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The container is always selected to complement the mood and colour of the bonsai. It must help to present the tree and never detract from it.
There are traditional colours that are used with certain species. Muted earth colours such as darker reds, browns and greys are used with evergreens, white or off-white with trees that have red or yellow flowers and fruits. Blue and green serve for plants with autumn foliage. Black is used for trees with white flowers, white berries or variegated foliage.
Usually the individual bonsai dictates the shape of its container, although there are some general classic rules. Light, feathery plants are often planted in ornate glazed containers that are decorated with designs of flowers and birds. Formal, upright bonsai are planted in flat rectangular or oval pots, but heavy-trunked trees, particularly if they have thick foliage, appear to best advantage in bulky, deep, unglazed containers, which give them a stable, settled look. Deep round, octagonal or square pots enhance the beauty of semi-cascading or cascading bonsai (and in this style the tree is always planted exactly in the centre of the container). Shallow round or oval containers lend an informal feeling to windswept bonsai or group plantings.