Growing Accent Plants

Accent or ‘companion’ plantings as they are sometimes known are grown to complement bonsai trees when being exhibited. They are also known as ‘Kusamono.’ These accent plantings are placed near the bonsai, and often reflect the tree’s character, adding a natural element to the display.

A plant slightly cernuous in growth habit may be suitable when displayed next to a weeping willow for example. Tall, narrow literati trees are enhanced by slender grasses, which reflect the mood of the tree, and suggest scale.

A strong feeling of season can also be represented by using small spring bulbs, plants with autumn colours or in winter, grasses that are beginning to die back.

Good accent plant’s can be charming in their own right, and may be displayed singularly or as part of a group. However, when next to a bonsai tree it should not become overpowering, or attempt to be the governing feature; excellent health is also necessary. A yellowing deficient grass will draw attention to itself, but so also will a very lush specimen grass that is unusually large and robust. Creating a happy medium is important. Mixed accent plantings using different species in the same pot can be effective, but also difficult to create. It is often not practical to combine plants that require different growing conditions.

The following two images are from one of my own personal favourite potters. Erin.



Accents plants are very quick to mature, and quite simple to create, adding another dimension to the hobby. Being comparatively small, they also have the added advantage of being fairly inexpensive, both the plant and the pot! A good way to achieve quick results is to purchase three small plants at minimal cost and plant them all closely in one pot. This ensures the appearance of an established plant in no time at all. Here follows some suggestions.

This list is not intended to be an exhaustive one; you should allow your creative flair to run riot and see what happens when you do this or that.

Grasses/bamboos/sedges/herbs/herbaceous-plants/small-shrubs/ferns/dwarf bulbs/alpine plants/reeds/rushes/moss plantings/hosta/wild flowers/garden weeds.

Grown in such small containers, it is vital that accent plants are always repotted each year, and the generally accepted time for this is early spring; based on central and southern UK regions. Scotland and North Wales may be several weeks later depending on weather conditions.

Root pruning is beneficial, which by virtue provides valuable space for the roots to grow and develop. Many grasses and similar plants respond well to being cut back when repotted, which can help activate the plant to grow. Also, by removing all old and damaged foliage at this time, more air and light is able to reach the new shoots, encouraging new growth. Add some slow release fertiliser to the soil mix and feed throughout the summer as required, to ensure steady growth and optimum health.

Most accents should be treated as fairly short lived and it is a good idea to plant them in the garden after 2 or 3 years, where they can become stock plants and used to propagate further accents or indeed garden plants.