July 30, 2018


Whenever the word Bonsai is heard, the first thing that comes to almost everyone’s mind is the picture of a small tree growing on a tiny pot, and that the word is somehow connected to the Asian culture.

Even those who have more knowledge about Bonsai than the average person usually know no more than that Bonsai is a Japanese art form where small tress are grown by investing a lot of time, care and dedication on them.

Now, because of this lack of knowledge (and maybe even because of their size as well), most people disregard Bonsai as being just a mimic and an overly simple form of gardening, but the truth is, there is a lot more to Bonsai than most people would think.

This is why, in order to really understand what Bonsai is and fully comprehend how rich and many-layered this art form can be, a more detailed study of it must be undertaken.

Let’s take a look at the origins and other important aspects of the art of Bonsai and how deep its roots go into the culture that gave birth to it: the Japanese.

The History of Bonsai Trees

The history of Bonsai dates from as far back as the Egyptian culture, but its true origins can be traced directly to China. It all started around the year 600, when a Japanese tale first mentioned the Chinese Bonsai (known as Penjing in China) and the philosophy behind it:“It is only when it is kept close to human beings who fashion it with loving care that its shape and style acquire the ability to move one”.

After that, and through the centuries that followed, the Penjing (which contrary to the Bonsai, were cultivated mostly on flat trays instead of in pots) made their way from China all the way to Japan as part of the many import cargo that arrived to the country. These first forms of the Bonsai were at the time considered a rarity and a way in which wealthy people could show their status.

But it was not until around the year 1300, that the basic principles of the aesthetics behind Bonsai were outlined by the Japanese priest and poet Kokan Shiren in a celebrated piece of prose which name, Bonseki, carried the first hints of what would later become the name of this art.

As it gained more influence in Japan in the following centuries, Bonsai started to be practiced by many more social classes in the Asian country, and the importance of the design and simplicity of the small trees started to become paramount in the practice of this discipline.

It was then, around the beginnings of the 19th century, that a group of scholars of Chinese Arts gathered in order to better classify this emerging discipline, giving it the name of Bonsai, by which we know them today.

Nowadays, Bonsai can be found in a variety of sizes and styles, and even small groups and societies are starting to emerge all around the world as this form of art starts to become popular outside of Asian countries.

Bonsai Tree Care and Cultivation

Over the centuries, what have differentiated Bonsai and other similar art forms are their distinct character and the great amount of discipline that they demand, and nowhere are this more apparent than in the way Bonsai gardeners take care of their Bonsai trees. Don’t forget to visit

Now, one of the main aspects about Bonsai that most people fail to grasp but that is essential when it comes to cultivating and taking care of them, is that Bonsai are not (and cannot be treated like) just small plants.

Bonsai are trees, and as such, they require different growing methods than plants. Bonsai gardeners need to focus on every aspect of their Bonsai trees, ranging from obvious ones like controlling the size and shape of the trees, to minuscule ones like the way the first seedlings and cuttings are shaped.

The second aspect that anyone considering growing a Bonsai will need to understand is that a Bonsai tree is not a specific kind of tree.

In fact, Bonsai can be almost any kind of tree that gardeners take care of and cultivate investing time, skill and knowledge in order to make them miniature reflections of nature.

All Bonsai start with the acquisition of a source plant, which tends to be usually of a certain age in order for the Bonsai to show its renowned “aged” look in a reasonable amount of time.

This source plant will need a special type of soil, as well as a small pot in order to start growing. Here are the most important aspects of growing Bonsai.

Bonsai Trees Techniques

As mentioned above, one of the most important elements of growing a Bonsai is its style and its overall design.

There are many techniques that can be used in order to give a Bonsai any particular style, and which gardeners choose from in order to bring to life their vision of how they want their Bonsai to look like. Check this book also: The Bonsai Handbook (amazon). It is a guide both for newcomers to the art as well as for bonsai gardeners with some knowledge of the subject.

Leaf trimming:

This entails the removal of specific leaves or needles from the trunk and branches of the Bonsai.


This technique is used to take care of all the elements of the Bonsai tree, including trunk, branches and roots of the candidate tree.


This is one of the most important techniques for growing Bonsai, since it is used by the gardener to define the overall form of the Bonsai, as well as to direct the placement of branches and leaves.


Here gardeners use mechanical instruments to further control the shape of all the elements of their Bonsai.


This technique is used mostly on deciduous species in order to achieve the short term dwarfing of their foliage.

Deadwood techniques:

These are employed only by skillful deciduous gardeners and help the trees achieve a simulated maturity.

Bonsai Trees Tools & Materials

Like most timeless disciplines, the art of growing Bonsai can be accomplished relatively simply, but takes years of practice to truly master.

The tools required for it are a perfect example of this, with some people starting their Bonsai experience with no more than just a leaf cutter, while experts and more dedicated individuals sometimes make use of an entire arsenal of tools.

Now, while none of these extremes is common, it is still recommended for anyone interested in this discipline to know about all the available tools out there, so as to make an informed decision about which ones to use.

It is also a great idea to start with the basic tools, and then to acquire more that become necessary to the gardener as he or she gains skill and experience. For more garden accessories you may also visit

The first material that one needs to get in order to start growing Bonsai is the tree specimen itself, followed by a clay pot and a specific type of soil. After those, the most important tools or growing Bonsai are:

Bonsai Tree Style & Shaping

As has been mentioned above, considering Bonsai as trees is one of the most important aspects that anyone thinking about growing them has to bear in mind. Once this is understood however, the growing of Bonsai becomes far easier, with just a few more aspects that need to be taken into account.

One of the most important ones is that despite being small trees, Bonsai require a lot more care and attention than any “regular” tree.

Bonsai in general are smaller, shorter, lighter and far more fragile than any tree, with roots that are around just 25cm long, which pale when compared to the strong meter-long roots that the average tree has.

This size difference has a great impact on a Bonsai’s maturation, nutrition, pest resistance and many other aspects of their biology, all of which in turn makes tending for their long-term health somewhat more difficult than when performing any other gardening task.

This is why some special care techniques are necessary for growing a Bonsai. Here are some of them.


Watering must be done in regular intervals, but it will be highly dependent on the specific requirements of each Bonsai species.


This must be done at regular intervals as well, and in this case the frequency is dictated by the specific resistance and age of each tree.


Use of the appropriate tools when taking care of a Bonsai is essential.


Although soil composition is usually the same for the vast majority of Bonsai, some particular species require of specific compositions, so gardeners are advised to learn about this beforehand.

Indoor survival:

As is the case with the soil, some species of Bonsai can easily survive inside a house, but there are some that can’t, which makes it very important for gardeners to learn as much as they can about their specific Bonsai trees. See also: House Plants.

The Importance of the Display of Bonsai

Displaying Bonsai is regarded by gardeners just as important part of the process as any other. This is because here is where they get to show their Bonsais’ aesthetics in the way that pleases both them and the audience.

Think of it as the artist showing his or her particular vision or point of view of a whole, like a director chooses the angles in which he will shoot his or her movie.

Now, when it comes to displaying Bonsai, there are a series of guidelines and principles that can be as complex as the growing process itself.To start, all Bonsai have a “front” side that gardeners try to emphasize when showing their Bonsai.

Another aspect is the height at which it is displayed, which plays quite an important part as well. With this, gardeners will have to find the perfect balance of height so as to show their Bonsai in a way that viewers will have the impression of being looking at a real tree from the distance. For more garden accessories you may also click here:

This is why balance is so important, because if the Bonsai is placed too low or too high, the effect will be completely broken.

If displaying the Bonsai outdoors, gardeners have to take great care in avoiding excessive amounts of sunlight, wind and water, as well as sticking to simple display components of either stone or wood.

In similar fashion, the background and even the distance have to be all considered.

In general, most experts agree that Bonsai should be displayed as any other piece of art would: devoid of any accessories or other redundancies and with appropriate lighting and in a clean, minimal and distraction-free environment.

Popular Bonsai Trees Styles and Specimen

While Bonsai in general can be a very straightforward discipline when it comes to its guidelines and principles, this form of art sports an unexpected variety of styles in which gardeners choose how to shape their Bonsai. Here are the most representative ones.

Formal upright:

A Bonsai with straight tapering trunk.

Informal upright:

A Bonsai that grows mostly straight upwards but that shows slight curves.


These are Bonsai with trunks that are straight, but that come out of the soil already at an angle.

Semi-cascade and Cascade:

Two of the most beautiful styles. Molded after trees that grow over cascades or at the sides of mountains. In these styles the tip of the Bonsai bends over and even falls below the base of the pot.


Bonsai with sinuous or slanting trunks.


A Bonsai which branches have been reduced to a minimum.


As its name states, this style encompasses many trees, which together should resemble a small forest.

Other less common styles include the windswept style, the weeping style, the split-trunk, and the driftwood style.

Growing a Bonsai Tree

Growing and caring for bonsai first appeared in China over a thousand years ago.

Known as pun-sai, these early bonsai trees had very sparse foliage and gnarled trunks that looked like dragons, birds and other animals.

Growing and caring for bonsai quickly became a passion of many and has found its way into the west.

Bonsai trees are not only an attractive conversation piece but also a benefit to your health for many reasons.

Health Benefits of Growing a Bonsai Tree


For anyone considering venturing into the wonderful art of Bonsai, all of the above should be more than enough to give an idea of how much time, care and effort this discipline demands. Don’t forget to click here:

However, the rewards for those who are willing to invest the necessary time and care can be priceless. This is because the practice of growing Bonsai entails far more than just the time and efforts invested, the same way as meditating means much more than just staying quiet.

Bonsai is a discipline, and those who start to learn about the cultures and principles behind it are bound to find themselves absorbed in a practice that carries centuries of tradition behind it and that in most cases, will change, shape and help the artist grow in even more drastic ways that the trees that he helps achieve their true potential.

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