Make Miniature Trees with the Bonsai Look

Edited by Nerissa Avisado, Robbi, Eng, Lynn and 4 others

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A bonsai is a miniature shrub or tree that has the appearance of an aged, graceful specimen. Grown in shallow containers, these are carefully and artistically pruned and wired until they acquire sweeping curves that only old trees have. Serious bonsai hobbyists have trees that are 10 years old or even older.

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Bonsai is not about owning bonsai plants. It is about the enjoyment of caring for them and most of all creating them. Bonsai is neither grown to produce food nor medicine. It is not about creating a large garden full of bonsai. If this is going to be your first bonsai, make a real one; don't buy one.

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Bonsai Facts

Before you create your own bonsai, here are some interesting bonsai facts you should know. It's also helpful to know the different styles and designs available for you to use on your own bonsai before you get started.

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  1. 1
    Bonsai cultivation is old
    .
    This Japanese antiquated art of growing miniature trees using containers is almost 2000 years old.
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  2. 2
    It is Chinese
    .
    Believe it or not, it originally dates back to some of the ancient Chinese dynasties (600 AD). Notice early drawings from the mountainous regions of China. It is the Japanese, however, that popularized the current interpretation of the bonsai, as it is known these days.
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  3. 3
    "Bon" and "Sai." The words mean "tray" and "plant" and pronounced "bone-sigh"
    .
    Together, these two Chinese characters mean - a tree planted in a shallow pot.
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  4. 4
    Which is which
    ?
    What is the basic difference between a Chinese and a Japanese bonsai? The Japanese bonsai growers' preference leans towards natural-looking types for the purpose of imitating what is seen in the natural environment. The Chinese bonsai growers want their trees growing in a free-form shape, pruning them a bit in the process.
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  5. 5
    Bonsai are not houseplants but outdoor plants
    .
    They are happier outside the whole year, even in summer. But autumn is the best time to prune them, especially the deciduous bonsai.
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  6. 6
    There is no such thing as bonsai seeds
    .
    Bonsai are not planted, they are cultivated. Almost any tree or shrub can be transformed into a small tree infused with character.
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  7. 7
    Little bonsai do not grow into big bonsai
    .
    The leaves and branches are carefully trained to achieve the beautiful shape.
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Before You Get Started

There are several things you need to know before you get started, including styles of bonsai, and what trees and shrubs work best.

Different Bonsai Styles

Before you start shaping a tree, first decide on the style you want to achieve. Here are the different shapes and styles to choose from:

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  1. 1
    Formal or upright form (Chokkan)
    .
    Chokkan is the basis of bonsai style. This is a single upright trunk tapering toward the top. It's also the most difficult form to achieve.
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  2. 2
    Informal upright form (Moyohgi)
    .
    This is a romantic aura of twisting and bending. This is a single upright trunk with well-balanced curves. The top usually bends toward the front. Like old trees dwelling in hills and fields, evoking dignity, grace, and refinement of trunks and branches that have been bent and twisted over many years. This is the most well-known style of bonsai.
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  3. 3
    Semi or full cascade (Kengai)
    .
    Overflowing potential growth. This bonsai has a single arching or cascading trunk, either severely slanted or drooping below the container. This form depicts a powerful will to live with its roots shooting into the soil and hanging on to life. This is one of the oldest, popular bonsai forms.
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  4. 4
    Group or forest
    .
    These are usually trees of related species to represent a miniature landscape.
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  5. 5
    Freeform
    .
    A sparse single upright trunk can be straight, slanted, or curved characterized by a tasteful, simple elegance.
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  6. 6
    Broom form (Hokidachi)
    .
    Sweeping the sky. Stands upright but the branches spread outwards.
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  7. 7
    Slanting form (Shakan)
    .
    Unbalanced image of stability. This bonsai represents a tree growing in harsh environments like strong winds of storm swept seashore.
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  8. 8
    Driftwood (Sharimiki)
    .
    Weaving of life and death. This is a dead tree but still living. Life and death intertwined. It symbolizes the meaning of life and the subtle and profound worldview of the East.
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  9. 9
    Literati form (Bunjingi)
    .
    Tasteful elegance. The trunks are thin from the bottom to top. Its branches are thinned and sparse. It depicts the Japanese intellectuals of late 19th century, of aloofness and constraints of society.
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Characteristics Of Plants Suitable For A Good Bonsai

If you are ready to start, but wondering what plants work well to cultivate a bonsai, look for the following characteristics:

  1. 1
    Plants with small leaves because they make good branch formations.
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  2. 2
    Plants with short internodes because they can endure container conditions.
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  3. 3
    Plants with attractive bark or roots because they can withstand intense pruning.
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OTHER CHARACTERISTICS WORTH CONSIDERING

  • Attractive bark or roots.
  • Woody plants.
  • Good trunk that tapers from soil to top.

Suggested Outdoor Plants

A few examples of plants that have these physical attributes are:

  • Apple.
  • Arbor vitae.
  • Azalea
  • Boxwood.
  • Cedars.
  • Cypress.
  • Elms.
  • Quince.
  • Wisteria.
  • Maples (especially Japanese Maples)
  • Pomegranate.
  • Oaks.
  • Pyracantha.
  • Pines.
  • Junipers.

Create Your Own Bonsai

Here are some fairly easy directions to enable you to make your own bonsai.

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What You Need

  1. 1
    Bonsai soil
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    Japanese bonsai soils, which you need to learn to mix, are:
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    1. Akadama.
    2. Kauma.
    3. Fujisuna.
    4. Hyuga
    5. Kiryu.
    6. Keto.
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  2. 2
    Coarse soil
    .
    Prevents the main soil inside the pot from spilling out of the bottom. It also aids in draining water.
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  3. 3
    Wires
    .
    Use copper or aluminum (more pliable).
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  4. 4
    Scissors
    .
    (bonsai shears)
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  5. 5
    Training tools
    :
    Pliers, concave cutters, shears, wire cutter, chopsticks.
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  6. 6
    Net for covering the hole in the pot.
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  7. 7
    Pot
    .
    Any pots, tray or plate.
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  8. 8
    Gloves.
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  9. 9
    Newspaper.
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  10. 10
    Green moss.
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  11. 11
    The plant.
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Selecting Your Tree or Bush

Bonsai are relatively easy to make. Remember that training bonsai is an art. To start you on your path, read the following suggestions.

  1. 1
    Pick a desirable plant.
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  2. 2
    Select a style suitable for the plant.
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  3. 3
    Carefully examine the plant to determine if it's appropriate for the style chosen
    .
    #Establish the front and back.
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  4. 4
    Apply the rule of three - the triumvirate of heaven, man, and earth.
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  5. 5
    Start pruning undesirable growth to make you see the plant better for the style you choose.
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  6. 6
    Observe the trimmed plant from all angles.
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Instructions

Bonsai soil is significantly different from regular soil. This soil is granular for the purpose of rapid drainage of water, offers efficient air circulation and adds weight to anchor the tree. A standard mix is made of equal parts of organic clay and gravel components. Sift to filter large soil or pebbles from the mixture.

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  1. 1
    Mix the soil
    .
    The ratio is 7:3 (Akadama soil 7, Kanuma 3).
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  2. 2
    Cut the wire and net and place inside the pot
    .
    Secure the net with the wire.
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  3. 3
    Place the coarse soil in the pot.
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  4. 4
    Trim extra twigs and leaves off the plant.
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  5. 5
    Remove the plant from its old pot
    .
    Remove the soil attach to it using the chopstick. Trim the excess roots.
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  6. 6
    Wire the roots.
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  7. 7
    Insert the plant into the pot
    .
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  8. 8
    Pour the mixed soil evenly into the pot.
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  9. 9
    Fill the pot with the remaining soil - up to 80 percent of the pot.
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  10. 10
    Water your new bonsai plant.
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  11. 11
    Insert the green moss tightly over the soil
    .
    The moss keeps the water inside to prevent drying of plants.
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  12. 12
    Now you have your first bonsai.
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Care and Maintenance of your Bonsai

All bonsai need light, air, water, nutrients, and soil.

  1. 1
    Light
    .
    Sunlight is important for photosynthesis to produce the plant's green color. But consider what plant/tree/bush you've used to find out what conditions are best for it.
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  2. 2
    Air
    .
    Good air circulation is best for the plant's good health. Protect it from strong winds to avoid breakage and desiccation.
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  3. 3
    Water
    .
    Water your plant daily.
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  4. 4
    Nutrients
    .
    Provide with the proper fertilizer while in the growing stage. Organic fertilizer can be fish emulsion and seaweed extract. Inorganic are the chemical fertilizers.
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  5. 5
    Pests and diseases
    .
    Observe your plant carefully, to keep it free of pests' infestation and diseases. Treat the trees only if necessary. Take it away from other plants, treat it and isolate until the infestation is controlled.
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  6. 6
    Pruning
    .
    Once established and growing, the plant requires frequent pruning and pinching to achieve its style in its simplest form. Trim the foliage area. The root system is reduced also to maintain a shallow pot.
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  7. 7
    Directional training
    .
    This is to achieve the most drastic changes in the plant's direction. Wind copper or aluminum wire spirally around each small branch. Bend to the desired position until the branch sets. Some trees dislike wiring. An alternative to bending and shaping branches is guy wiring. The wire is anchored to the pot or other trunks.
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  8. 8
    Repotting
    .
    This is done to avoid the unhealthy consequences of a root-bound tree. Remove the root mass, prune it, and add fresh soil. Repotting depends on the rate of growth of the kind of plant used, from 1-5 years. The limited area of the pot inhibits the growth. The bonsai's design dictates the shape of the pot. Use a pot that is proportional to the size of the bonsai. The placement inside the pot is crucial to achieve aesthetic balance and harmony.
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  9. 9
    Winter care
    .
    Outdoor bonsai should have a cold dormancy period to maintain good health. Protect from direct sun and drying winds. It leads to moisture loss (desiccation). Keep in protected areas like in a cold window frame, window well, unheated car garage, greenhouse, or even in a mulch bed.
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  10. 10
    Variation care
    .
    Maintain the normal bonsai routine while you are away. Install a plant sitter or automatic watering system.
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Tips, Tricks and Warnings

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  • Don't take risks with power tools. Always wear eye goggles or full-face protection. Take precautions against dust. Do not apply too much force when cutting or trimming. This is assuming someone would prune a bonsai with power tools.
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  1. 1
    On tools
    .
    Ensure maintenance of power tools and cutters. Store safely after use. Keep away from children. Always be mindful of bystanders if using power tools. Keep any tools that are made from metals that might rust - well oiled.
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Questions and Answers

How long does the bonsai cascade process?

The bonsai cascade process depends on how you start to grow your cascade bonsai.

  • If you start from seeds, this will take years to be able to create your cascade bonsai.
  • If you use a grown tree which is still small, it won't' take as long to make one. So, if you can find those that have grown already, you just need to shape it the way you want to achieve a perfect shape.
  • Cascade bonsai goes through the process of selection of a potential bonsai, the wiring, and pruning and lastly, taking care of it.
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It really requires patience when you want to make your own cascade bonsai in order to attain the shape you desire - branches cascading out of the pot.

What is a bonsai driftwood sharimiki?

Sharimiki is the Japanese term for driftwood bonsai wherein there is a large portion on the bonsai that is deadwood, and a part of it is living. These kinds of bonsai can be collected in the wild but can also be done manually by stripping and carving the branches to make it look like there is a dead portion leaving a part which is healthy.

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Recent edits by: Alma, Nuance, Trafalgar Law

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