Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How to Grow Bonsai - Bonsai Tools and Equipment

Bonsai tool sets from
Story by Paul J Martin

To begin with, you can make do with ordinary household tools such as nail scissors, secateurs, modeling knife etc. If you only have one or two trees, you can manage with improvised tools for as long as you like. But if you become a true bonsai hobbyist, you'll want to build your own set of bonsai tools. Where bonsai tools are concerned, buying the cheapest is certainly a false economy. Bonsai tools are expensive at the best of times, so cheap ones are rarely very cheap and the poor quality will disappoint you. Look for brand-marked Japanese tools nothing fancy, just plain black.

Looked after properly, they'll last a lifetime.


You can try salvaging some copper wire from electrical or telephone cables, then annealing it by heating it to red hot and allowing it to cool slowly - and then you'll need to wash off the soot. On the other hand, while you're spending money on tools, you might as well pick up some wire at the same time.

Wire is used for shaping branches, and for this ordinary garden wire - green-plastic-coated iron is far too rigid and is sure to damage the bark when you apply it. Traditionally, either annealed copper wire or brown anodized aluminum wire is used.

Copper hardens as it is bent, so it has greater holding power than aluminium - ideal for the springier branches of conifers. The gentler aluminum wire is kinder to the less supple branches of deciduous trees. Having said that, aluminum is usually cheaper and works as well as copper provided you use a thicker gauge.

There are nine gauges of aluminium wire, ranging from 1 mm to 6 mm. Copper wire gauges vary from supplier to supplier, but are roughly equivalent.

To begin with, you should buy small packs of the smaller sizes. When you've worked out which sizes you need more of, go for larger coils.

Other equipment.

When re-potting time arrives, you'll need sieves to remove the dust and coarse particles from your soil ingredients. A set of three with mesh sizes of 2 mm, 3 mm and 4 mm will be plenty for most small and medium-size bonsai. Larger bonsai in larger pots need larger soil particles, so an additional sieve with a 6-mm mesh would be useful. A bonsai soil scoop makes life easier at this time as well.

You'll also need a bonsai root hook and some chopsticks (or a Western substitute such as knitting needles) for teasing out the roots. Japanese bonsai root hooks are a little too brutal for most trees, and the tiny rakes with tweezers at the other end are only useful for weeding the pot. My favorite root hook is one that I made from a piece of 4-mm steel m and an old chisel handle over 20 years ago.

A turntable is invaluable for trimming, wiring or just contemplating your bonsai. Then are several all-singing, all-dancing Japanese bonsai turntable:

available but they are very expensive. An old cake decorator's turntable or a plastic TV turntable will do just as well.

There are many more useful little gadgets you can pick up along the way, but those discussed here are the ones that, if not essential, are hard to do without.

For loads of tips and advice on growing and keeping bonsai trees you must visit Try reading this article about fertilising bonsai The author is the writer at

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