The Art of Growing Bonsai

The Art of Growing Bonsai

Originally, the term Bonsai simply meant ‘a plant grown in a container’. Today, Bonsai means ‘miniaturized plant, shrub, or tree in a planter’. This miniaturization process is achieved by planting in a smaller than normal container and by judicious pruning to make the plant resemble its larger counterpart in nature. The art of Bonsai was developed long ago in the Far East where it was considered an expression of the harmony between heaven and earth, man and nature. The care and attention required to maintain a Bonsai was believed to enhance inner tranquility and composure. This philosophy has not changed. Contemplating the beauty of a contemporary Bonsai in the midst of hectic lifestyles forces the viewer to slow down and feel refreshed.


The plants used for indoor Bonsai are tropical and subtropical. They can be kept inside the house, apartment, or condominium year-round because, in their natural habitat, they are used to consistent warm temperatures without a lot of variation.

• Place indoor Bonsai in bright light. For summer it may need to be moved to avoid direct midday sun that is too hot. Turn regularly to promote even growth.

• Frequent misting is very beneficial. The shallow root system should never be allowed to dry out completely. Feel the soil for coolness and dampness. If it’s room temperature and dry to the touch, as well as pale in colour, it’s time to water.

• Use a small watering can to water, or immerse the whole pot up to the rim, or even over the rim, for about 20 minutes. Be sure to drain off any excess water.

• During the Bonsai’s growing season, when light levels are higher, feed your plant every two weeks with a fish base or fish emulsion fertilizer available at our Garden Centre. Fertilize every 4-6 weeks for the rest of the year.

Bonsai tree

• A young Bonsai will need to be re-potted about once every two years. To maintain a miniaturized form, the roots are loosened and pruned by about one third so it can be transplanted into a container 1 cm – 2 cm (0.4″ – 0.8″) larger with fresh soil.

• The older Bonsai plants produce few roots. Ensure the inner root area remains intact. An older specimen is re-potted when the soil is exhausted or when the roots are so dense they need pruning. In this case, the Bonsai can be re-potted into the same dish.

• Changing the soil and container depends on the species, age, and condition of the plant. A good mixture of soil for Bonsai consists of 1 part compost, 1 part sand, and 1 part indoor potting soil.

• Finished indoor Bonsai can be purchased or you can train your own from seed, cutting, or started plant.

• The best plants for indoor use are Weeping Fig, Serissa, Azalea, Small Leaf Schefflera, Jade Plant, Fukien Tea, Ming Aralia, and Chinese Zelkova.

Hardy Bonsai

• Hardy Bonsai are readily identifiable. We grow them to their mature size in our outdoor gardens.

• The best candidates for miniaturization are Junipers, Pine, Spruce, Boxwood, Crab Apple, Cotoneaster, Beech, and Japanese Maple.

• Hardy Bonsai, unlike Indoor Bonsai have to go through their normal winter dormancy. They cannot be kept inside.

• These bonsai need to be kept at temperatures between 0°C – 5°C (32°F – 40°F). Place in a cool garage, porch, or basement window or place hardy bonsai in a cold frame out of direct sunlight and firmly pack garden soil around and over the top of the container. Continue to monitor the plant’s moisture level and keep an eye on it the duration of the winter.

Bonsai tree

Bonsai Styles

• Bonsai can be classified by size.

• Trees less than 5 cm (2″) are called Thimble.

• Trees between 5 cm – 15 cm (2″ – 6″) tall are referred to as Mame by the Japanese and Miniature by Westerners.

• Trees between 15 cm – 30 cm (6″ – 12″) are termed small Bonsai, 30 cm – 60 cm (12″ – 24″) specimens are medium, and 60 cm – 125 cm (24″ – 48″) are large Bonsai.

• Anything over 125 cm (48″) is called an Emperor.

• There is a classification that describes the angle at which a single trunk stands in its pot. It includes formal upright, informal upright, slanting/windswept, cascade, semi-cascade, broom, and literati.

• A tree can be trained so that roots are exteriorized to grow down over a rock or a rock can be a container so the plant appears to be growing on a mountainside.

• Small landscapes can be constructed of rocks, plants, moss, tiny figures and temples.

Training Bonsai

• To create shapes from scratch requires special training with copper wire and pruning.

• Purchase a good book on this subject and invest in proper Bonsai tools for all training and ongoing maintenance.