How to Choose Rocks for Landscape Bonsai

Aug 17th, 2010 | By | Category: Bonsai How To, Bonsai Tools & Accessories

Rock for landscape bonsai

Generally, Chinese penjing (penjing is bonsai in Chinese) can be categorized into three types: tree penjing, landscape penjing (Shanshui Penjing, 山水盆景 in Chinese), and water-and-land penjing (shuihan penjing, 水旱盆景 in Chinese). Unlike tree penjing, which has dwarfed trees be the core and only element in the pot, landscape penjing and water-and-land penjing have rocks playing a big role as well. Indeed, in landscape penjing, the rock rather than the tree is the central focus of the scene.

Hence, rock plays a big part in Chinese penjing. While we have different sets of criteria when selecting suitable rocks for different penjing, some general rules always (or almost always) apply. And here are some general guidelines for choosing rocks particularly for landscape penjing with mountain or cliff scene.

Rock for landscape bonsai Rock for landscape bonsai

Rock Type

Many kinds of rocks are suitable for penjing, as long as the rocks are strong and won’t break apart easily. In Guangdong province, landscapes made from Ying Rock are common. Rock pieces are piled in an ingenious manner to create an appearance of both grandeur and elegance, or to effect rock formations which either thrust into the sky or lie across the container and stretch toward the horizon.

Rock Shape

When we are looking for a nice piece of rock for our landscape penjing, we always try to find one that is in the shape of an inverted (or upside down) triangle. This is especially important for landscape penjing of cliff scene. This is because it is easier to create a steep, dangerous-looking cliff with rock that is in the shape of an inverted triangle than one in a boring, broad, flat shape.

Rock for landscape bonsai Rock for landscape bonsai
left: A young tree with long roots has been attached to a crack of the rock. The roots will need to be tied up and surrounded by potting mix for a period of time in order to attach stably on the rock.

Cracks on Rocks

Rocks with vertical lines and cracks are preferred over rocks with horizontal lines and cracks. This is because the branches and roots of our bonsai trees can develop and grow better within the vertical cracks, and grip the rock along the vertical cracks more securely.

Rock Color

Usually we use white, cream, black, gray, brownish red, or a mix of these colors. Just remember don’t use green rock for it may cover up the beautiful foliage of our bonsai tree.

17 Comments to “How to Choose Rocks for Landscape Bonsai”

  1. vivek kumar says:

    good topic to discuss . and attractive pics ..

  2. Kamini says:

    Very good suggestion. But how you made the base for the rock to stand properly without support.

  3. Sandy Sandy says:


    Can you see the piece of concrete at the base of the rock in some of the photos of this post? We make them after we have done with all the cutting and shaping of the rock. Maybe let me write a post explaining how this is done later when time allows.

    Happy Bonsai!

  4. Kamini says:

    Thanks for replying, I will be happy if you write in detail.

  5. Garland says:

    Where can you buy these rocks?

  6. Sandy Sandy says:

    I bought mine in Yingde, China. There are some available in Guangzhou, China too. It’s more convenient for me to go to Guangzhou, but there are less choices and more expensive.

  7. Paul says:

    It all depends on where you live I guess but just a quick walk in the forest and once I start searching, it’s amazing at the rocks you can find…for free… And also, it makes a great family activity whaen going rock hunting!

    Thanks for this post Sandy

  8. John says:

    You mention cutting and shaping. Do you use hand tools? Power tools? Wondering what you use….nice photos…especially rock 05 pictured above. I’m looking around for one like that but may have to move over to cutting and shaping techniques. Keep up the excellent work Sandy.

  9. Sandy Sandy says:

    Hi John, you can check this post How to Shape and Prepare the Rock for Root-Attaching (附根) Landscape Bonsai and see how I cut and shape my rocks 🙂

  10. chuotbach says:

    toi co the noi chuyen bang tieng viet kg

  11. Babu Rajshekar says:


    After a wile creating few bonsai’s iam now interested in Landscape bonsai.

    Please let me know the basics of it.

    My imagination — i wish to grow 2 to 3 small trees on a cliff so, am not sure what this cliff will be made of, because my trees (3) are going to be there for ever, am not sure if i have to make a square plate kind of basement.
    Am I going to make this cliff out a bonsai soil? If so then how can i prune my bonsai roots? Like a repotting!!!?? so confused, however with all my knowledge in these years will surely make something… my concern is I DONT WANT MY TREES TO DIE, I value my trees life much.

    Please help me out here!! The basics of creating a landscape.. You have my email id..

    This art goes with me to my grave so i have long way to go i guess.. Love Bonsai’s for ever..

    Thanks a ton!!!!


    Babu R 🙂

  12. Sandy Sandy says:

    Hi Babu R,

    It is nice to hear that you are getting interested in making a landscape bonsai. I have written a few posts about how to make landscape bonsai. You may find them helpful.

    Landscape Penjing – Three Ways to Attach a Tree to a Rock
    How to Shape and Prepare the Rock for Root-Attaching (附根) Landscape Bonsai
    How to Keep a Rock Standing in Landscape Penjing
    Use of Chinese Figurines in Penjing

    I would guess that you may be interested in making water-and-land bonsai too.

    Making My Water-and-Land Penjing (Part 1)
    Making My Water-and-Land Penjing (Part 2)

    It would be great if you could share with me photos of your landscape bonsai after you have it made 😉

    Happy Bonsai!

  13. Babu Rajshekar says:

    Hi Sandy,

    Iam so happy to get your assistance with regard to my concern.

    Thanks for your good work helping and sharing your knowledge about landscape bonsais.

    Will surely follow the instructions come up with my lovely bonsai soon.

    Thanks for all your help.


    Babu Rajshekar 🙂

  14. Razak says:

    Hi sandy..

    Gr8 inspiring job..

  15. sanjay says:

    Hi Sandy, your posts are very informative and useful. You’ve used cement to make the base of rock.This is pure cement or mixture of cement and sand i.e. mortar? If it is a mortar,then what is the ratio of cement and sand?

  16. Jason says:

    I just went to my local rock/ landscaping company.

    They had.a nice collection of lava rock. I chose a piece and took home a mason saw blade.

    I promptly turned a watermelon sized chunk of lava into four nice pieces I’ll use for my root over rock etc. the mason blade was 35 bus for my skill saw (7″).

    I’ll post more later…

  17. chriss says:

    Hi there,
    these rocks are awesome, and elegance of yours that caused to choose these so.
    I got some questions, are these all natural? and what is their substance?
    Marble, limestone, granite or …?

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