Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

   Bonsai growing is an ancient art form that has its roots in horticultural practices of Ancient China but was redeveloped in part under the influence of Japanese Zen Buddhism. The word "Bonsai" is actually a Japanese word which quite simply means planted in a container. People have been practising the art for more than a thousand years. It has become increasingly popular in the West and although it's considered an art form you shouldn't let this discourage you from having a go. You might think that a bonsai is actually a genetically dwarfed plant but this is not the case. The ultimate goal when you grow bonsai is to create a miniaturised version of a tree and any species of tree can be used.

There are some very important choices to make before you start such as what species you would like to grow and also the surrounding environment, weather and the conditions in your home. There is a wide range of gorgeous bonsai trees you can choose from, but the two species perfect for beginners are the Chinese Elm and Japanese Black Pine. And don't forget that a plant with smaller leaves will be much easier to cultivate successfully. Take a look around you at the trees, hedges, bushes and copses for some inspiration as native plants make ideal starter material. One way to start your bonsai growing is to take a cutting at the right time of the year and it won't cost you a single penny. But make sure you ask permission if the plant is not on your own land.

Another way to start out is to buy a "prebonsai". This is a germinated tree still in its early stages of growth. The whole growing process will be much faster but don't forget that growing a bonsai tree should be an exercise in patience. One other option is to buy a fully mature bonsai from one of the bonsai centres in your locality but you may find this option leaves you unfulfilled.


This aspect of bonsai is often overlooked by the uninitiated but finding the right container is just as important as finding the right tree. It will form a vital part of the whole composition of your bonsai tree. You should use a small pot and there a large variety of examples imported from Japan to choose from. High quality is something that Japanese pottery is renowned for but it can be rather expensive. Chinese pottery, on the other hand, is really quite cheap and the quality has improved in a big way.

A bonsai tree that has not reached maturity yet and is still being trained should be placed in a rather large container. This will allow it to have space for the roots to grow. Over the trees life time it will be trained to adapt to a smaller container by pruning the roots. Eventually the bonsai will reach a certain stage when it doesn't need re-potting or root pruning anymore.

Once you've made these decisions it's time to get started with training, styling and shaping your tree. This is the most difficult part but ultimately the most rewarding. It can take many years to really refine the process but the basics are pretty easy to pick up and put into practice.


This is the most important aspect of bonsai growing and is crucial for keeping your tree miniaturised and also in shaping it. The ultimate goal is for your miniature tree to look as close to the natural thing as possible. In general, spring and summer are the seasons in which to do most of your pruning, but it really depends on the type of tree you have. The best tool to use for pruning is a concave cutter. This is because it will leave a hollow wound that is more likely to heal properly. It is difficult to be specific about the right kind of pruning to do without seeing the actual tree itself. But there are a few common instances in which a branch should be removed.

  • When two branches have grown at the same height one of them should be removed
  • If a branch has developed an unnatural twist or turn it needs to be removed
  • If the top of the tree has some disproportionally thick branches they need to be removed

When you start pruning your bonsai you need to decide which side of the overall tree will be viewed as the front and decide which branches to remove in order to improve the overall look. Regular pruning is then required to encourage the tree to grow dense foliage and to maintain its shape.


London's gardening experts say another important aspect of bonsai maintenance is wiring. It involves wrapping anodized aluminium or annealed copper around the branches and bending and shaping them. You can undertake wiring at any time of the year but you must remember to remove the wire before it causes scarring as the branches are sure to get thicker. Always start with the main branches and match the thickness of the branch with wire that is about one third or one quarter the width. You should try to wire two branches of the same thickness with one piece of wire. To provide some room for growth keep an edge of about 45 degrees.

There are many other types of Bonsai styling methods that can form a part of your bonsai tree care schedule such as creating deadwood, defoliation and adding rock formations.

Growing a bonsai doesn't require green fingers, just loads of patience and love and care. Always remember it it a big commitment.

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