Not all bonsai are planted in traditional containers. In addition to pots, stone slabs, marble trays, rocks and hand crafted pots are great options.
On a previous page, you've seen the most common shapes of bonsai containers. There are other ways to contain and display bonsai trees.
This natural rock slab is perfect for displaying this shallow rooted, wide Ficus bonsai as well as the forest shown below.
Slabs can be natural formations, molds of nature or even poured concrete. Sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference. See John Capobianco's use of a slab with Chrysanthemum bonsai.
Marble trays are another form of bonsai containers used in a similar manner. Sometimes plants are grown in other bonsai containers and temporarily placed on marble for exhibiting.
Using marble originated with the Chinese and is often used with penjing.
Slabs and marble trays are not always easy to work with, but can give the look of an amazing landscape. You may wonder how the soil stays on the slab. Most of the time it is secured around the edges with muck, moss or cottonseed hulls.
A rock with a pocket can also be a bonsai container. (The slant of the opening may allow the water to drain or a hole may have to be drilled.) The rocks may be natural or in some cases man-made. If they are good, you shouldn't be able to tell the difference.
Sometimes you may have a unique bonsai, that calls for a unique container.
This custom bonsai pot is a perfect example of such a situation. Two artists cooperated and created an amazing result.
Hand crafted containers are becoming very popular with collectors. Original pieces by potters, such as Chuck Iker, can be found for sale at bonsai exhibits around the world.
Local bonsai shops and bonsai conventions are ideal places to find many different kinds of containers for sale. Antiques to custom-made, the Internet is also an excellent source of bonsai pottery.
Sue Brogan, Miami, FL was delighted when she found this small, delightful container on E-bay. What a unique find! Origin - Vietnam (Vietnamese and Chinese planters frequently have etched designs or paintings on the sides.)
Bonsai is an art form, and containers are an important part, however ... always keep the health of your bonsai tree foremost in your mind.
Most bonsai do not go into the “perfect pot” the first time. Consider the first as a training container. Your tree will grow and change. It may take several potting seasons to discover the "right one".
What about plastic ? Many growers use plastic and mica pots for training. Although never acceptable in formal exhibits, they certainly work for getting started.
Never force, or over-prune roots, just to fit your tree into the pot of your choice.
It's better to have a live bonsai in “the wrong pot” ...
than to have a dead one in the “right pot.”