Bonsai Trees, Bonsai Pots, and Bonsai Tools


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 - The art of growing small trees and plants.

Bonsai are small trees planted and cared for in containers or pots. Many people grow bonsai because of their beauty and the enjoyment of maintaining them. Every bonsai starts as a seedling, or a very small tree. The owner then cultivates the branches over a long period of time, and the bonsai takes on a unique shape. Finally, when the tree reaches its planned shape, the bnsai is transferred to a display pot. Sometimes small objects or figurines are placed around the bonsai based on the artist's vision of the complete sculpture.

Bonsai history

The practice of growing and caring for bonsai began more than 1,000 years ago in Japan. Mentions of bonsai appear frequently in ancient poetry and other writings. Bonsai that were started as long ago as the 17th century have survived to present times and are considered national treasures in Japan.

Caring for Bonsai became much more widespread by the end of the 18th century. Members of the public began growing Bonsai, and showings and competitions were held. Today, more than 1,200 books have been published on Bonsai, in at least 26 languages. It is estimated that more than 5 million people worldwide cultivate Bonsai.

Bonsai types

A few popular types of Bonsai are:

A formal upright Bonsai has a straight, tapering trunk, with branches that are thick and broad at the bottom, and fine and short at the top.

An informal upright Bonsai features visible curves in the trunk and branches. The apex is located directly above the point where the trunk enters the soil line.

Slant-style Bonsai also have straight trunks, but the trunk emerges from the soil at an angle, and the apex is to the left or right of the root base.

Cascade-style Bonsai take the form of trees that grow down the sides of mountains or over water. The apex of a full cascade-style Bonsai falls below the base of the pot.

These are just a few examples of types of Bonsai. Consult an expert to determine which variety is right for you and the climate where you live.

Species of  Bonsai trees

Juniper - Junipers are popular among bonsai growers who like to control size and shape.During the growing season, a Juniper may need finger pinching two or three times throughout the tree to ensure it stays compact and space is maintained between branches.Finger pinching can be done with tweezers, but many growers prefer to use their fingers to better understand the tree.

Pine - Pines flourish in full sun throughout the year and should be kept regularly moist. Keep pines out of heavy rain, however.The grower should regularly remove old needles and pinch new pine candles to keep the tree its desired size and shape. Keep a careful watch for aphids that can damage pines.

Zelkova - Zelkova is often listed as a replacement for American Elm since it has roughly the same vase shape and grows 90 to 100 feet tall with a 60 to 80 foot spread. Zelkova is massive, with the trunk capable of growing to four feet or more in diameter. It has a moderate growth rate and likes a sunny exposure. Branches are more numerous and smaller in diameter than American Elm. Leaves are 1.5 to 4 inches long, turning a brilliant yellow, orange, or burnt umber in the fall. This elm is a native of Japan and China and is related to the Ulmus genus, which is the genus of the European and American elms. It is deciduous with small ovate, serrated, pointed leaves and smooth gray bark. It is a vigorous grower and is most often used for broom and group plantings. Root-overrock plantings are also common. The gray-bark elm is considered by some to be the classic broom style tree.

Oak - Oak bonsai are popular among growers who want to make miniatures of mature, full-grown trees.Careful attention to branches, roots and the pruning process is a must when working with oak bonsai. You will also want to check if oak bonsai are compatible with your climate.Be on the lookout for mildew on oaks, and treat it immediately with a systemic fungicide.

Spruce - A dwarf blue spruce bonsai is a good selection for a grower who wants to create a tree in the upright style. Dwarf spruce are also popular with growers who want to develop carving and wiring skills while the tree is still in a training pot.

Maple - Maples grow very quickly in the spring. This variety can be left to grow a few inches to keep its spring color, and it can be pinched regularly.Some bonsai growers leaf-prune maples in June to reduce the leaf size, but don't do this more than once per year, and only on a healthy tree.The Japanese maple, or Acer, is well-known for changing colors with the seasons. Growers can expect reds, pinks, yellows, and greens.

Chinese Elm - Ulmus parvifolia general Information: Elm's are fast growing, deciduous or evergreen depending on its location, forms a graceful upright rounded canopy with shiny, dark green leathery leaves. elm is moderatly salt tolerant. Several dwarf varieties, sports of Ulmus parvifolia, exist which grow slower than the ordinary Chinese elm but it produces a much finer network of twigs and branches. It is these sports which are used for bonsai.

Larch - Larix sp. General Information: Larix is an unusual genus, one of the handful of deciduous conifers. Larix bears bright green to bluish-green needle-like leaves that turn yellow in autumn. It has tiny cones which are purplish on most Larix species. Larches are pioneer trees and will not grow properly in the shade. In areas with suitable temperatures, Larch is quite popular as bonsai. It is recommended by its quickly thickening trunk, and its foliage, which is fresh, bright green in spring and lovely golden yellow in autumn. Unlike many conifers, Larix cones are small and seem in proportion to most sizes of bonsai.

Indoor Bonsai

Traditionally, Bonsai are grown outdoors. But in climates where outdoor growing is impossible and the hobby is less formal, indoor growth frequently takes place. Indoor growers frequently choose tropical and sub-tropical species that can grow inside. Outdoor trees are likely to weaken and die if the owner tries to move them indoors. Few traditional Bonsai species can survive in a typical home because of the dry conditions.Some Bonsai growers in Japan will sometimes display their tree in their home for a day or two only in a formal display alcove known as a Tokonoma.

Outdoor Bonsai

A typical container for a Bonsai living in the outdoors is under 25 centimeters in length and from 2 to 10 liters in volume. Bonsai are rarely larger than one meter in height, and many are much smaller. The owner should ensure the Bonsai received the correct amount of water, and re-pot the tree when necessary. Consult an expert to determine the correct soil composition and fertilization. In most cases, the soil the Bonsai is planted in should be a loose, fast-draining mix of components. Also be aware that different types of the tree have unique lighting requirements.

Bonsai tree care

To effectively grow a Bonsai, the owner must understand techniques related to defoliation, grafting, potting, pruning, and root reduction. The owner should regularly trim the leaves and needles of the Bonsai, both to keep it healthy and to achieve the desired shape. The trunk, branches and roots of the tree should be carefully pruned. Many Bonsai owners use wiring to shape the tree and make detailed branch and leaf placements. Clamps can also be used to shape trunks and branches. Growing a new bud, branch or root can be be accomplished by grafting the new material in a prepared area on the trunk or under the bark of the tree.

Bonsai pots and Bonsai containers

Once a bonsai is the right size and shape to display, it's time to carefully select a pot or other type of container. Final pots are usually much shallower than training pots, which are deeper so that the bonsai has a better chance of growing.Most final display pots are ceramic, but plastic or mica pots can also be used. 

Bonsai growers should consider taking their tree with them when buying a pot or container, to ensure they are buying a pot of correct size, color and shape. Brown, unglazed pots are popular for evergreen bonsai that still have foliage in the winter. A colored glaze pot works well with a deciduous bonsai, because its colors work equally well in summer and winter.

Don't overlook the shape of a bonsai when selecting a pot or container. A semicascade tree requires a pot that keeps branches off the ground. Cascade bonsai need taller pots that are appropriate for a stand or a location overhanging a pond. Forest group enthusiasts frequently purchase shallow oval or rectangular pots.

Bear in mind the thickness of the tree's trunk when selecting a pot. Thick-trunked trees work well in a deep pot, while taller bonsai are better off in a wider, shallower pot.


For that special tree or accessory plant that truly needs a one of a kind pot. These are high-fired one of a kind clay pots of original designs. Each pot is totally handmade by the artist. Some are slab/hand style pots that are hand-built no cast molds and no two are alike.
Kusamono (literally "grass thing") and shitakusa (literally "undergrass") are a potted collection of plants designed to either be viewed in accompaniment with bonsai, or alone. Normally the term kusamono is used when the planting is displayed as the center of attention, while the term shitakusa is used for plantings that accompany bonsai displays.[1] In contrast to underplantings (which are potted in with the bonsai), kusamono and shitakusa are displayed separately in special pots, driftwood, or even stones.
Plants used are typically moss, grass, lichen, small flowers, bamboo, or bulbs, that may heighten the beauty or reflect a certain season. While traditionally in Japan, plants gathered from mountains contributed to the bulk of companion plantings, modern use has extended to more creative and artistic design.

Bonsai compost and fertilizers

Bonsai require very open and free-draining compost that ensure the root ball will not become too wet. A root ball that is too wet frequently causes it to rot, harming the tree. When using a spray bottle, keep the nozzle about two feet from the bonsai for best results.

Keeping a bonsai healthy requires a careful schedule of watering and feeding, depending on its type. Most indoor trees require a proprietary liquid bonsai feed administered about every two days during the spring, summer and fall, and once a month in the winter. Outdoor trees generally do not require feeding during the winter.Normal garden fertilizers should be diluted to a weaker strength when used with bonsai. Cake-type fertilizers that are left on top of the pot can also be used to gradually fertilize the tree.

If possible, use rainwater to water bonsai. If you are concerned about the chemicals and salts in the tap water where you live, store some tap water in a water butt for a few days to make it suitable for bonsai.

Bonsai tools


Beginning bonsai growers should start with small and large scissors for trimming roots and small branches. Beginners should also purchase wire and cutters to begin learning shaping skills and to create the shape of the bonsai. Buy a water sprayer for keeping roots and foliage moist.

Later, bonsai growers will need a rake or root hook for re-potting jobs. Moving trees around a garden will require a good-quality shovel, saw and loppers.Some other tools that may be useful depending on what kind or bonsai you wish to grow include a coconut brush, branch or side cutters, and a bench cutter.

As a grower becomes more advanced, they should consider clamps and pliers for bending thick branches.Tools that will help cultivate soil include soil sieves for removing fine material from compost and improving drainage. Metal scoops allow the grower to pour grit and pot compost into small areas.Some bonsai growers set up a special work station with a turntable so they can view trees easily from different angles.

Myths About Bonsai—Busted!

You will quickly find when you begin looking up information or talking to others about bonsai trees, there are a lot of myths floating around that simply aren't true. Of course, this leads to confusion for the person who wants to know how to grow a bonsai. Below are eight bonsai myths that

should address many questions you may have.

Bonsai is a Species - It is interesting that a majority of the population believes that bonsai trees are their own species, this is absolutely false. There is no such thing as bonsai seeds because nearly any tree or shrub (flowering or otherwise) can be used for bonsai growing.

Never Water Trees Midday - Who knows where this myth started but it is false. Yes, it is unwise to waste water by watering your outdoor bonsai tree midday if it's hot out but it certainly is not going to hurt it. Sunlight does not burn leaves when it comes out blazing directly after a rainfall so it is not going to hurt your freshly watered bonsai either.

There is a Right and Wrong Time to Trim Branches - There is a bonsai growing myth that says that the wrong cut at the wrong time will cause a branch to bleed to death. It cannot be proven that the cause of death to a bonsai tree is the result of a cut or other factors. In fact, the only species that don't tolerate severe branch reductions include birch, aspen and pines.

You Cannot Wire Bonsai in the Winter - As long as wiring is done properly, it will not hurt your bonsai tree to be left on while it’s dormant. Always follow the rules when it comes to wiring, keeping like-size branches together and allowing breathing room and you should have no problem.

There is a Perfect Soil Mix - Once again, soil mix is going to be reflective of the species of tree you are growing. When you are learning how to grow a bonsai, you must take the time to research your tree's species. Soil does a lot more than just hold your tree in its pot. It buffers chemicals, temperature and environmental stress while providing moisture and nutrients.

Bonsai are House Plants - Although bonsai growing has become a very popular indoor activity, these are trees that come from nature. When given the right growing environment, bonsai trees will always flourish outdoors. For this reason, you should move your indoor bonsai tree outside when weather permits.

Bonsai Trees Stop Growing at Maturity - Why would a tree ever stop growing unless it was dead? It may slow its growth rate down significantly but it certainly does not stop. Trees need to shed and grow needles or leaves, flowers

and branches. So, although you may not have to trim your bonsai tree very often, it will still be growing.

Fruit that Grows on Bonsai Trees is Dwarfed - Interestingly, the fruit that grows on bonsai trees does not change despite the fact that the tree or shrub is small. Therefore, a bonsai apple tree will still offer traditional-sized apples. It should really come as no surprise that there are so many myths regarding bonsai growing considering how long people have been participating in this art form. Until you really tackle your first tree, you can't fully appreciate just how complex the process really is.


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