The 6 Best Bonsai Tool Sets

Updated November 10, 2017 by Chase Brush

6 Best Bonsai Tool Sets
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. If you're planning on trimming a tiny tree, you'll need one of these appropriately-sized bonsai tool sets. They are available with everything you need to become meditatively absorbed in caring for your miniature creations and producing the most perfectly sculpted specimens possible, including hedge clippers, root cutters, and even small rakes. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best bonsai tool set on Amazon.

6. ThinkBamboo Basics

The ThinkBamboo Basics might be slightly overpriced considering that it doesn't include anything other than a pair of shears and a concave cutter, but you can rest easy knowing that both pieces are of pretty decent quality. Just make sure to keep them clean and well-oiled.
  • suitable for home use
  • good for cutting large growth
  • cutter may need to be sharpened
Brand BambooMN
Model pending
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

5. Zelar Made 8-Piece

It's not the most comprehensive option out there, but with the Zelar Made 8-Piece, you get a handful of useful and unique tools at a price that really can't be beat. Three scissors, two wooden spades, and a wooden rake make planting and replanting especially easy.
  • also includes tweezers
  • can be used on other plant types
  • handles are a little small
Model pending
Weight 7.2 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

4. TianBonsai Master's

Experienced hobbyists who've tried the cheaper alternatives will appreciate the quality of the TianBonsai Master's, a collection of seven stainless steel pieces in a nicely organized case. They're all handcrafted, with long handles that offer added leverage during use.
  • blades stay sharp
  • pieces come lightly oiled
  • very expensive option
Brand Master's Bonsai Tool Ki
Model JTTK-05
Weight pending
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

3. TinyRoots Bonsai Tree Starter

With a comprehensive how-to book and a handsome wooden storage box, this TinyRoots Bonsai Tree Starter makes a great gift for anyone just getting into the art of miniature plant maintenance. Plus, unlike other kits, it comes with wire for shaping and training saplings.
  • comes with nutrient supplement
  • traditional butterfly shears
  • good value for price
Brand Tinyroots
Model TRK-05B
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. U-nitt 14-Piece

For intermediate users looking to get serious about their hobby, this U-nitt 14-Piece is likely to be a good investment. It's one of the most comprehensive sets out there, featuring everything from large and small cutters to branch benders to a handy six-inch broom.
  • comes in large zippered case
  • pieces are made of carbon steel
  • backed by 1 year warranty
Brand U-nitt
Model B14
Weight 5.5 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. BambooMN Brand Set

The best-selling BambooMN Brand Set passes on the novelty items and only includes those tools absolutely necessary for the proper cultivation of a bonsai tree, such as a pruner, a bud and leaf trimmer, and a bamboo rake. Each piece is precision-ground and comes sharp.
  • very affordably priced
  • good for beginners
  • also comes in other combinations
Brand BambooMN
Model HG00152
Weight 0.8 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

The Bonsai Goes West

If you weren’t brought up in Japan, you might not ever had heard of a bonsai tree were it not for a little series of movies called The Karate Kid. In the first of these films, the main characters care for a pair of bonsai trees in Mr. Miyagi’s dimly lit shed. The little trees play a metaphorical role in all the films, with an even bigger role in the third installment of the series, The Karate Kid 3, when the same characters care for a bonsai they find growing on a misty cliff side in Okinawa, Japan.

My own regard for bonsai trees grew in conjunction with a healthy interest in Asian cultures during my high school years. I finally obtained a bonsai tree of my own on a band trip to Disney World. At Epcot’s Japan section, I purchased a small but spunky bonsai tree that the cashier was kind enough to pack for me, as I told him we were flying back home the next day.

The tree was placed in a pair of cardboard boxes tied together with a little string. The boxes were unmarked and looked decidedly suspicious. I got to the airport early, ahead of my band mates, and entered the facility unaware of just how threatening I looked: A young man with an afro, a full beard, a healthy tan, and a pair of aviator sunglasses walking into an airport with nothing but a backpack and an unmarked cardboard parcel. It’s also worth noting that this was May 2002, just eight months after the horrific attacks of 9/11.

Needless to say, within 60 seconds I was swept away by airport security to a dark little room where men with strange instruments asked me endless questions and performed various tests on the tree inside the boxes. Fortunately for everyone, they were very efficient, and I didn’t even miss my flight.

Once home, the bonsai had a hard road ahead of it. I was a young man without much experience in gardening, and I didn’t bother to invest in any tools to keep my tree healthy. Bonsai trees thrive when pruned and shaped, allowing them to absorb just the right amount of nutrients from the sun and soil. I let mine grow a little wild, and I never bothered to fertilize it. Within six months, the tree began to suffer, and it died soon after.

My exposure to those Karate Kid films had led me to imbue bonsai trees with a crude kind of sentience, almost to the level of a pet. As such, I was terribly disappointed in myself for letting it die. You have the opportunity to invest in the tools that can prevent you from making the same mistakes I did, and your tree will be grateful for the many years that it’s with you.

How To Deploy The Tools In Your Set

Caring for a bonsai tree is more art than gardening, though there is significant overlap between the two in the way you care for, maintain, and shape your tree. It’s important to understand going into the process that achieving great results takes time and patience. If you try to cut your tree to a certain shape that’s too far removed from its current form, you’re liable to kill it swiftly. With the right tools at your disposal, you can create pristine trees, however, that are both an incredible expression of nature and a subtle expression of yourself.

Most tool sets will come with a pair of bonsai clippers, which look a lot like regular scissors, but that give you a little bit more leverage and are significantly sharper than many other pairs. These are great for light trimming of leaves and thinner branches, but they aren’t intended for attacking thicker parts of the tree as that might dull them too quickly. When trimming your bonsai tree, try not to cut below any new growth, trimming back only as far as it has recently grown. This will keep your tree in its smallest growing state without depriving it of nutrients.

For thicker or tougher branches, many sets will provide you with cutters that look more like wire cutters. These give you a lot more leverage, and they apply some brute force to the cut, so they don’t need to be razor sharp.

More advanced techniques can reshape your tree’s growth by applying pressure to its limbs. These tools need to be used gently and consistently, as applying too much pressure with a branch bender can cause irreparable damage to a tree’s structure.

The area in which your tree grows is as important to its health as its shape and pruning. That’s why many sets come with rakes, nutrient supplements, and other tools that can help you in the process of fertilizing and eventually repotting a plant that has grown too large for its current housing.

A Brief History Of The Bonsai Tree

Japanese Buddhist monks traveling to and from China as early as the 6th century C.E. brought back an incredible number of lessons and practices from the mainland nation. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the practice of caring for a bonsai tree came over, but the diminutive trees first appeared in scrolls dating back to at least the late 12th century.

For a long time, the practice of caring for bonsai trees remained exclusive to this religious class of monks, who occasionally introduced it to wealthy government officials in an attempt to temper their governance. It wouldn’t be until the 1800s that the practice became a more popular hobby.

At this point in Japanese history, the country was still closed off to the majority of the world, permitting trade with only China and the Dutch. The Meiji Restoration period that began in the 1860s opened up trade to many more parts of the world, including America and England, where interest in Japanese culture flourished. An understandable ebbing of this interest occurred in the period leading up to and during WWII. Once the war ended and Japan became an ally of the US, the two countries traded many of their most popular practices, including the care and maintenance of bonsai trees.

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Last updated on November 10, 2017 by Chase Brush

Chase is a freelance journalist with experience working in the areas of politics and public policy. Currently based in Brooklyn, NY, he is also a hopeless itinerant continually awaiting his next Great Escape.

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