing.

5. Feet design - Masculine, Rectangular wrap around feet design

6. Details and special features - Masculine, Very simple, straight sides and flat profiles

7. Glazed/Unglazed - Masculine, This glaze helps to bring out a more natural tone in the composition by being similar to dirt or gravel.

Masculine 5 - Feminine 1


1. Contrast and Harmony - Quite a prominent pot compared to option A. It does not have the slight femininity as option A but gives off much of a powerful scene and look to the composition. The deep stone glaze harmonizes well with the light colour of the bark with the darker speckles and hues picking up the highlights in the bark texture. The lighter colour also contrast slightly with the foliage colour but having a much more subdued feeling to the composition.

2. Composition/ Telling a story - As in option A this pot gives the effect of a powerful tall tree standing strong on its own. The glaze is a major difference where it highlights even more of an arid feel to the tree with a much sandier approach. It moves the tree from a veld area with grasses to a more desert type landscape or area in Africa where more erosion has occurred and this Baobab is standing in the midst of a sandy area



Both pots give justice to the tree in size and effect however to create a composition that draws attention option A is definitely the best option. It also gives some space for the tree to develop into in the future and showcase its power and masculinity even more in a heavy crown.

As always this is an opinion and is just a guideline to what can work and the reason thereof. In art we need to take a set of choices and make them tangible and easy to understand. Breaking up the characteristics of the tree and pot makes this easier to explain the options and choices made in a constructive manner. Not just saying it looks nice or not, but using the above to tell a story and convey the image in the artists mind to the viewer.

Want to participate?

We plan on doing a case study on a tree like the above each week for our customers and collection trees. If you would like to participate and have us choose a pot for your tree with explanations please send us an email with the following details:

  1. Photo of tree taken from the front and at eyelevel

  2. Size of the tree

  3. Size of current pot

  4. Future growth and compositional remarks for the future.

  5. What story do you have in mind for the tree or what feature do you want to enhance.

Send the above to

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