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Bonsai at garden show in Tatton Park (Cheshire)
112 year old bonsai example, from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

About this sound Bonsai (盆栽 Japanese) (lit. tray cultivation) is the art of growing trees, or woody plants shaped as trees, in containers. Bonsai is sometimes confused with dwarfing, but dwarfing more accurately refers to researching and creating cultivars of plant material that are permanent, genetic miniatures of existing species. Bonsai does not require genetically dwarfed trees, but rather depends on growing small trees from regular stock and seeds. Bonsai uses cultivation techniques like pruning, root reduction, potting, defoliation, and grafting to produce small trees that mimic the shape and style of mature, full-sized trees.

The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation (for the viewer) and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity (for the grower).[1] By contrast with other plant-related practices, bonsai is not intended for production of food, for medicine, or for creating yard-sized or park-sized landscapes. As a result, the scope of bonsai practice is narrow and focused on long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees in a single container.

'Bonsai' is a Japanese pronunciation of the earlier Chinese term penzai (盆栽). A 'bon' is a tray-like pot typically used in bonsai culture.[2] The word bonsai is sometimes used as an umbrella term for all miniature trees in containers or pots, but this article focuses primarily on bonsai as defined in the Japanese tradition. Similar practices in other cultures include the Chinese tradition of penjing and the miniature living landscapes of Vietnamese hòn non bộ.



Container-grown plants, including trees and many other plant types, have a history stretching back at least to the early times of Egyptian culture.[3] Pictorial records from around 4000 BC show trees growing in containers cut into rock. Pharaoh Ramesses III donated gardens consisting of potted olives, date palms, and other plants to hundreds of temples. Pre-Common-Era India used container-grown trees for medicine and food.

The word penzai first appeared in writing in China during the Jin Dynasty, in the period 265AD – 420AD.[4] Over time, the practice developed into new forms in various parts of China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand. Notably, container-grown trees were popularized in Japan during Heian period, a period of cultural growth when the Japanese experienced and adopted their own versions of many Chinese practices. At this time, the term for dwarf potted trees was "the bowl's tree" (鉢の木 hachi-no-ki [5]?), denoting the use of a deep pot. The c.1300 rhymed prose essay, Rhymeprose on a Miniature Landscape Garden, by the Japanese Zen monk Kokan Shiren, outlines aesthetic principles for bonsai, bonseki, and garden architecture itself.

At first, the Japanese used miniaturized trees grown in containers to decorate their homes and gardens.[6] During the Tokugawa period, landscape gardening attained new importance. Cultivation of plants such as azalea and maples became a pastime of the wealthy. Growing dwarf plants in containers was also popular. Around 1800, the Japanese changed the term they used for this art to their pronunciation of the Chinese penzai with its connotation of a shallower container in which the Japanese could now style small trees.[7]

One of the oldest-known living bonsai trees, considered one of the National Treasures of Japan, is in the Tokyo Imperial Palace collection. A five-needle pine (Pinus pentaphylla var. negishi) known as Sandai-Shogun-No Matsu is documented as having been cared for by Tokugawa Iemitsu. The tree is considered to be at least 500 years old and was first trained as a bonsai by 1610.[8] Older plants have been made more recently into bonsai as well.[9]


Bonsai can be created from nearly any perennial woody-stemmed tree or shrub species[10] which produces true branches and remains small through pot confinement with crown and root pruning. Some species are popular as bonsai material because they have characteristics, such as small leaves or needles, that make them appropriate for the compact visual scope of bonsai.

Sources of bonsai material

All bonsai start with a specimen of source material, a plant that the grower wishes to train into bonsai form. Bonsai practice is an unusual form of plant cultivation in that growth from seeds is rarely used to obtain source material. To display the characteristic aged appearance of a bonsai within a reasonable time, the source plant is often partially-grown or mature stock. A specimen may be selected specifically for bonsai aesthetic characteristics it already possesses, such as great natural age for a specimen collected in the wild, or a tapered, scar-free trunk from a nursery specimen. Alternatively, it may be selected for non-aesthetic reasons, such as known hardiness for the grower's local climate or low cost (in the case of collected materials).


While any form of plant propagation could generate bonsai material, a few techniques are favored because they can quickly produce a relatively mature trunk with well-placed branches.

Cuttings. In taking a cutting, part of a growing plant is cut off and placed in a growing medium to develop roots. If the part that is cut off is fairly thick, like a mature branch, it can be grown into an aged-looking bonsai more quickly than can a seed. Unfortunately, thinner and younger cuttings tend to strike roots more easily than thicker or more mature ones.[1] In bonsai propagation, cuttings usually provide source material to be grown for some time before training.

Layering. Layering is a technique in which rooting is encouraged from part of a plant, usually a branch, while it is still attached to the parent plant. After rooting, the branch is removed from the parent and grown as an independent entity. For bonsai, both ground layering and air layering can create a potential bonsai, by transforming a mature branch into the trunk of a new tree.[11] The point at which rooting is encouraged can be close to the location of side branches, so the resulting rooted tree can immediately have a thick trunk and low branches, characteristics that complement bonsai aesthetics.

Commercial bonsai growers

Commercial bonsai growers may use any of the other means of obtaining starter bonsai material, from seed propagation to collecting expeditions, but they generally sell mature specimens that display bonsai aesthetic qualities already. The grower trains the source specimens to a greater or lesser extent before sale, and the trees may be ready for display as soon as they are bought. Those who purchase commercially-grown bonsai face some challenges, however, particularly of buying from another country. If the purchaser's local climate does not closely match the climate in which the bonsai was created, the plant will have difficulties surviving and thriving. As well, importing living plant material from a foreign source is often closely controlled by customs regulations and may require a license or other special customs arrangement on the buyer's part. If a local commercial bonsai grower does not exist, buying from a distant one may be unsatisfactory.

Nursery stock

A plant nursery is an agricultural operation where (non-bonsai) plants are propagated and grown to usable size. Nursery stock may be available directly from the nursery, or may be sold in a garden centre or similar resale establishment. Nursery stock is usually young but fully viable, and is often potted with sufficient soil to allow plants to survive a season or two before being transplanted into a more permanent location. Because the nursery tree is already pot-conditioned, it can be worked on as a bonsai immediately. The large number of plants that can be viewed in a single visit to a nursery or garden centre allows the buyer to identify plants with better-than-average bonsai characteristics. According to Peter Adams, a nursery visit "offers the opportunity to choose an instant trunk".[11] One issue with nursery stock is that many specimens are shaped into popular forms, such as the standard or half-standard forms, with several feet of clear trunk rising from the roots. Without branches low on the trunk, it is difficult for a source specimen to be trained as bonsai.


Collecting bonsai is the process of finding suitable bonsai material in its original wild situation, successfully moving it, and replanting it in a container for development as bonsai. Collecting may involve wild materials collected from naturally treed areas, or cultivated specimens found growing in yards and gardens.[12] Mature landscape plants which are being discarded from a building site can provide excellent material for bonsai. In Great Britain, hedgerow trees that have grown for many years but have been continually trimmed down to hedge height provide heavy, gnarled trunks for bonsai growers.

Some regions have plant material that is known for its suitability in form. In North America, for example, the California Juniper and Sierra Juniper found in the Sierra Mountains, the Ponderosa pine and Rocky Mountain Juniper found in the Rocky Mountains, and the Bald Cypress found in the swamps of the Everglades. In Western Canada near the Rocky Mountains, wild larch are widely collectible and well-suited to bonsai cultivation.

The benefit of collecting bonsai specimens is that the collected materials can be mature, and will display the natural marks and forms of age, which makes them more suitable for bonsai development than the young plants obtained through nurseries. Some of the difficulties of collecting include getting permission to remove the specimens, and the challenges of keeping a mature tree alive while transplanting it to a bonsai pot.


This juniper makes extensive use of both jin (deadwood branches) and shari (trunk deadwood).

The practice of bonsai development incorporates a number of techniques either unique to bonsai or, if used in other forms of cultivation, applied in unusual ways that are particularly suitable to the bonsai domain.

Leaf trimming

This technique involves the selective removal of leaves (for most varieties of deciduous tree) or needles (for coniferous trees and some others) from a bonsai's trunk and branches. A common aesthetic technique in bonsai design is to expose the tree's branches below groups of leaves or needles (sometimes called "pads"). In many species, particularly coniferous ones, this means that leaves or needles projecting below their branches must be trimmed off. For some coniferous varieties, such as spruce, branches carry needles from the trunk to the tip and many of these needles may be trimmed to expose the branch shape and bark. Needle and bud trimming can also be used in coniferous trees to force back-budding or budding on old wood, which may not occur naturally in many conifers.[11] Along with pruning, leaf trimming is the most common activity used for bonsai development and maintenance, and the one that occurs most frequently during the year.


The small size of the tree and some dwarfing of foliage result from pruning the trunk, branches, and roots. Pruning is often the first step in transforming a collected plant specimen into a candidate for bonsai. The top part of the trunk may be removed to make the tree more compact. Major and minor branches that conflict with the designer's plan will be removed completely, and others may be shortened to fit within the planned design. Pruning later in the bonsai's life is generally less severe, and may be done for purposes like increasing branch ramification or encouraging growth in non-pruned branches. Although pruning is an important and common bonsai practice, it must be done with care, as improper pruning can weaken or kill trees.[13] Careful pruning throughout the tree's life is necessary, however, to maintain a bonsai's basic design, which can otherwise disappear behind the uncontrolled natural growth of branches and leaves.


Wrapping copper or aluminium wire around branches and trunks allows the bonsai designer to create the desired general form and make detailed branch and leaf placements. When wire is used on new branches or shoots, it holds the branches in place until they lignify (convert into wood), usually 6–9 months or one growing season for deciduous, but several years for pines (which maintain their branch flexibility through multiple growing seasons). Wires are also used to connect a branch to another object (e.g., another branch, the pot itself) so that tightening the wire applies force to the branch. Some species do not lignify strongly, and some specimens' branches are too stiff or brittle to be bent easily. These cases are not conducive to wiring, and shaping them is accomplished primarily through pruning.


For larger specimens, or species with stiffer wood, bonsai artists also use mechanical devices for shaping trunks and branches. The most common are screw-based clamps, which can straighten or bend a part of the bonsai using much greater force than wiring can supply. To prevent damage to the tree, the clamps are tightened a little at a time and make their changes over a period of months or years.


In this technique, new growing material (typically a bud, branch, or root) is introduced to a prepared area on the trunk or under the bark of the tree. There are two major purposes for grafting in bonsai. First, a number of favorite species do not thrive as bonsai on their natural root stock and their trunks are often grafted onto hardier root stock. Examples include Japanese red maple and Japanese black pine.[11] Second, grafting allows the bonsai artist to add branches (and sometimes roots) where they are needed to improve or complete a bonsai design.[14][15] There are many applicable grafting techniques, none unique to bonsai, including branch grafting, bud grafting, thread grafting, and others.


Short-term dwarfing of foliage can be accomplished in certain deciduous bonsai by partial or total defoliation of the plant partway through the growing season. Not all species can survive this technique. In defoliating a healthy tree of a suitable species, most or all of the leaves are removed by clipping partway along each leaf's petiole (the thin stem that connects a leaf to its branch). Petioles later dry up and drop off or are manually removed once dry. The tree responds by producing a fresh crop of leaves. The new leaves are generally much smaller than those from the first crop, sometimes as small as half the length and width. If the bonsai is shown at this time, the smaller leaves contribute greatly to the bonsai esthetic of dwarfing. This change in leaf size is usually not permanent, and the leaves of the following spring will often be the normal size. Defoliation weakens the tree and should not be performed in two consecutive years.[16]


Bonsai growers use deadwood bonsai techniques called jin and shari to simulate age and maturity in a bonsai. Jin is the term used when the bark from an entire branch is removed to create the impression of a snag of deadwood. Shari denotes stripping bark from areas of the trunk to simulate natural scarring from a broken limb or lightning strike. In addition to stripping bark, this technique may also involve the use of tools to scar the deadwood or to raise its grain, and the application of chemicals (usually lime sulfur) to bleach and preserve the exposed deadwood.



With limited space in a bonsai pot, regular attention is needed to ensure the tree is correctly watered. Sun, heat and wind exposure can dry bonsai trees to the point of drought in a short period of time. While some species can handle periods of relative dryness, others require near-constant moisture. Watering too frequently, or allowing the soil to remain soggy, promotes fungal infections and root rot. Free draining soil is used to prevent waterlogging. Deciduous trees are more at risk of dehydration and will wilt as the soil dries out. Evergreen trees, which tend to cope with dry conditions better, do not display signs of the problem until after damage has occurred.


An uprooted bonsai, ready for repotting

Bonsai are repotted and root-pruned at intervals dictated by the vigour and age of each tree. In the case of deciduous trees, this is done as the tree is leaving its dormant period, generally around springtime. Bonsai are often repotted while in development, and less often as they become more mature. This prevents them from becoming pot-bound and encourages the growth of new feeder roots, allowing the tree to absorb moisture more efficiently.

Specimens meant to be developed into bonsai are often placed in "growing boxes", which have a much larger volume of soil per plant than a bonsai pot does. These large boxes allow the roots to grow freely, increasing the vigor of the tree and helping the trunk and branches grow thicker. After using a grow box, the tree may be replanted in a more compact "training box" that helps to create a smaller, denser root mass which can be more easily moved into a final presentation pot.


Set of bonsai tools (left to right): leaf trimmer; rake with spatula; root hook; coir brush; concave cutter; knob cutter; wire cutter; small, medium and large shears

Special tools are available for the maintenance of bonsai. The most common tool is the concave cutter (5th from left in picture), a tool designed to prune flush, without leaving a stub. Other tools include branch bending jacks, wire pliers and shears of different proportions for performing detail and rough shaping.

Soil and fertilization

Akadama soil

Bonsai soil is usually a loose, fast-draining mix of components,[17] often a base mixture of coarse sand or gravel, fired clay pellets, or expanded shale combined with an organic component such as peat or bark. The inorganic components provide mechanical support for bonsai roots, and—in the case of fired clay materials—also serve to retain moisture. The organic components retain moisture and may release small amounts of nutrients as they decay.

In Japan, bonsai soil mixes based on volcanic clays are common. The volcanic clay has been fired at some point in time to create porous, water-retaining pellets. Varieties such as akadama, or "red ball" soil, and kanuma, a type of yellow pumice used for azaleas and other calcifuges, are used by many bonsai growers. Similar fired clay soil components are extracted or manufactured in other countries around the world, and other soil components like diatomaceous earth can fill a similar purpose in bonsai cultivation.

Opinions about fertilizers and fertilization techniques vary widely among practitioners. Some promote the use of organic fertilizers to augment an essentially inorganic soil mix, while others will use chemical fertilizers freely. Many follow the general rule of little and often, where a dilute fertilizer solution or a small amount of dry fertilizer are applied relatively frequently during the tree's growing season. The flushing effect of regular watering moves unmetabolized fertilizer out of the soil, preventing the potentially toxic build-up of fertilizer ingredients.

Location and overwintering

Bonsai are sometimes marketed or promoted as house plants, but few of the traditional bonsai species can thrive or even survive inside a typical house. The best guideline to identifying a suitable location for a bonsai is its native hardiness. If the bonsai grower can closely replicate the full year's temperatures, relative humidity, and sunlight, the bonsai should do well. In practice, this means that trees from a hardiness zone closely matching the grower's location will generally be the easiest to grow outdoors, and others will require more work or will not be viable at all.[18]


Most bonsai species are outdoor trees and shrubs by nature, and they require temperature, humidity, and sunlight conditions approximating their native climate year round. The skill of the gardener can help plants from outside the local hardiness zone to survive and even thrive, but doing so takes careful watering, shielding of selected bonsai from excessive sunlight or wind, and possibly protection from winter conditions (e.g., through the use of cold boxes or winter greenhouses).

Common bonsai species (particularly those from the Japanese tradition) are temperate climate trees from hardiness zones 7 to 9, and require moderate temperatures, moderate humidity, and full sun in summer with a dormancy period in winter that may need be near freezing. They do not thrive indoors, where the light is generally too dim, and humidity often too low, for them to grow properly. Only in the dormant period can they safely be brought indoors, and even then the plants require cold temperatures, reduced watering, and lighting that approximates the number of hours the sun is visible. Raising the temperature or providing more hours of light than available from natural daylight can cause the bonsai to break dormancy, which often weakens or kills it.


Tropical and Mediterranean species typically require consistent temperatures close to room temperature, and with correct lighting and humidity many species can be kept indoors all year. Those from cooler climates may benefit from a winter dormancy period, but temperatures need not be dropped as far as for the temperate climate plants and a north-facing windowsill or open window may provide the right conditions for a few winter months.[19]


A Seiju elm bonsai on display with a shitakusa of miniature hosta and a hanging scroll.
Bonsai displayed outdoors in Lal bagh, Bangalore

A bonsai display presents one or more bonsai specimens in a way that allows a viewer to see all the important features of the bonsai from the most advantageous position. That position emphasizes the bonsai's defined "front", which is designed into all bonsai. It places the bonsai at a height that allows the viewer to imagine the bonsai as a full-sized tree seen from a distance, siting the bonsai neither so low that the viewer appears to be hovering in the sky above it, nor so high that the viewer appears to be looking up at the tree from beneath the ground. Peter Adams recommends that bonsai be shown as if "in an art gallery: at the right height; in isolation; against a plain background, devoid of all redundancies such as labels and vulgar little accessories."[11]

For outdoor displays, there are few aesthetic rules. Many outdoor displays are semi-permanent, with the bonsai trees in place for weeks or months at a time. To avoid damaging the trees, therefore, an outdoor display must not impede the amount of sunlight needed for the trees on display, must support watering, and may also have to block excessive wind or precipitation.[16] As a result of these practical constraints, outdoor displays are often rustic in style, with simple wood or stone components. A common design is the bench, sometimes with sections at different heights to suit different sizes of bonsai, along which bonsai are placed in a line. Where space allows, outdoor bonsai specimens are spaced far enough apart that the viewer can concentrate on one at a time. When the trees are too close to each other, aesthetic discord between adjacent trees of different sizes or styles can confuse the viewer, a problem addressed by exhibition displays.

Indoors, a formal bonsai display is arranged to represent a landscape, and traditionally consists of the featured bonsai tree in an appropriate pot atop a wooden stand, along with a shitakusa (companion plant) representing the foreground, and a hanging scroll representing the background. These three elements are chosen to complement each other and evoke a particular season, and are composed asymmetrically to mimic nature.[20] When displayed inside a traditional Japanese home, a formal bonsai display will often be placed within the home's tokonoma or formal display alcove. An indoor display is usually very temporary, lasting a day or two, as most bonsai are intolerant of indoor conditions and lose vigor rapidly within the house.

Exhibition displays allow a large number of bonsai to be displayed in a temporary exhibition format, typically indoors, as would be seen in a bonsai design competition. To allow many trees to be located close together, exhibition displays often use a sequence of small alcoves, each containing one pot and its bonsai contents. The walls or dividers between the alcoves make it easier to view only one bonsai at a time. The back of the alcove is a neutral color and pattern to avoid distracting the viewer's eye. The bonsai pot is almost always placed on a formal stand, of a size and design selected to complement the bonsai and its pot.


Assorted bonsai pots

A variety of informal containers may house the bonsai during its development, and even trees that have been formally planted in a bonsai pot may be returned to growing boxes from time to time. A large growing box will house several bonsai and provide a great volume of soil per tree to encourage root growth. A training box will have a single tree, and a smaller volume of soil that helps condition the tree to the eventual size and shape of the formal bonsai container. There are no aesthetic guidelines for these development containers, and they may be of any material, size, and shape that suit the grower.

Formal bonsai containers are ceramic pots, which come in a variety of shapes and colors and may be glazed or unglazed. Unlike many common plant containers, bonsai pots have drainage holes in the bottom surface to allow excess water to escape the pot. The grower usually covers the holes with a piece of screen or mesh to prevent soil from falling out and hinder pests from entering the pots from below.

For bonsai being shown in their completed state, pot shape, color, and size are chosen to complement the tree as a picture frame is chosen to complement a painting. Containers with straight sides and sharp corners are generally used for formally-shaped plants, while oval or round containers are used for plants with informal designs. Many aesthetic rules guide the selection of pot finish and color. For example, evergreen bonsai are often placed in unglazed pots, while deciduous trees usually appear in glazed pots. Pots are also distinguished by their size. The overall design of the bonsai tree, the thickness of its trunk, and its height are considered when determining the size of a suitable pot.

Some pots are highly collectible, like ancient Chinese or Japanese pots made in regions with experienced pot makers such as Tokoname, Japan or Yixing, China. Today many western potters throughout Europe and North America produce fine quality pots for bonsai.

Common styles

Semi-cascade style larch
Formal upright style Bald cypress
Forest style Black Hills Spruce
Informal upright style Juniper
Root-over-rock style maple on display at the Chinese Penjing Collection of National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington, DC

The most common styles include formal upright, informal upright, slanting, semi-cascade, cascade, raft, literati, and group/forest. Less common forms include windswept, weeping, split-trunk, and driftwood styles.[1]

  • The formal upright style, or Chokkan, is characterized by a straight, upright, tapering trunk. Branches progress regularly from the thickest and broadest at the bottom to the finest and shortest at the top.
  • The trunk and branches of the informal upright style, or Moyogi incorporate visible curves, but the apex of the informal upright is always located directly above the trunk's entry into the soil line. Similar to the formal upright style, branches generally progress regularly from largest at the bottom to smallest at the top, although this progression may be broken where the irregular shape of the trunk would make a branch abnormally prominent or obscure.
  • Slant-style, or Shakan, bonsai possess straight trunks like those of bonsai grown in the formal upright style. However, the slant style trunk emerges from the soil at an angle, and the apex of the bonsai will be located to the left or right of the root base.
  • Cascade-style, or Kengai, bonsai are modeled after trees which grow over water or on the sides of mountains. The apex, or tip of the tree in the Semi-cascade-style, or Han Kengai, bonsai extend just at or beneath the lip of the bonsai pot; the apex of a (full) cascade style falls below the base of the pot.
  • Raft-style, or Netsuranari, bonsai mimic a natural phenomenon that occurs when a tree topples onto its side, for example, from erosion or another natural force. Branches along the top side of the trunk continue to grow as a group of new trunks. Sometimes, roots will develop from buried portions of the trunk. Raft-style bonsai can have sinuous, straight-line, or slanting trunks, all giving the illusion that they are a group of separate trees—while actually being the branches of a tree planted on its side.
  • The literati style, or Bunjin-gi, bonsai is characterized by a generally bare trunk line, with branches reduced to a minimum, and typically placed the top of a long, often contorted trunk. This style derives its name from the Chinese literati who created Chinese brush paintings like those found in the ancient text, The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting. Their minimalist landscapes often depicted trees growing in harsh conditions, with contorted trunks and reduced foliage. In Japan, the literati style is known as bunjin-gi (文人木[21]?). (Bunjin is a translation of the Chinese phrase wenren meaning "scholars practiced in the arts" and gi is a derivative of the Japanese word, ki, for "tree").
  • The group or forest style, or Yose Ue, comprises a planting of several or many trees, and typically an odd number, in a bonsai pot. The trees are usually the same species, with a variety of heights employed to add visual interest and to reflect the age differences encountered in mature forests.
  • The broom style, or Hokidachi, is employed for trees with extensive, fine branching, often with species like elms. The trunk is straight and upright. It branches out in all directions about 1/3 of the way up the entire height of the tree. The branches and leaves form a ball-shaped crown which can also be very beautiful during the winter months.
  • The multi-trunk style, or Ikadabuki, has all the trunks growing out of one spot with one root system, and it actually is one single tree. Its counterpart in nature is the tree clump formed, for example, where a single pine cone has sprouted a number of seedlings in one spot. All the trunks combine to support one crown of leaves, in which the thickest and most developed trunk forms the top.
  • The Shari style, or Sharimiki, style involves portraying a tree in its struggle to live while a significant part of its trunk is bare of bark. In nature, trees in the Sharimiki style are created by lightning or animals eating the bark[22].
  • The root-over-rock style, or Sekijoju, is a style in which the roots of the tree are wrapped around a rock. The rock is at the base of the trunk, with the roots exposed to varying degrees as they traverse the rock and then descend into the soil below.
  • The growing-in-a-rock, or Ishizuke, style means the roots of the tree are growing in soil contained within the cracks and holes of the rock. The rock may serve as a simple container, with the tree escaping the container and forming its own shape. Alternatively, the tree may show a definite relationship to the rock's shape, growing close to the rock and following its contours.

Size classifications

Class Size
tiny Mame Keshi-tsubu up to 2.5 cm (1 in)
Shito 2.5–7.5 cm (1–3 in)
small Shohin Gafu 13–20 cm (5–8 in)
Komono up to 18 cm (7 in)
Myabi 15–25 cm (6–10 in)
medium Kifu Katade-mochi up to 40 cm (16 in)
medium to large Chu/Chuhin 40–60 cm (16–24 in)
large Dai/Daiza Omono up to 120 cm (47 in)
Bonju over 100 cm (39 in)

Not all sources agree on the exact sizes or names for these ranges, but the concept of the ranges is well-established and necessary to both the cultivation and the aesthetic understanding of the trees. In the very largest size range, a recognized Japanese practice is to name the trees "one-handed", "two-handed", and so on, based on the number of men required to move the tree and pot. These trees will have dozens of branches and can closely simulate a full-sized tree. At the other end of the size spectrum, there are a number of specific techniques and styles associated solely with the smallest sizes, mame and shito. These techniques take advantage of the bonsai's minute dimensions and compensate for the limited number of branches and leaves that can appear on a tree this small.

Indoor bonsai


Indoor bonsai are bonsai which have been cultivated for the indoor environment. Traditionally, bonsai are shaped from temperate climate trees grown in containers but kept outdoors.[23] Kept in the artificial environment of a home, these trees weaken and die. A number of tropical and sub-tropical tree species will survive and grow indoors. Some of these are suited to bonsai aesthetics and can be shaped much as traditional outdoor bonsai are.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Chan, Peter (1987). Bonsai Masterclass. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.. ISBN 0-8069-6763-3. 
  2. ^ ""bonsai"". Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  3. ^ Koreshoff, Deborah R. (1984; pg. 1). Bonsai: Its Art, Science, History and Philosophy. Timber Press, Inc.. ISBN 0-88192-389-3. 
  4. ^ Liang, Amy (2005). The Living Art of Bonsai: Principles and Techniques of Cultivation and Propagation. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.. pp. 1–17. ISBN 1-4027-1901-9. 
  5. ^ ""hachinoki"". Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  6. ^ ""Early American Bonsai: The Larz Anderson Collection of the Arnold Arboretum" by Peter Del Tredici, published in ''Arnoldia'' (Summer 1989) by Harvard University". Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  7. ^ Dalby, Liza et al. (ed.) (1984, pg. 44). All-Japan: The Catalogue of Everything Japanese. Quarto Marketing, Inc. 
  8. ^ Naka, John Yoshio (1982, pg. 258). Bonsai Techniques II. Bonsai Institute of California. 
  9. ^ ""Tree Collection"". Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  10. ^ Owen, Gordon (1990). The Bonsai Identifier. Quintet Publishing Ltd.. p. 11. ISBN 0-88665-833-0. 
  11. ^ a b c d e Adams, Peter D. (1981). The Art of Bonsai. Ward Lock Ltd.. pp. 71–74. ISBN 0-7063-7116. 
  12. ^ Treasure, Martin (2002). Bonsai Life Histories. Firefly Books Ltd.. pp. 12–14. ISBN 1-55209-625-7. 
  13. ^ Lewis, Colin (2003). The Bonsai Handbook. Advanced Marketing Ltd.. ISBN 1-903938-30-9. 
  14. ^ ""Grafting as a Bonsai Tool"". Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  15. ^ ""Root Grafts for Bonsai"". Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  16. ^ a b Norman, Ken (2005). Growing Bonsai: A Practical Encyclopedia. Lorenz Books. ISBN 9-780754-815723. 
  17. ^ "It's All In The Soil by Mike Smith, published in ''Norfolk Bonsai'' (Spring 2007) by Norfolk Bonsai Association". Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  18. ^ Pike, Dave (1989). Indoor Bonsai. The Crowood Press. ISBN 9-781852-232542. 
  19. ^ Lesniewicz, Paul (1996). Bonsai in Your Home. Sterling Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8069-0781-9. 
  20. ^ Andy Rutledge, "Bonsai Display 101", The Art of Bonsai Project. Accessed 18 July 2009.
  21. ^ ""bunjingi"". Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  22. ^ ""Sharimiki Bonsai"". Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  23. ^ Indoor bonsai, online article from the Montreal Botanical Garden [1]

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also bonsai




Bonsai m.

  1. bonsai (a tree or plant that has been miniaturized by restriction of it's roots and careful pruning.)

This German entry was created from the translations listed at bonsai. It may be less reliable than other entries, and may be missing parts of speech or additional senses. Please also see Bonsai in the German Wiktionary. This notice will be removed when the entry is checked. (more information) October 2009


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection


Bonsai Literaten-Form.svg Bonsai Besen-Form.svg Bonsai Wald-Form.svg Bonsai Doppelstamm-Form.svg Bonsai locker aufrechte Form.svg

Welcome to the Wikibooks guide to Bonsai, the art of miniature tree in pots. Creating bonsai involves artistic skills, akin to sculpture and painting: bonsai design. Caring for bonsai involves the science and skill of keeping potted trees healthy and growing: bonsai horticulture.

The aim of this book is to provide everything a beginner needs to know about to get started in bonsai, from selecting trees, to caring for trees, to potting and repotting trees, to styling trees, to displaying trees.

Introduction to bonsai

  • What is bonsai?
  • History of bonsai

Getting started in bonsai

Bonsai horticulture

  • Watering
  • Feeding
  • Pruning
  • Wiring

Bonsai design

  • Elements of good bonsai
  • Deadwood
  • Displaying bonsai

Simple English

A bonsai tree at the United States National Arboretum.
Sequoia sempervirens (California Redwood or Coast Redwood) A bonsai tree from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Bonsai is the art of growing small trees in pots. This is done by growing the tree in a small pot or tray and pruning (cutting) the branches and roots to keep the tree small over time. Bonsai trees are trained to grow into a shape that is pleasing to look at. The best bonsai trees appear to be old, and to have a shape that seems like a real tree except much smaller.

The word bonsai means "tree in tray" in the Japanese language. Bonsai is a very old art form in Japan. It is a Japanese form of the older Chinese art called penjing. Penjing is a Chinese art form that also uses trees growing in pots. Other nations also have arts like bonsai and penjing.

People like bonsai because it is nice to look at, and because it is fun to grow a bonsai tree. A bonsai tree can live for a very long time, longer than a person can live. In a family, a bonsai might be started by a grandparent, then given to a parent, then given to a child over many years.

A bonsai starts with a small tree. This tree can be grown from a seed, or can be found already growing in a yard or a park or the forest. It can also be bought from a plant store.

To make the bonsai, the small tree is taken out of the ground. Its roots are carefully cleaned of dirt. The roots may be trimmed (cut) a little to help them fit in a small pot. The branches may also be trimmed to make the tree smaller. Then it is put in a bonsai pot, which has low sides. Fresh soil (dirt) is put in the pot to cover the bonsai tree's roots. Then it is watered and put outdoors to live.

Good trees to make into bonsai have small leaves (pine tree needles are leaves too). If the leaves are too big, the bonsai will not look like a small tree. A good bonsai tree will have old-looking bark and old-looking roots too.


The art of bonsai began in Japan over one thousand years ago. It was brought to Japan from China around the year 800 A.D. At first, bonsai were planted in large pots like the Chinese used. But the Japanese later put them in very low, almost flat pots. This change made the tree itself the most important thing in the art form, not the fancy pot or small houses or statues of people which other nations used with their small trees in pots.

At first only the rich and noble people of Japan had bonsai. One family could have many bonsai, which would grow in pots in the garden outside of the house. A servant might take care of all the bonsai and would learn a lot about how to grow bonsai. The rules about how to grow a bonsai properly were not well known and were not shared with other people. Later more people began to grow bonsai. Some were holy people, like monks. Some were Japanese families who were not noble or really rich, but who had enough money and time to grow one or two bonsai in their gardens or house yards. This larger group of people began to share what they learned about the rules of bonsai and so more people could join in growing bonsai. By the twentieth (20th) century, the rules of bonsai were very well known in Japan and many people could afford to grow their own bonsai.


A tree that could be used for bonsai is not small in nature. If left to grow in the open soil, a bonsai tree would grow as big as any other tree. But in a pot, the tree will not grow very big. To help keep it small, the owner of the bonsai trims (cuts) its leaves and branches every year. Every two or three years, the bonsai owner lifts the bonsai out of its pot and trims the roots. Then the owner puts the bonsai back in its pot with some new soil.

A bonsai grower checks the soil of every bonsai pot once every day. If the soil is nearly dry, the grower waters it until it is wet from the top of the soil to the bottom of the pot. Every few weeks the grower adds a little fertilizer to each bonsai tree's soil. In the winter this happens less often.

A bonsai can live to be older than a large tree of the same species if it is grown with care. A bonsai needs good care, and a bonsai with poor care will not be healthy and might die. To keep a bonsai strong, it must grow outdoors like a real tree. It must never get too dry or stay too wet. It must never get too hot or too cold. If it gets a plant sickness like a fungus, it must be cured quickly. If it gets bugs like aphids the bugs must be cleaned off or killed quickly.


In the art of bonsai a sense of beauty, patience, and good care are all needed. The plant, the shape of the plant, as well as the arrangement of soil and the kind of pot used are important.

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