Akadama Bonsai Soil

Although bonsai may merely appear to be potted plants, they are much more than that. It can take years to master the technique because it is a work of art.

Soil is an important component of bonsai cultivation, despite not being the most fascinating feature. Now, what ingredients are in bonsai soil?

The standards for bonsai soil are stringent and extremely precise, just like the art form itself.

Keep reading on to discover more about akadama and bonsai soil in this post.

Soil Requirements for Bonsai

Bonsai soil must satisfy three requirements: it must provide for good water holding capacity, drainage, and aeration.

While water must be allowed to drain from the container right away, the soil has to be able to absorb and retain enough moisture.

In order to offer oxygen to the roots and microbes, the materials in bonsai soil need to be big enough to permit air pockets.

Akadama: What Is It?

Akadama is an important part of bonsai soil. It is utilized all over Japan as a planting medium both for bonsai and conventional gardening. It is becoming more and more popular in bonsai cultivation all over the world.

The Japanese name “akadama” is a combination of the terms “red” (the color of the particles) and “ball” (the shape of the particles).

The balls of this volcanic clay that make up those particles were mined, naturally dried, or baked to the ideal hardness. These dried components are then sifted and packaged for distribution after drying.

Why Do People Use Akadama as Bonsai Soil?

When transplanting bonsai, cut roots require soil that drains properly in order to encourage the growth of new roots. These roots develop quickly and aid in the recovery of plants after repotting.

Because it retains water well and drains efficiently, akadama works well as a planting medium for bonsai. Even better, over time, akadama particles break down gradually. This happens over time by root growth and continuous watering. The ability of the particles to hold water rises as they disintegrate and get smaller. The particles will fully degrade over time until only tiny clay remnants are left.

More About Akadama

For both conifers and deciduous trees, many experienced gardeners prefer Akadama soil, but it’s also advisable for inexperienced gardeners. When moist, akadama soil undergoes a color shift (darkening), which serves as a visual cue to know when to irrigate your plant.

Smaller soil particles encourage slower growth; hence the decomposition of soil particles is crucial for bonsai cultivation. Slow growth is a main objective during the refinement phases of bonsai development, as robust shoots can thicken branches and make elderly trees appear young.

Drainage may become slow as akadama begins to break down and roots start to fill the planter. It is challenging to keep bonsai flourishing in poorly draining soil because healthy roots require both air and water. When there is inadequate drainage, the tree is watered carefully until the subsequent repotting season, when it can be safely repotted. This process is repeated when the bonsai regains some strength in new soil.

Akadama Brands

Akadama is sold under several brand names. Even if the clay in each is comparable, the speed at which the particles disintegrate might vary greatly. Some bonsai growers favor soft akadama that subdivides quickly, while others favor hard akadama that decomposes slowly.

When used for trees that develop quickly and thrive in humid climates with a lot of rain, moderately hard particles may degrade quickly. For trees that inhabit dry climates and grow slowly, the same mixture may remain for years before totally decomposing.

Akadama from the Kotobuki, Ryusen, Ibaraki, Double Red Line, and Nakayama labels are some of the most well-known varieties.

Pre-mixes or ready-mixes, which are bonsai soils including akadama as well as additional components like lava, pumice, and other volcanic particles, are also quite popular. Pre-mixes are frequently sold under the Clay King and Aoki Mix labels.

The secret to choosing the right one is figuring out which brands are best for your bonsai trees in your climate.

Akadama Bonsai Mixes

Even though akadama is among the most popular bonsai soil mediums, it is rarely used by itself. There are practically no limits to the number of bonsai mixtures that may be made by combining particles with various structural and water-retention characteristics.

How can one decide what is best for a specific bonsai in a specific climate?

When it comes to bonsai soil, the significance of adequate drainage cannot be overstated. Make sure the ingredients are thoroughly sifted after choosing the soil’s components. Sifting the dirt for bonsai has two benefits. This can be used to split particles by size as well as particles that are too small to be included in the bonsai mix.

You may either buy bonsai sieves or make your own. Dust and other small particles that obstruct drainage can be swiftly removed using a thin mesh. Soil will be separated by size on larger screens. Typically, larger particles are often utilized for larger bonsai, while smaller particles are used for smaller bonsai.

The majority of the time, akadama is pre-sifted. Pumice and lava are frequently marketed, both sifted and not sifted. Choose the approach that makes the most sense for your collection: you can save your money by sifting your own soil, or you can save your time by beginning with pre-sifted components.

Also, please be aware that handling and shipment can cause even pre-sifted soil to degrade. You may prevent as much dust from getting into your soil by sifting the materials as they are being combined.

Where to get Akadama

As always, a great place to begin is with local bonsai groups. Many clubs, on their websites and in their newsletters, promote specific suppliers.

Online sites, commercial garden centers, and bonsai nurseries are also additional places to look for akadama.

Bonsai Nurseries

Akadama is sold at a lot of bonsai nurseries. Even though it’s uncommon to see a large number of choices at one retail location, sellers frequently don’t mind because they want to provide products that are suitable only for their customer base. The best part is that bonsai nurseries are a good resource for knowledge about what strategies are effective locally.

Garden Centers

Even though nurseries rarely stock bagged akadama and it’s rare to get bonsai mixes with akadama in them, it does happen occasionally. See if your neighborhood retail garden centers offer akadama or all-purpose bonsai mixes.

Consult a local bonsai club or expert to find out if general-purpose bonsai mixtures without akadama are suggested for your needs before purchasing them. A general-purpose premix may even be ideal for your tree or trees if you have a very limited bonsai collection, but if you have a bigger collection, do some study before buying.

Akadama Resources on the Internet

A lot of information about akadama and akadama-based bonsai mixes may be found online. Researching options can pay off because prices and shipping costs can vary greatly. 


Experience is your best option. Find someone with knowledge of different bonsai soils if you don’t have any, particularly one who has spent significant time in a climate comparable to yours.

Sometimes, it takes some trial and error to get the bonsai soil just right. Start with the simple instructions and pay great attention to the tree. Re-amend the soil if draining or aeration needs to be improved.

For more knowledge about bonsai, don’t hesitate to browse our blog section.