DE soil mixes for UK

Hello all. I am based in the U.K. and I am looking into moving my small bonsai collection over to DE (namely Tesco Low Dust cat litter) and I was wondering if they were any fellow users in the U.K. (or elsewhere) who could help me with soil mixes for my different species.

I have in my collection the following:

Japanese White Pine
Mugo Pine
Chinese Juniper (Itoigawa)
Blue Moss Cypress (Boulevard)
Japanese Maple
Japanese Holly (Ilex Crenata)
A variety of Ficus

Many Thanks in advance and all help will be gratefully received guys.

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I live in Sweden so I guess we got a bit dryer climate here but I have been using “kittydama” for a numerous of years with good results. My main mix for conifers is 1 part kittydama, 1 part perlite (subst for pumice) and 1 part lava. For deciduous either 1:1 (kittydama, perlite) or solid kittydama.
Your best bet would probably be to talk to professionals in UK who uses cat litter. I know Harry Harrington of bonsai4me have been using Tesco’s for a long time so I’m sure you could find information on his website or by talking to him. Think he lives just outside of Manchester.

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Thank you for the reply Alex, it’s really appreciated.

For my deciduous trees I was thinking 100% DE (Tesco’s Low Dust) but keen to hear more about the addition of perlite as I was thinking about using this as a substitute for pumice myself for the conifers mix possibly as I’m struggling to find suppliers of pumice and lava here in the U.K. locally.

Many Thanks,

I found that cat litter had too much water retention for me in the UK when I trialed it. I use various mixes of akadama, pumice and lava. The good bonsai traders sell akadama(Use the good grade rather than the cheapest) and Kaizen sell both pumice and lava.


That’s interesting to hear mate.

Just out of curiosity was it the Tesco Low Dust variate or another brand. Also what trees was it used on and how did you realise that it was retaining too much water.

Many thanks in advance,

on another uk forum i use, one member used to use kitty litter but swapped to akadama and said the difference in the roots was amazing the tree in akadama had a much better roots system. So this year all my deciduous repots have been 100% akadama and my conifers have been 1:1:1 akama, lava and pumice, we will see how it goes.

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Yes the Tesco. Tried it on various deciduous including maples and various sized pots. Wasn’t interested in saving money, just wanted to give an honest answer when people spoke to me about it. I check my soil by feel but in some cases they were just sodden in the autumn/winter. Each to their own but it wasn’t for me.
EDIT: I would add that all of my soil mixes are sieved very carefully.

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Thank you for the replies Daubz & Blown.

It wasn’t about cost with me either but more to do with a few streams I’ve seen of Ryan’s where he mentions about DE being the best alternative to Acadama and I believe I read something from Graham at Kaizen about the cost of Acadama and the lack of the product frost proof enough for the U.K. climate hence looking at alternatives


I can only report on what works for me and am more than happy with my mixes now. I use double red stripe akadama.

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Thank you for that @Blown55. It’s definitely something to think about and maybe needs more researching on my part with regards the use of DE and it’s effects on the trees.

Might be an idea to report using the traditional soil mixes for the time being and do some further research in the meantime


I wouldn’t be scared to try either DE or akadama, now akadama may break down passively depending on your winter climate / winter storage but it is also very beneficial for the roots. The tubes that root grow into and divides as Ryan mention in the soil video. But there are bonsai professionals in Europe who uses molar clay instead of akadama, mainly because of the passive breakdown. And they achieve highly refined trees with good roots so there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do that as well. Check out Walter Palls trees, or these by Harry Harrington.

I would buy a bag of akadama and plant a tree in that and then one bag of DE and plant preferably the same species in that and watch the results.


Thank you the reply @Alex and the words of encouragement given.
Like you say there are some impressive trees grown in DE by Walter & Harry so it may well be worth getting in contact with Harry and see what mixes he’s been using for the different species.
Definitely like the idea of a side by side comparison so maybe I could get a couple of identical nursery material to use as an experiment

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Picked up these European Larch today as well as some Akadama for the side by side experiment of Akadama vs Diotamacious Earth and if there is any major difference between the two with regards to developing the trees and the roots.

Ideally Larch are best repotted each year so will check the effects after the first year and see how they are going

Great thread for a fellow Brit, please let us know what you find, and thanks.

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Any updates?
I’m having issues with akadama breaking down so decided to use mostly sanicat with some akadama and peat moss, so far the only disadvantage is that I think it more difficult to see when to water.