If you are just starting out with your first Bonsai, you will be looking for every possible method to care for your tree correctly. Among other things, you would want to know a few things about the proper soil that your bonsai will best grow in. While there are a few options available for Bonsai enthusiasts, many believe that Akadama soil is the best type of soil for your Bonsai tree to properly grow and develop in.
Why is Akadama soil so prized by Bonsai tree enthusiasts? Before we delve into that question, we should look at what Akadama is, and look at the characteristics that set Akadama apart from other soils that you could use.
What is Akadama soil?
In a nutshell, Akadama is a naturally-occurring, clay-like soil that is found mainly in Japan. Akadama is Japanese for “red ball earth” and is aptly named, because this soil is largely formed as a result of the eruptions of Mt. Fuji on Honshu Island. The time of forming this type of soil for Bonsai trees has gone through a centuries-long process, and usually begins when layers of red soil become mixed in with the ordinary black soil. After some time, the red soil would eventually dry up and be crushed up, hence creating the soil that many feel is most useful for their plant.
Pros and Cons of Akadama for Bonsai trees
There are a variety of opinions among Bonsai enthusiasts as to the usefulness (or lack thereof) of Akadama for the proper nutrients of a Bonsai tree and its living environment. A number of these opinions are based on factors such as climate, rainfall, and other factors that can influence the functioning of this type of soil. As with everything, there are pros and cons to the use of this type of soil, which we will examine here:
The biggest advantage to using Akadama is that it has porosity, or the ability to hold water and store it in microscopic pores and cavities for a longer period of time. This ability to retain water and nutrients is crucial for any type of plant life, and is even more so for a bonsai species. This type of soil also has the benefit of being a free-draining type, meaning that it is easy for Akadama to drain unnecessary water given enough time. Yet another advantage to using this soil would be in the colour of Akadama, which can darken when moisten, thereby helping the caretaker to know when to water the plant.
Some claim that when subjected to colder or wetter climates this type of soil the granules can break down into smaller particulars, inhibiting drainage. Most proponents of Akadama get around this issue by either mixing the soil with sand or grit, or by simply purchasing a higher grade of soil. Another drawback some might see with this soil is that sometimes authentic Akadama is expensive, and using this soil will require repotting roughly every two years because of its tendency to break down.
Is Akadama worth the extra price?
According to many experts in the field of Bonsai tree care, there are other factors such as climate, rainfall, and individual bonsai tree species that will come into play. However, because this type of Bonsai soil mix has the ability to retain the right amount of water, and because it is native to the plant’s ecosystem, the beginner should probably spend a little extra to try this type of potting first. Thus, my suggestion is to definitely consider Akadama first in the care of your Bonsai tree before going on to other alternatives.