Akadama wet/dry colour spectrum/ chart idea

Hi All! So I had this idea while thinking about ways to first of all improve my own watering but also in case I was going away for the weeknd something and had to leave the watering to someone trusted but who didn’t have a full bonsai watering skill set.

The idea is to make a colour spectrum/chart showing the different colours of a typical Akadama soil relative to its dryness/wetness. I’m aware that a lot of people use other substrates. But all my trees have Akadama and when i personally check my soil I look at the colour of the Akadama “pebbles”. The darker the more wet - the lighter the drier. (As Jonas has also mentioned in his latest blog post on watering decidious trees).

So I’m wondering wether it’s possible making a colour chat maybe in 10 differently grades displaying the wetness/dryness and from that you would be able to tell when it’s time to water?

Please don’t be afraid to shoot the idea down, but in my head it could work on short term basis? :joy:

What do you think?


I think that’s a fantastic idea - a spectrum of browns with indications of when to water different species (7 of 10 for deciduous, 4 of 10 for conifers, etc.).

Simple color swatches would work great, and actual photos of soil at different moisture levels could also work.

Thanks so much for the suggestion!


Yes that’s exactly how I picture it! I’m excited you like the idea! I’ve always wished there was such diagram that had been done and tested by someone with real knowledge. I love learning my trees needs and getting a feel for what they need, but firstly I’m still very new to bonsai and secondly in all honesty with every watering session I’m a little bit in doubt. Drying conifers out is scary. And with decidious I’m scared to let them dry out to much. If there’s was a coloured spectrum that was tested. You could firstly use it to get to learn you trees and then maybe even take notes everyday so say Monday I watered my Itoigawa juniper at stage “4 brown” relative to the spectrum (if for instance the spectrum suggest watering at stage 4,5 for itoigawa juniper). Tuesday I watered at stage 5. And so on and you could then keep track of your watering habits and which colour works best for your specific tree (if there’s maybe multiple grades in which the chart suggest watering) and then you can give those charts to an unskilled loved one to use as a tool for watering when yourself is away going away know your tree will be happy as long they water at whatever stage brown you’ve found out works? :sweat_smile:

Ha - that would work if we could find loved ones who could check the trees every few hours to gauge the color of the soil!

Tracking the precise moisture at watering times could provide some interesting data, but I think the idea might be most useful as a metaphor for thinking about when, in general, a tree needs water.

What would be great would be enough data to know if watering pines at “3” produces healthier trees than watering at “4” or “5.” I don’t know how hard it would be to set up an experiment that could yield helpful data, but short of that, simply trying to keep some trees drier than others might be a good starting point for dialing in the best times to water.

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Oh ye that’s what I mean that might have been unclear! I just mean a colour scheme to which you see when you gets to this colour it means it dry enough to water relative to the individual species. If I had the skills of proper watering I would do myself but I’m still too much of a student to take on the experiment and experiment like this. However I am trying to take pictures of every watering to keep note of my watering habits.

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great idea.
some experimentation may be required.
soak your Akadama in several separate bowls until completely wet.
take photo of one.
allow all others to dry for a time period till you feel they are partially drying.
take photo of one.
continue incremental drying and photos for as many gradients you fee are necessary.
compare each photo with the Akadama sample immediately after taking pic to make sure it is “color true”.
Jonas and Peter Tea may kick my butt here but you could also follow the 1/2/3 rule.
If only leaving for a weekend have the folks water once per day if high is 85, twice if 95, three times if 105. if you live in Phoenix, find another hobby :slight_smile:
I live in El Dorado Hills CA and am currently searching for a water buddy when my wife goes into hospital for a stem cell transplant. any takers can post here but would prefer email [email protected] or text 916-261-7254. Pardon me Jonas if i broke any rules here!

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