Bonsai Gardener


Explore cutting-edge bonsai tree care guides and other gardening articles brought to you by a genuine bonsai master.




Bonsai Tree Types and General Care Guides

Bald Cypress (Taxodium Distichum)
The Bald Cypress, despite it's very slow growth, is a very popular bonsai tree, grown for its light, feathery foliage and orange-brown fall color. It can be cultivated in a wide range of soils including well-drained sites where it would not grow naturally due to the inability of the young seedlings to compete with other vegetation. Cultivation is successful in both northern and continental climates. It is also commonly planted in Europe, Asia and elsewhere with temperate to subtropical climates. It does require continental climates with hot summers for good growth; when planted in areas with cooler summers, growth is healthy but much slower. Excellent for the bonsai beginner, the Bald Cypress tree is an excellent choice for someone who is just getting started in the hobby, as it is so easy to grow.

OKINAWA HOLLY (Malphigia coccigera)
The Okinawa Holly is a wonderful, miniature version of the Holly that produces tiny pink flowers during the spring and summer months. Native to the Northern Hemisphere, the leaves on the Okinawa Holly are small and glossy with serrated edges. Because of its size, hardiness, and unique appearance, this tree is a wonderful choice for bonsai. Beginners will love the easy care and charming look. Typically, the Okinawa Holly will reach about five to six inches tall around the age of four.

SNOWBUSH (Breynia disticha)
The Snowbush, also called Snow on the Mountain, is a beautiful tree that has great leaf size and wonderful color, which depending on the lighting, changes. For example, when the Snowbush is in moderate light, the leaves grow larger and have white coloring in them. However, when the Snowbush is grown in full sun, the leaves are actually smaller, creating a denser type of bonsai, and coloring of pine and white. By the time the Snowbush reaches four, it stands about seven inches tall.

SHIMPAKU (Juniperus chinesis)
Shimpaku is also known as the Chinese Juniper, an excellent choice for bonsai. This evergreen is highly tolerant of various soil types. Interesting, Shimpaku is also dioecious, meaning it has separate male and female plants. This naturally, irregular shaped tree that grows in mound shape. The nice thing about using the Shimpaku tree for bonsai is the year round foliage with dark, green needles, beautiful to look at and soft to touch.

LAVENDER STAR FLOWER (Grewia occidentalis)
The Lavender Star Flower is a compact evergreen tree, which originates in Australia and Africa. In all, you would find more than 400 different species around the world. The flowers produced on this tree are truly magnificent, lavender in color. The Lavender Star Flower is an ideal choice for bonsai, reaching about 10 inches tall by age eight.

DWARF POMEGRANATE (Punica granatum)
The Dwarf Pomegranate is a subtropical deciduous tree that produces breathtaking orange/red trumpet-shaped flowers, which are then followed by tiny orange/red ornamental fruit. The leaves of the Dwarf Pomegranate tree are dark with beautiful hues of bronze. This tree makes a wonderful choice for bonsai. Native to the Mediterranean and Asia, the Dwarf Pomegranate needs warmer temperatures for the fruit to open.

The Flowering Crabapple is one of the best flowering trees for bonsai, right along with Azaleas. This tree produces magnificent white, fragrant flowers that will cover the entire tree during the early spring months just prior to the start of foliage. Once foliage begins growing, you would see small, lobed green pomes appearing in the summer that look like miniature apples. The crabapples will ripen with varying colors during the fall months. The Flowering Crabapple is extremely easy to grow and maintain, making it a great choice for beginners.

JABOTICABA (Eugenia cauliflora)
Originating from Brazil, the Jaboticaba is a member of the Myrtle family and relative to Guava. The botanical name of Cauliflora translates to flowers, which is produced by this tree. In addition, the Jaboticaba produces fruit on mature branches and trunk.

CHINESE BIRD PLUM (Sageretia theezans)
The Chinese Bird Plum is a wonderful flowering tree. Considered a semitropical evergreen, the Plum produces fragrant flowers. These tender shrubs originate in Asia and some regions of North America. However, the Chinese Bird Plum is grown throughout China specifically for bonsai. Interestingly, while these remain as an evergreen in mild climates, they actually become deciduous in temperate regions.

BAMBOO (Dracena sanderiana)
One of the exciting aspects of bamboo is that so many species make wonderful bonsai. For instance, the Lucky Bamboo, also called Lotus Bamboo or Pachira is a favorite among bonsai growers. In addition to making a beautiful choice for bonsai, bamboo, especially “Lucky” Bamboo is also said to bring good fortune to its owner. With this plant, you can plant a single stalk or 40, bundled up and displayed. In either case, the bonsai is simply mesmerizing.

HOLLY (Ilex)
When talking about Ilex, remember there are more than 400 species within this deciduous and evergreen tree family. Some are even categorized as climbers and shrubs from various regions to include tropical and subtropical. The Ilex species of Holly have small, smooth leaves make the best choice for bonsai. You will also enjoy both male and female flowers.

PONYTAIL PALM (Beaucamea recurvata)
When it comes to growing bonsai, the Ponytail Palm is indeed one of the unique species. Of all its features, the swollen base of the trunk is the most intriguing. The trunk's texture actually looks and feels like an elephant's foot. For this reason, the Ponytail Palm is sometimes referred to as "Elephants Foot". The interesting thing is that the design of the trunk is used for storing water during times of drought. In fact, the tree can hold so much water in the wild that it can go up to four weeks between watering.

BRUSH CHERRY (Eugenia myrtifolia)
The Brush Cherry is also called the Syzygium Paniculatum. The leaves are small, firm, and glossy. In addition, the Brush Cherry produces puffy white flowers. When provided with adequate light, this plant will also develop red highlights on the leaves. By the time the Brush Cherry reaches age 10, it stands about 14 inches tall, ideal for a bonsai.

GINKGO (Ginkgo Biloba)
In Japan where the Ginkgo originates, it can easily live to be 100 years or more. Called 'Chichi Icho' in the native country, which means 'breast' the Ginkgo is a reverenced tree. However, this ancient tree also makes an excellent bonsai. Most people have heard of Ginkgo Biloba associated with health foods.

HAWAIIAN UMBRELLA TREE (Arboricola schefflera)
The Hawaiian Umbrella Tree comes in a dwarf version that makes a beautiful bonsai. In fact, of all bonsai trees, this particular one is probably the easiest to grow and maintain, making it perfect for beginners. Since the Hawaiian Umbrella Trees can tolerate low light conditions, it is ideal for indoor growth.

HINOKI CYPRESS (Chamaecyparis sp.)
Also known as, the False Cypress, this evergreen conifer displays flat, deep green foliage that fans out beautifully. The edges of the leaves have blue coloring and the tree when mature will produce miniature cones, typically the size of a pea.

JAPANESE WHITE PINE (Pinus Parviflora)
If you want a strikingly beautiful bonsai, the Japanese White Pine is it. This dense tree can grow upwards to 50-foot tall in the wild but when trained, it becomes a magnificent bonsai. The Japanese White Pine is irregularly shaped. It has a wonderful spread and broad but flattened canopy. The needles of this tree are twisted and stiff with blue/green tufts on the tips.

FUKIEN TEA (Carmona microphylla)
Originating in southeast China, the Fukien Tea is an evergreen tree named after the province of Fuijan. The leaves on this tree are small, shiny, and dark green, covered with tiny hairs. Together, the leaves form a dense and compact appearance. As a young tree, the Fukien Tea has light brown bark that begins to crack with age. Then in the early summer months, this bonsai produces beautiful but miniature flowers, which then turn to tiny black berries.

Boxwood is a category of evergreen shrubs with approximately 70 different species. Typically found in the rocky hills of Africa, Asia, Central America, and Europe, the Boxwood is small, making them ideal for bonsai. In the springtime, the Boxwood will display male flowers of beautiful yellow, surrounded by single, female flowers.

TRIDENT MAPLE (Acer buergerianum)
As a relative to the Japanese Maple, the Trident Maple is a beautiful deciduous tree that works well for bonsai growing. Known for its breathtaking colors of foliage in the fall, which range from a faded orange to hot pepper red, this tree is bushy on the top with a thick, strong trunk.

There are several wonderful styles of the Zelkova that make great bonsai. For example, the Elm Zelkova (Zelkova carpinifolia) and Japanese Zelkova (Zelkova serrata) are two top choices. These plants originate from western Asia where they prefer cooler climates.

This twining, woody climber is grown primarily on the moist stream banks of China, Japan, and Korea, as well as south and central United States. With magnificent green leaves and beautiful flowers, the Wisteria is a favorite for bonsai enthusiasts. Keep in mind that rather than train a Wisteria to meet traditional bonsai styling, it is grown to display the gorgeous flowers.

When choosing a Magnolia for bonsai, the Star (stellata) species is superior. This slow-growing shrub is bushy and dense, often taking up to 30 years to produce flowers. However, once the flowering begins, you will enjoy white, star-shaped flowers on bare branches that measure about five inches across.

When it comes to bonsai, the Satsuki Azalea is a popular choice. This particular plant is very hardy and produces magnificent flowers ranging up to seven inches in diameter. Of all flowering shrubs, the Azalea is by far the most dramatic.

JUNIPER (Juniperus)
Considered a very hardy conifer, the Juniper is a non-flowering tree that makes a great choice for bonsai because of it is so easy to prune and train. With rapid growth patterns, you would typically see long, flowing branches that can be trained in just about any bonsai style with the exception of the broom style.

JAPANESE MAPLE (Acer palmatum)
Grown primarily in gardens, the Japanese Maple is a great species for bonsai. Because this tree is very compact, has delicate foliage, and produces magnificent color in the fall of gold and red, you cannot help but fall in love with the Japanese Maple. In all, you would find over 300 different species, all with different size, color, and leaf shape.

When looking for the perfect tree to train for bonsai, the Japanese Black Pine should land on the top of the list. This strong tree responds quite well to a number of techniques while providing excellent growth characteristics. Because of the Japanese Black Pine being so hardy and versatile, it makes a great choice for beginner or advanced bonsai enthusiasts.

The Flowering Quince is a wonderful choice for bonsai. During the winter months, the Flowering Quince continues to display magnificent flowers of pine, white, and red on twisted bare branches unlike other deciduous trees. This particular tree hails from several Asian countries to include Korea, China, and Japan. Because the Flowering Quince is frost hardy and has the ability to adapt to many different environments, it remains a popular bonsai around the globe.

CAMELLIA (japonica)
Camellia bonsai are grown from a number of species to include Camellia sasanqua, Camellia japonica, and Camellia reticulate. While you will find more than 250 species, the most popular choice is the Camellia sasanqua, which is small and hardy. The only drawback to this species is that it is frost tender, more so than other species. This tree typically has large, glossy leaves that range from medium to dark green. However, this type of bonsai is favored because of the beautiful flowering season.

JADE TREE (Crassula Ovata syn. C.Arborescens)
Native to South Africa, this evergreen is best grown inside, never being exposed to temperatures less than 41 degrees. The trunk of the Jade Tree is thick with a branch structure of dense, elliptic leaves that are gorgeous. In fact, when the leaves are provided with adequate sunlight, they will turn red around the outside edges while the tree produces beautiful blossoms of star-shaped white flowers in the fall.

In all, you would find over 8,000 hybrid and cultivars of Fuchsia with many of those making great choices for bonsai. The key in choosing Fuchsia is to remember that you can control the size and density of leaf growth whereas flowering size cannot be controlled. Therefore, you should only choose Fuchsia with small flowering ability. Some of the top choices for bonsai enthusiasts include F. Lady Thumb, F Tom Thumb, and Microphylla.

FICUS (Rainforest Fig)
This deciduous bonsai tree grows naturally in Southeast Asia. In all, there are literally hundreds of species, each unique and beautiful

DWARF POMEGRANATE (Punica Granatum var. Nana)
This subtropical deciduous tree is a wonderful choice for bonsai with its sophisticated flowering and fruiting qualities. The fascinating aspect of the Dwarf Pomegranate is that every aspect is the same as a full-grown tree. For instance, the leaves, flowers, and fruits are identical only miniaturized.

This arching deciduous shrub makes a beautiful bonsai. The Cotoneaster tree is easy to grow and hardy, which makes it an ideal choice for beginners. The leaves are small and the tree produces beautiful, delicate white flowers in the spring.

CHINESE ELM (Ulmus Parvifolia)
The Chinese Elm is one of the most popular choices for bonsai. This tree can easily grow up to 60 feet in the wild. However, the Chinese Elm can also be trained as the perfect bonsai specimen.


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