Growing bonsai can be a rewarding and relaxing hobby. It can, however, get expensive really quick. One of the biggest expenditures to keep in mind when buying a bonsai tree will be the tools. A complete set of shiny bonsai tools in a handsome leather holder is nearly irresistible for the beginner bonsai grower. But do you need all of those bonsai tools in your kit? In this post, we’ll go over bonsai care for beginners, and the essential tools you need to get started, along with those we don’t recommend you invest in just yet.
Photos via Shutterstock
The three bonsai tools you need to get started
If your bonsai collection is starting out with only one small tree, you will not need for a lot of tools. Keep in mind that commercially available bonsai trees are mass-produced, and may have only recently been potted. So you don’t need tools for repotting bonsai right away.
For a small tree like the one pictured above, you can get away with only one pair of sheers for the first few years of cultivation. They can be narrow like the ones pictured above, or they can be the version with the wider openings for your fingers. These shears can be used to trim individual leaves, or to trim branches and twigs that are smaller than the diameter of the pencil.
If you are growing trees with branches slightly larger than the diameter of a pencil, the trimming shears will not get the job done. They’re made for cutting smaller, thinner branches and twigs. You need to graduate up to the concave cutters. The concave cutter is used to remove branches flush against the trunk without leaving an unsightly stub. A clean and flush cut is necessary when you are removing branches while styling your bonsai tree. The cut should heal in a way that doesn’t leave a stump or very noticeable scar. The concave cutter tool was designed with this in mind.
As you become more involved in bonsai, you will most likely want to get into styling your tree. Bonsai styling involves more than just cutting and whacking off branches. You will need to learn proper bonsai wiring techniques and how bend and curves branches and trunks. To do this you will need a good pair of bonsai wire cutters. These cutters are used to clip off the wire around branches and trunks with little damage. If you attempt to twist off all the wiring of your tree, you could end up with broken or split branches. Don’t use the tips of your bonsai shears or concave cutters to trim wires because the tips may break.
Bonsai tools you don’t need right away
In my opinion, buying a dedicated bonsai broom, root hook and rake with spatula is a waste of money you can put toward more bonsai trees or a very nice bonsai pot. You can also repurpose traditional gardening tools to accomplish the tasks these help with. Buying tools like the trunk splitter, jin splitter and root cutter can be put off until your bonsai skills and mastery of bonsai design and techniques improves.
Even though you only really need three bonsai tools to get started, it would be a good idea to splurge and buy the best quality Japanese made bonsai tools you can afford. With proper care and maintenance these tools will last you for decades, some may even outlive your first bonsai tree.