Why Should You Use Bonsai Soil? (Why Potting Soil is Bad)

  • By: Josh Koop
  • Date: September 7, 2023
  • Time to read: 6 min.
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This pandemic has made most of us indulge ourselves in gardening. It is therapeutic to spend time planting more trees. But one needs proper research to keep them sustainable. Using the right amount of soil and the right type makes us perplexed to choose between so many options. The question may arise, is bonsai soil necessary?

Bonsai soil is used to plant large trees in a smaller and uniform pot to create an aesthetic look for your garden. This soil is necessary because it helps to grow the tree with proper nutrients which help to make it sustainable for decades. 

You may be asking yourself why you would prefer bonsai soil over potting soil if you’re planning to grow a smaller version of the big trees. To make things easier for you, the necessity of using bonsai soil is one thing we all need to know if we are into gardening. 

How Does Bonsai Soil Work? 

Unlike potting soil, bonsai soil is unique in terms of using multiple organic and inorganic ingredients such as red ball-shaped clay minerals called akadama, lava rock, pumice, organic potting compost, and fine gravel. You won’t find these unique ingredients in any other gardening soil. This type of soil needs high maintenance to make sure your bonsai tree is growing healthy.

The following requirements one should take a note of while choosing the quality of the ingredients for your bonsai soil are,


It’s your first job to make sure that you choose the soil which has a good drainage quality. Drainage quality is one of the main components of good soil for trees.

Keeping excess water that isn’t drained from the pot will cause your bonsai tree to die eventually by rotting its roots.


Then the next thing is to make sure your soil has the perfect aeration. Aeration stands for proper gas exchange. 

Usually, this type of soil mixture has larger air pockets which help to properly regulate the photosynthesis process in the tree.

Water Retention

Choose your soil mixture according to its proper water retention quality. You need the right amount of water retention which will help to further supply moisture. 

However, keep in mind that if your soil has too much water retention, then it will damage your tree and ruin the process.

Why Should You Use Bonsai Soil?

Growing a bonsai and taking care of it is a form of art. To have such an aesthetic piece of art at your place, you need to make sure you are using the perfect ingredients to keep it alive. For that, it is highly recommended that you use bonsai soil. 

A bonsai tree needs proper water drainage , aeration, and water retention qualities in the soil that it is growing on. So it is your job to go for the best option, which is to use bonsai soil for your bonsai tree. Why choose an alternative when you can get the real deal easily?

At first, you need to decide on which type of bonsai tree you are planning to set up. There are two types: one is deciduous and the other is conifers.

Deciduous bonsai trees require 50% akadama, 25% lava rock, and 25% pumice. Meanwhile conifers, on the other hand, require- 33% akadama, 33% lava rock, and 33% pumice.

The ingredient, akadama, is a hard, ball-shaped Japanese clay that breaks down slowly after 2 years or so, which reduces gas exchange. Try to repot your bonsai to keep the balance . Lava rocks are for building a structure and adding water retention to your soil.

Pumice, on the other hand, is a volcanic component that absorbs nutrients for your tree. Organic potting compost will have moss, sand, perlite, and bark, which help to mix with the soil and aid in water drainage. Lastly, fine gravel is for the bottom base to provide aeration and drainage.

Once you have bought the proper ingredients for your bonsai soil mixture, setting it up is next. Before you do so, check your ingredients’ quality. After that, you can move on to the preparation.

Everything will depend on the climate you’re in. Moist climates will need more lava rocks than usual to improve their drainage.

Is Bonsai Soil Better Than Potting Soil?

Bonsai soil is obviously better if you’re planning on a bonsai tree. The unique properties that it holds for growing a tree are far different than ordinary potting soil. It is advisable to use bonsai soil if you are up for the commitment. And by that, it means you can easily keep a bonsai tree for over 100 years if you maintain it strictly. 

Potting soils are not soils, to begin with, as they do not have minerals. As it doesn’t have soil, it is not recommended to be used for planting a bonsai tree on it.

A bonsai tree needs proper soil and minerals for its proper growth of the roots and the branches.

Bonsai SoilPotting Soil
This soil mixture is made up of akadama, pumice, lava rocks, organic potting compost, and fine gravel,The soil mixture is made up of moss, perlite, and bark. It lacks actual soil and minerals.
Bonsai soil retains water moderately which is suitable for bonsai trees.Potting soil retains more water than bonsai soil which is harmful to bonsai trees.
Appropriate for the good development of the tree in terms of its roots and branches.It can be used for the rapid growth of the tree as it helps the plant to grow taller.
Planting trees in this soil is recommended but it needs proper maintenance as it is quite slow in the process.Planting bonsai trees in this soil is okay as it will grow large but won’t sustain long as it lacks the proper minerals.

Why Can’t You Use Potting Soil?

Bonsai soils were solely made for planting bonsai trees for their particular ingredients. Potting soils are not a good alternative for bonsai soils. If you are serious about bonsai trees and preserve them, then potting soil is not the solution. You can make a shift with it by adding some finer, coarser soil to the potting mix. 

Bonsai trees are not like ordinary plants. They require special care and patience. So, if you want to use potting soil, there are some things you should keep in mind.

As it lacks soil and minerals, try to mix finer soil and minerals like lava rocks to create large air pockets.

It is more convenient to buy ready-made bonsai soil mixes like this one rather than investing in extra minerals and soils for your potting soils. It not only saves you the trouble of buying extra ingredients for your tree but also makes it sustainable. 

I recommend you to invest in bonsai soil over potting soil as these alternatives will only result in short-term results. Your tree might not last for long.

It might end up growing large in size, but due to the lack of proper minerals and aeration, the roots will end up rotting. 


Since you’re planning to have a bonsai tree , making sure it gets the right nutrients is a must. So if you were wondering, is bonsai soil necessary for your tree, the answer to that will be yes.

But it needs your daily observation and patience as well. You will get a hang of it easily after a few times. 

There are many options on the internet where you can easily purchase these pre-made bonsai soil mixes.

Do your research properly on the ratios and requirements for the soil and you’ll end up having a perfect mix for your tree. Thank you for reading!