What makes a bonsai pot? Feet?!

Philosophical question: what makes a pot a bonsai pot? Hear me out. I’m not talking slabs, driftwood, or riding spurs (a la Michael Hagedorn), but pots/ceramics. I live 2.5 hrs from the nearest source of cheapo legit bonsai pots, but I pick up perfectly attractive containers at the local garden center for $20. Sure, I also have a beautiful Ron Lang and other assorted containers I’ve splurged on for my nicer trees, but only a few. None of the garden center pots have feet…

All this to say, feet seem really important! I just can’t figure out why. Is it the bit of negative space they create? Do they somehow function like mini stands upon which the potted tree is elevated? Drainage?!

Please enlighten me.


All of the above. I’m sure the primary function of the feet on bonsai pots is aesthetics followed by drainage, elevation is usually minimal and just enough to allow tie down wire clearance under the pot. I personally don’t believe there is anything wrong with using an affordable garden container to house your trees.

One probably wouldnt win any awards at an exhibit if the tree were to be displayed in an average garden container. Truly the idea behind the container is to balance out the tree artistically whether by contrasting/complimentary color and design… shape, style, height, expression, material, femininity/masculinity, and so on.

If you look at the pots Ryan and Mirai use, you would realize that some, if not many are avantgaurd and/or nontraditional containers. Also, as you said Hagedorn has a floating bonsai, a spur even… those don’t have feet in the traditional sense.

Point is bonsai is art and you are free “to think outside the box,” and there isn’t a rule I’m aware of that states “cannot use a garden container and must have x y z.” As long as the overall design is elevated by the container selected, how can you be wrong?

In the long run, a pot is usually not a permanent home for a given tree, and will likely be changed several times over the life of the bonsai. One day you might run across that perfect container and you can plant it in there!

Anyways, do what you like! I wont tell you that you’re wrong. Others might, but I won’t.

Cheers. Bonsai on and good luck.


Hi, I lived under an impression that the feet of the bonsai pot are supposed to ensure sufficient levels of oxygen exchange and air flow, when the pot is placed on a flat surface or a bench. And than also giving the water a space to escape from underneath the pot after watering. I thoght that the aesthetics comes last after the horticulture. But that is just what I was thinking… Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Bonsai’n’Chill


@Jan You’re right it does facilitate oxygen exchange but mostly this is done by allowing water to escape the pot. Since the pot is not an airtight enclosed system, when water drains out via gravity air is pulled through the container from the top. When an equilibrium is reached, and no further water drains air is also will diffuse into the container from the drainage holes.

Despite the fact that water escapes through drainage holes at the bottom of bonsai pots and the minimal elevation is present. I dont think that feet on bonsai pots were invented for these reasons. Truly, I feel they were initially created and used for the aesthetics they being to the pot and overall composition. Some of my bonsai pots do not have feet yet water still drains out the bottom and air is present throughout the container. Good talk.


Agreed that feet are primarily aesthetic. I just don’t have a good handle on how variation in foot design impacts the overall impression of the composition. For example, Ryan and others have done a nice job of explaining how many other aspects of containers (depth, color, angle) are important considerations, but not feet. In thinking about this I’ve started to notice more variety in foot design and how it affects the impression of the pot as a whole, but I’m sure someone has written a thesis on this somewhere. Probably in Japanese…:grimacing:

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I hope this helps👍

I definitely think feet can take the same basic shape pot off in different directions with only minor changes. Personally I’m finding it hard to add feet to my containers most of which are pretty rustic tho, I like the visual stability of something stuck solid with as much surface contact as possible.

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Awesome, thanks @WelshBarry! I’m taking a ceramics class in the fall and have heard from several folks that elegant yet sturdy feet are really hard to construct. After watching Tom Benda’s piece of feature content (and buying one of his smaller pieces) I’m really digging how he integrates the feet into the wall of the pot.

Yeap I didn’t want to name drop Tom but he’s nailing legs at the moment.:raised_hands::raised_hands::raised_hands::raised_hands:
little plaster feet molds are a fun place to start, I used have a little tub of leather hard feet to play with.