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Dirt is a tree’s lifeline. The soil clinging to the roots provides the tree with its moisture and nutrients. It is crucial to use a mix that will hold water, but not keep the roots too wet. The grain of the soil is also a consideration. When a tree’s root encounters a large, sharp rock, the tip of the root splits in two and grows around it. The result is a finer, thinner root, unable to take up as much water as a large root, therefore contributing to natural miniaturization.

Plant your bonsai tree in soil with a combination of rich dirt and larger bits of rock to replicate this effect. You can purchase specialty soil, custom-tailored to suit the unique texture and drainage needs of bonsai, or you can customize your own soil with raw materials such as bark, coconut fiber, perlite, and rock chips.