Poor Quality Bonsai Starter Kit: What To Avoid
If you’re a new bonsai tree owner, you may be tempted to buy a starter kit. However, be careful – not all starter kits are created equal! Some are of poor quality, and can actually do more harm than good to your tree. So before you purchase a kit, make sure you do your research and find one that is high quality.
They’ll save you a lot of time and headaches in the long run
Let’s dive in an look at what to avoid when buying a bonsai starter kit.
The quality of bonsai starter kits varies greatly.
You need to be extra careful that you don’t end up with a bad kit – because often times, it’s sold as a “bonsai starter kit” and there is no mention of what species you’re actually getting.
For example, your local bonsai shop may offer a very basic bonsai starter kit at a decent price. However, one thing to ask is what species of bonsai tree you are getting.
Generally speaking, the best types of trees for your first bonsai purchase are going to be juniper, maple, elm or pine trees. But shops often have kits with beginner-friendly species that aren’t ideal for long term success in a bonsai container.
You get what you pay for.
You can find a very basic bonsai starter kit for as little as $10. If you’re tempted to buy brand new one because it’s cheap, wait! You may want to reconsider and opt for a higher quality model.
A quality starter kit will cost between $20 and $40. But keep in mind: if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
It’s important to do your research before purchasing a kit.
If you think it’s too expensive, wait till you can afford a higher quality one.
Quality bonsai starter kits contain:
A sturdy ceramic pot with drainage holes in the bottom and proper drainage positioning (ex: wavy pot for trees that require more root space) High quality soil mix appropriate for your tree species ‘Wirra’ style training wire to secure the tree’s trunk and branches properly
It can be a big money saver in the long run.
Quality bonsai starter kits will have at least one species that is best for beginner growth, while eliminating other common beginner mistakes such as:
Poor soil choices (ex: regular potting mix vs potting mix better for bonsai species)
Not removing the wire in a timely manner (ex: allowing your tree to grow too much before removing it, causing it to be grafted or die)
Not watering properly (ex: overwatering vs underwatering)
Not trimming branches and buds off of the bottom of the trunk
Not removing wire, or removing it incorrectly
Caring for a bonsai tree is a long term commitment. If you’re serious about taking care of one, buy a quality starter kit – it will save you time and money in the long run!
Are plastic bonsai tools any good?
Absolutely. Plastic tools make excellent starter tools because they are inexpensive, sturdy and easy to keep clean.
BUT (yes there’s always a but…)
The best kinds of plastic tools to buy are ones with metal rods in the middle – allowing you to bend them to the shape you need for your project.
Quality bonsai starter kits will come with a couple different types of pruners, a branch cutter and either a rake or a needle tool.
These tools are great for wiring your bonsai – however, if you plan to invest in higher end pruners later on, don’t use those expensive ones for wiring!
Ask yourself these questions before purchasing a bonsai starter kit:
1.) Is the pot sturdy and well made?
2.) Is the soil appropriate for bonsai plants?
3.) Do you have all of the essential tools to care for your tree correctly?
4.) Does this kit come with a warranty/money back guarantee?
Ok, so what’s in a bonsai starter kit?
What to look for in a bonsai starter kit
I highly recommend that you invest in a good quality bonsai starter kit, rather than buying poor quality trees piece by piece. A basic yet high-quality kit usually has the following components:
The right tools for the job There are several essential tools needed for bonsai care and maintenance. The good news is that nearly all tools needed for bonsai care are included in a well-rounded kit. For example, if you’re buying a kit to start with an elm tree, your kit should include:
A high quality shovel
A soil rake (properly known as a “soil sieve” or “turkey baster”)
A pair of carbon steel bonsai shears.
Are plastic shears ok? Plastic bonsai tools are okay to start with, but you will want to invest in a set of better quality shears later on.
A “B” wire for wiring your new tree
A wire cutter. I do not recommend using one’s kitchen shears or scissors to cut the wires off of your bonsai
A tool for cutting roots
There are a few other tools you might also want to consider, depending on your preferences. For example:
An ash saw – uses to prune live wood from the trunk and branches, and to create jin
Wire cutters – designed to be used with bonsai ‘Wirra’ style training wire
A pair of curved bonsai forceps – useful for fine placement of wires
An ash puller – has prongs that pierce the bark, allowing you to remove unwanted dead wood
A root hook – used to remove weeds and unroot trees Proper bonsai species selection
The best types of trees for beginners are juniper, maple, elm and pine species. They’re durable as saplings (easier to transplant as a young tree as opposed to an older one) and they respond well to new growing conditions such as different lighting and humidity levels. This means that you won’t have to worry about trying to properly acclimate it before growing.
The wrong soil medium can kill your tree faster than anything else!
Most kits include a good quality bonsai soil mix, essentially the most important piece of equipment included with the kit. You’ll need to water and fertilize it regularly to ensure proper growth. A good rule of thumb is to water your tree twice a day.
The best type of soil mix includes gritty material that helps with drainage and aeration, which are both crucial aspects for bonsai tree health. It should also be sterile (meaning no parasites or disease-causing fungi can survive in it).
Bonsai wire is used to shape your tree’s trunk and branches, allowing you to create beautiful curves and bends. Wire comes in two types: copper (soft) and aluminum (hard), both of which are available in different thicknesses depending on what type of effect you’re hoping for. For example, if you’re hoping for a tree that winds around itself, then you’ll want to use soft copper wire.
Wire is available in precut lines, or as a roll of wire so you can cut your own shapes. It’s also sold by weight – it’s cheaper per foot if purchased in bulk! A thinner gauge wire should be used on younger trees, while thicker gauged wire is suitable for older, more developed trees. Maintenance and care.
A bonsai starter kit is a great way to get into the hobby of bonsai, but it’s important to make sure you buy a quality kit. Here are some tips for how to recognise a poor quality bonsai starter kit.
A poor quality bonsai starter kit can be frustrating and may lead to discouragement in the hobby. By following these tips, you can avoid buying a low-quality kit and start your bonsai journey on the right foot.