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Bonsai is the art of growing miniature trees. It originates from China, where it probably started in the Han Dynasty. The art of Bonsai, or 盆景 (meaning „tray scenery“) in Chinese, later spread to Japan where it is named 盆栽, or „potted plant“. The definition of a Bonsai is the following:

A bonsai is a tree which is kept small enough to be container-grown while otherwise fostered to have a mature appearance. [1]

This resource serves to aid you in the creation of bonsai. It covers acquirement, shaping, care, and styles.

Buying a Bonsai[edit]

Buying a young Bonsai and then shaping it to your desire is probably the easiest way of achieving one. Most garden stores sell Bonsai, but they usually carry only a small amount. If you wish to have a larger selection, I recommend that you visit a Bonsai store. When you buy a Bonsai, you should always check it for the following:

  • Does it look natural? (It should)
  • Are there any marks of wires on the bark? If yes, don't buy it.
  • Is the tree sturdy? Do not buy a tree that looks like a branch stuck into the soil half an hour ago.
  • Do you see surface roots? If no, it might be a sign of a 2-minute-bonsai (merely a young tree planted in a pot with its branches held in place by wires)
  • If there are wires, does it seem the branches will stay in place if the wires are removed? If it seems that the branches will snap back in place, do not buy.
  • Are there glued-on rocks? If yes, don't buy the tree, because it will be difficult to prune later.

If you are unsure of the trees’ quality, you should ask the store owner or a worker if they can tell you its history. If they cant, it's a sign of a 2-minute-bonsai.

Buying a bonsai for a nursery does not mean you are buying a bonsai. They are just trees styled like bonsai and sold like bonsai (wholesale). Suggest you buy a plant that you can gradually turn into a bonsai. Look for a good nebari ( Surface roots). This shows some age to the plant. Look for a good trunk, something with good taper. Branches and leaves can be grown during the process of training the plant into a bonsai. Nebari and trunks take years to develop so look for these two characteristics before you buy one. Your first plant could be a Jade or an Elm. Easy to grow and have great character.

Bonsai Hunting[edit]

If you have decided against buying your bonsai, you might want to take out into the country and find your own tree. I advocate that you bring a few tools along. A shovel, a plastic bag, and large pruning shears always come in handy. When you are looking for a tree, look for a sturdy but not too large tree that has nice foliage. Try to find a tree with no or little fungus. Lichens, moss, and vines are okay. You can remove them later if you want to. If you see any part of the bark removed or damaged, there is a chance the tree will be infected with some disease. Once you have found a tree you like, check if you are on someone’s’ property. If so, go ask the owner of the land for permission before you dig. If you are in a national or state park, you cannot dig there. To start digging, estimate the size of the root ball. The roots’ span is usually two to three times the crown’s size. Then take the shovel and cut down into the soil at a reasonable distance from the tree. (You’ll be the one to clean up afterwards.) When you have your tree dug up, lift it out of the ground and place it in a bag. Be sure to leave some soil on the roots to ensure proper sturdiness of the tree.

Potting your Tree[edit]

Placing your tree in a beautiful, shallow, especially made bonsai pot may seem tempting at first, however I recommend you plant your tree into a large plastic growing pot for the first month or two so the roots have time to acclimate to living in a container.

Use of soil is important. Its existence depends on it. In most cases soil should be organic with enough of space for roots to grown into. Use a mix of 60% organic and 40% inorganic. The organic retains water while the inorganic lets just enough space for roots to grow into. Never use a bonsai pot. Training pots are ideal. PROCESS:- Start of with your plant buy removing about 70% of old organic soil. Use new soil and re-pot your plant. Take care of roots and cut out a few long tangled roots. Everyone tends to do a lot to the plant after re-potting. Remember it needs to settle in. So just a few unnecessary roots. Make sure you wire in the plant so that it does not move about in its new home. Plants after re-potting should be allowed to rest at the most a month or two.

Getting Started[edit]

When your tree is ready to be made into a bonsai, the first thing to do is to choose a front side. This side should be the one people should look at if your bonsai is ever displayed. Then, choose what style your tree should be in. Decidious trees are probably not as qualified for Bunjingi, Kengai, and Han-Kengai as coniferous ones, but you can experiment.

Bonsai Styles[edit]

Bonsais can be up to two feet tall.

Non-traditional bonsai[edit]

Many species of trees can be grown as non-traditional bonsai. It is even possible to grow redwoods as bonsais. Stunting tree growth keeps them to a miniature size.

Garden container size[edit]

The easiest way to grow miniature trees is to grow them in a small gardening container. The roots of the plant are restricted for growth, and this signals the tree above the surface to limit its growth as well. Plants' roots can sense its surroundings, including the size of the pot it is in, and increasing the pot size allows plant size to increase proportionally.[2]

If this method is used, precautions have to be taken. Drainage, nutrient supply, and preventing drying out must be taken care of to keep the miniature trees healthy.

It is easy to over-water plants in a small container. The surface of the soil may look dry while the soil beneath may be saturated creating conditions for root rot. To ensure drainage, mix gravel in along with the potting medium. It may be desirable or necessary to sterilize the gravel to prevent mold, an aggressive pathogen responsible for root rot, from endangering the plant.

Small gardening containers are also susceptible to drying out, than larger ones. Ceramic pots allow roots to breathe slightly better than plastic.

Using fish-tank water may provide the perfect source of nutrients for growing miniature trees. If the plants don't get their nutrients the root becomes root-bound in search for nutrients it can't find. Nutrients needed are in parts per million, and tap water provides an adequate amount of many plant nutrients.


Cutting into bark stunts tree growth, but it also damages the tree's health. The bark may not be cut all the way around, as this will kill the tree.

Root pruning and bark wiring are ways of grooming miniature trees.

Grafting flowers[edit]

This is not practical since many tree species don't produce flowers. However grafting can be a way of stunting plant growth as flowers use up a lot of energy.


  1. Wikipedia
  2. (2012). Want bigger plants? Get to the root of the matter. Society for Experimental Biology.