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Which Trees are Best for Bonsai?

Updated on April 12, 2016

Miniature Shrubs

A long time ago, I found some books about Bonsai and I really liked the way they looked, like large trees in miniature, planted in a shallow container with moss and rocks to look natural.

So I planted some lemon seeds to try it. That was the beginning of this great hobby. As I gained more experience with it, I tried many different types of trees.

Here is some information about natural and artificially dwarfed plants, the process, and a list of some of the best plants to use.

This is a bonsai maple tree. All photos on this page are from Jack2205's collection.

Simple Trees To Begin Bonsai

A List


ome of the easiest plants to dwarf artificially are the conifers, firs, monkey-puzzle tree, cedars, gingkos, spruce, junipers, pines, acacia, beech, birch, crab apples, dogwoods, eucalyptus, hawthorns, holly, horse chestnut, jacaranda, maples, oleander, olive, mock orange, poplar, almonds, apricots, cherries, peaches, and plums, walnut, willows, and wistaria.

Bonsai Poll

Which of these is your favorite Bonsai?

See results

Natural Habitat

Soil Quality


ost natural dwarf trees and shrubs grow in mountainous exposed land with poor quality shallow soil. The large stones restrict the growth of their roots, and the weather and high winds naturally prune their branches and mold them into shapes.

These plants grow in well drained soil and are exposed to very bright light. This is important if you will grow them indoors.

Miniature trees, whether natural or Bonsai grow best in shallow containers, because it's their natural habitat, and they also look more artistic this way.

Natural dwarfs can be planted in good soil, but Bonsai trees require poor soil to keep them small. A good mix is two parts commercial potting soil to one part coarse sand.

They require regular watering, but no feeding because that encourages unwanted growth.

The most popular natural miniature trees are the dwarf conifers, and miniature roses.

Acer Japanese Maple

The Bonsai Art

Best Proportion


he Bonsai art, which has been popular in Japan and China for many centuries, is also popular in the United States and is becoming popular in Great Britain.

Bonsai specimens can be bought from florists and plant nurseries, but the larger and older ones can cost a lot.

Dwarfing trees and shrubs can be a great hobby for anyone. You can study the habits of various trees and try just about any of your favorites.

Plants with small leaves and flowers give dwarfs the best proportion and appearance. Large flowers are not reduced in size.

They can be grown indoors in a sunny window. The hardy dwarfs should be put outside in warm rain whenever possible, or spray the leaves to remove the dust.

Acer Seigen

The Process

Of Shaping and Pruning


he trees and shrubs are started from seeds or cuttings by planting them in a shallow pan in seed compost. The pan should be kept continuously moist.

When they are two inches high and have roots, the dwarfing process is started and is spread out over two or three years.

The little plants are transplanted to individual containers, with commercial potting compost. During the next two years, the plants are occasionally removed from their pots and all of the roots growing outside of the root ball are cut back. Or they are planted in cartons and when the roots grow through, they are cut.

In the plant's second year, it is also shaped. This is done by pinching out the growing tip to encourage it to grow bushy. It should give a natural outline to the dwarf, similar to what the large tree would look like. To minimize shock, root and top pruning should not be done at the same time.

Sometimes it is desired to give the miniature tree the appearance of premature old age. This is done by mechanical means, such as curling wire around the branches and trunk, to bend the tree to shape, fixing weights to branches to bear them down, and twisting the trunk and limbs by tying them to pegs that are firmly inserted in the soil.

In the third year, after a root pruning, the Bonsai should be transferred to their permanent quarters in poor soil of two parts potting compost and one part coarse sand.


Bonsai Books

Learn more about this fascinating hobby.

Do You Grow Bonsai?

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    • Mellithorpe profile image

      Mellithorpe 4 years ago

      No. I've never tried. I seem to kill every plant I touch.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I have always wanted to grow a bonsai, but somehow I never get off the ground and do it. Interesting info.

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 4 years ago from Europe

      No, but an old friend did, he had a marvelous collection which were beautiful, although he really had to put the time in to keep them up to scratch.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      No, but someone gave me a Bonsai African Thorn Tree for Christmas last year - the little thorns are too precious!

    • SavioC profile image

      SavioC 4 years ago

      Not yet but its high up on the list of my To-Do-Before-I-Die . Loved the Acer Seigen Bonsai, its out of the world . Thanks for reminding me about bonsai growing.

    • JenwithMisty profile image

      Jen withFlash 4 years ago

      I don't, but I think they are beautiful!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I don't, have purchased some over the years but can't bear to watch another one die. The secret is doing your own and apparently you are a master of that....its an extension of your artistic abilities that are just God's gracious gifting to you! Congratulations on your purple star! :)

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 4 years ago

      Thanks for writing about Bonsai, I am glad to see this lens and I have more than five bonsai books, my mom knows how to take care of them much :)

    • marktplaatsshop profile image

      marktplaatsshop 4 years ago

      Thank you for liking an visiting my lens on animal cruelty. I would like to have the Japanese Dwarf Juniper Pre Bonsai Tree, it looks great and so is your lens, but I don't have greenfingers ;)

    • PinkstonePictures profile image

      PinkstonePictures 4 years ago from Miami Beach, FL

      I bought one this week to grow from seed - it's a Japanese Elm. Wish me luck!

    • VeseliDan profile image

      VeseliDan 4 years ago

      No, I don't. I would love to have an Acer Japanese Maple though. I looks really beautiful.

    • opatoday profile image

      opatoday 4 years ago

      You make a great lens,

    • profile image

      gene-0 lm 4 years ago

      had one as a kid overwatered it though )-:

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 4 years ago from Alabama USA

      No, but I would love too. They are so cool.

    • profile image

      cmadden 4 years ago

      No, I have a brown thumb. But I do love the look of them, so lovely.

      (This time the poll worked for me - woo-hoo!)

    • sarasentor lm profile image

      sarasentor lm 4 years ago

      Fruit tree is my favorite.

    • profile image

      john9229 4 years ago

      I growth Bonsai before. But I not good handle it.

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 4 years ago

      Back to bless this page, I really enjoy my Bonsai that my son gave me years ago for Christmas. I have to do some trimming in the Spring, it needs it badly.

    • choosehappy profile image

      Vikki 4 years ago from US

      I don't but have always wanted to try. Great information here; thanks so much!

    • charlie1232 profile image

      charlie1232 4 years ago

      Great lens with lots of super information on bonsai

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 4 years ago

      Absolutely beautiful.

    • profile image

      Elastara 4 years ago

      Yes, I have one given as a present to me since I love flowers and plants.

      It is displayed in the centre of my hall dinner table :).

    • The Last Renais profile image

      The Last Renais 4 years ago

      I'm just starting my first Bonsai. It's a jade plant, Crassula argentea. I reckon it's got about week left before I accidentally kill it off.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

      No, but I have wanted to, but thought they were difficult to grow.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 5 years ago

      Yes I do...but kill more then grow, actually when my sister takes care of them she manages to end their life. In the summer it's not so bad but winter the house dries out and they have a hard time adjusting..when I lived in California they did real well.

      Very nice lens:


      artist Squid Angel Blessing~

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I grow mostly succulents in small dish gardens, but think I might give Bonsai trees a go too now.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      i gave it a try but didn't succeed, looking for info on how I can get it right the second time round. Thanks!

    • nettlemere lm profile image

      nettlemere lm 5 years ago

      I'm growing a horse chestnut as a bonsai, it's not that great because the leaves are on the big side, but I've had it for 10 years and it's doing ok.

    • profile image

      Aunt-Mollie 5 years ago

      These make wonderful presents because everyone has room for them and they really are easy to care for.

    • profile image

      Doc_Holliday 5 years ago

      I just love bonsai but would never have the patience to grow my own.

    • profile image

      myspace9 5 years ago

      First of all your lens is wonderful, congrats and second thanks for your blessings for my lens.

    • RyanBlock profile image

      RyanBlock 5 years ago

      Right now I am rooting a giant sequoia from a clipping in order to bonsai

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      I haven't yet, but I've thought about it for a long time. Thanks to your excellent information and tips, I just might try it. Blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Bonsai trees are so cool! Terrific lens!

    • Phoenix2361 profile image

      Phoenix2361 5 years ago

      I don't, but my husband received one as a present. I'll be sending him this link. I know he'll like it.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 5 years ago

      Great pictures and info, I like Juniper Tree Bonsai

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      I've always been fascinated by Bonsai, but I've never tried to grow one.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Love bonsai trees but never tried growing them. This is a very inspiring lens to help try out!

    • profile image

      kimmanleyort 5 years ago

      I would like to learn more about bonsai next year and try to grow my own tree. Thanks for the excellent tips!

    • cutethings profile image

      cutethings 5 years ago

      I like Bonsai trees, but I have to learn more about them.

    • audrey07 profile image

      audrey07 5 years ago

      No, I have not tried growing a bonsai. I have a relative who is really into this hobby though. He will be proudly showing off his bonsai trees whenever people come visiting and you can just see his satisfaction there.

    • Camden1 profile image

      Camden1 5 years ago

      I've never grown Bonsai - I should give it a try. I love the dramatic way they look.

    • AstroGremlin profile image

      AstroGremlin 5 years ago

      Had a conifer for years. A friend overwatered and roots rotted.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 5 years ago from Ljubljana

      Nope, but i have a book about bonsai somewhere... It takes some time to get in this, but I guess it is very rewarding hobby. Thanks for the tips. If I decide to give it a try, I know where to start:)

    • GardenIdeasHub LM profile image

      GardenIdeasHub LM 5 years ago

      I have always been fascinated by this but have never tried growing a bonsai myself.

      My favorite on your site is the Acer Japanese Maple.

    • Joy Neasley profile image

      Joy Neasley 5 years ago from Nashville, TN

      These are beautiful. I am going to try one. I see them all the time here in China, but I have never personally tried to grow one.

    • srsddn lm profile image

      srsddn lm 5 years ago

      Thanks for describing the process. It is interesting to have Bonsai trees.

    • akumar46 lm profile image

      akumar46 lm 5 years ago

      I also want to learn this art of growing bonsai but never tried.Now I think, I have to try once.Thanks for the information.

    • Thankfultw profile image

      Thankfultw 5 years ago

      I have loved bonsai since the 70's. I still have the Sunset book of Bonsai from that time period. Very lovely art form.

    • maryLuu profile image

      maryLuu 5 years ago

      Yes I do, but I don't really know how to cut it. It grew a bit wild...

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 5 years ago from East Central Florida

      Oh my! Something I've never thought of - engineering the dwarfing process for Bonsai trees yourself. Very interesting!

    • claycath59 profile image

      claycath59 5 years ago

      Yes I have one bonsai. The vet tech at my dogs' veterinary clinic is into them and got me interested in trying one out. I have a Pyracantha. It's doing well as it looks healthy but I'm not that good at cutting it back as often as I should. I'm always afraid I'm going to overdo it and hurt it.

    • flowerdada profile image

      flowerdada 5 years ago

      They look so nice! Thanks for squidliking my page

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      Your images are beautiful. I love Bonsai trees. I'm just not blessed with a green thumb. Blessed!

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 5 years ago

      I love the way bonsai looks but never had one yet. Nice collection of pretty miniature trees!! :)

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 5 years ago

      My son gave me a Bonsai for Christmas years ago, it is still doing fine, supposed to be one of the easier ones to keep alive, thank goodness for the tree:-) A banana umbrella tree or something like that? I have trimmed it and last year repotted trimming the roots. it is doing well.

    • Rosaquid profile image

      Rosaquid 5 years ago

      I am fascinated with bonsai and I hope to begin a bonsai hobby soon. Thanks for this helpful lens. I have it bookmarked.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 5 years ago from Colorado

      I have long thought I would love to try my hand at bonsai. Thank you for the tips. Very much appreciated.

    • profile image

      jeffster 5 years ago

      The purple flowering wisteria bonsai looks amazing. Thanks for all the info.

    • profile image

      cassieann 5 years ago

      My son maintained a few bonsai trees for quite awhile. I love how they look. Nice lens.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 5 years ago

      I don't, but they interest me. I love their look. Thanks for the interesting introduction.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 5 years ago from UK

      I started growing bonsai, when the kids were small as they lept finding seedlings in the garden from seeds dropped by birds, etc. But i have never really had a lot of success. I seem to lose plantss every year, probably thru underwatering. I still have half-a-dozen but don't really pay them much attention. After 15-20 years they still look like seedlings rather than trees. I might just take a good look at them after reading this lens - see if I can't rescue them - thanks

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Your instructions here are so tempting. I'd love to do something like this.

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 5 years ago from La Verne, CA

      I have tried but had no luck with bonsai. I tend the forgiving succulent on a large slope and in a few pots.

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 6 years ago

      I don't but my mother did. I do love the look of bonsai trees.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Sure learned a lot from this Minature Tree site..didn't realize that you can use fruit trees>

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I love Bonsai trees, they are marvelous.

      Beautiful lens on Bonsai.

    • Draconius LM profile image

      Draconius LM 7 years ago

      I just love the Bonsai tree I had several for many years and my favorite was the Japanese maple. Great lens very informational..

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Ooooo, I've always wanted to try my hand at bonsai! I've seen some in the garden stores, but they're quite expensive, so I'd have to 'DIY', lol.

    • blue22d profile image

      blue22d 7 years ago

      Very interesting that Bonsai require poor soil to do well. I would think they would be easy for folks like me (weak on the green thumb). I just might give this a try. Thanks for the info. and five stars to you.

    • profile image

      California_Dreamin 8 years ago

      Interesting lens. I live in Japan, so I see lots of bonsai; even in my own garden. But I didn't know much about how they are grown. My mother-in-law is the gardener in the family.