Horticultural Clay commonly referred to as calcinated clay, calcined clay and turface. Like Akadama this clay is mined and heated treated but unlike Akadama, Horticultural Clay is heated to a much higher degree and will not break down. Horticultural Clay is relatively new to the world of Bonsai, but a quick search online will show just how highly regarded it is as an addition to Bonsai soil and sometimes as an economical substitute for Akadama. While Akadama has been used for hundreds of years if not longer in the art of Bonsai, it was locally available to Bonsai artists developing the living art form in Japan. Many Bonsai artists in North America have been searching for years for a local substitute for Akadama.
Horticultural Clay has been found to be an excellent solution, offering the same qualities as Akadama. Excellent moisture and nutrient retention, preventing soil compacting and helping aerate the root system while being PH inert.
This Horticultural Clay is offered in both 1 and 2-pound bags and can be used as a 1:1 substitute for Akadama.
For Tropical trees, we recommend the following mixture:
2/3 Base Substrate Mix and 1/4 Horticultural Clay
For Coniferous Species we recommend the following mixture:
For Deciduous Trees we recommend the following mixture:
1/2 Horticultural Clay and 1/2 Base Substrate Mix
It is important for the soil have good water retention while also draining well, along with very good aeration. The quality of the soil directly affects the health, size and growth of your tree. One of the worst things you can do to your tree is plant it in regular garden soil. Garden soil hardens when it drys and can often lead to a disadvantage when growing a Bonsai.
Soil mixtures can be purchased here, but given their weight and cost of shipping, you can also easily make your own.
Depending on the type of Bonsai you're growing, here are the general formulas for successful mixtures.
Deciduous Tree (Leafy and looses leafs in the fall)
10% Potting Compost
Coniferous Tree (Evergreen like Juniper, Cedar)
If you are not able to check on your Bonsai's moisture levels daily, add more Akadama to the mix.
Given how these soils erode over time, repotting every 2-3 years is required.
Here are some suitable replacements if you cannot find the recommended types of soil.
- Akadama - fine fired or baked clays, some even recommend cat litter as a substitute.
- Pumice - fine crushed aggregates, expanded shale and vermiculite.
- Lava Rock - This can be replaced with fine gravel or you can also look into purchasing a larger lava rock at a hardware or gardening centre and crushing it.
One of the best and easiest ways to fertilize your Bonsai, is to add a liquid fertilizer mix when water your Bonsai's once a month during the spring/summer. If your Bonsai looses leaves in the winter there is no need to fertilize it then. If you have a coniferous tree, fertilizing the tree once in the beginning of winter and once in the middle of winter should be sufficient.