In Japanese, bonsai can be literally translated as ‘tray planting’ but since originating in Asia, so many centuries ago, bonsai has developed into a whole new form. To begin with, the tree and the pot form a single harmonious unit where the shape, texture and colour of one, compliments the other.

Then the tree must be shaped. It is not enough just to plant a tree in a pot and allow nature to take its course. The result would look nothing like a tree and would look very short-lived. Every branch and twig of a bonsai is shaped or eliminated until the chosen image is achieved. From then on, the image is maintained and improved by a constant regime of pruning and trimming.

It is the art of dwarfing trees or plants and developing them into an aesthetically appealing shape by growing, pruning and training them in containers according to prescribed techniques.

Overall, bonsai is a great interest, hobby or even profession to undertake. Although famous theologians have claimed that it is actually 90% art to a meager 10% of horticulture, it has to be said that a successful bonsai is most definitely a horticultural masterpiece.

Once arriving in the Western World, this enjoyable and rewarding pastime has never turned back, and has gained a magnificently diverse range of plant material and techniques.

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Related terms and common misspellings: bonzai, bansai, banzai, banzi, bansi, bonzi, bonsi

Bonsai (盆栽, literally tray gardening) is the art of growing trees and plants, kept small by being grown in a pot and by the use of skilled pruning, formed to create an aesthetic shape and the illusion of age. The Chinese art of penjing is very similar to and is the precursor of the Japanese art of bonsai.

History of Bonsai

The art of bonsai originates from China over two thousand years ago, where it has been called penzai and written in the same Hanzi that gave rise to the Kanji above. It was brought to Japan 700 years ago. Bonsai spread to Korea during the Tang or Song Dynasty (the 7th – 13th century), and is now called Bunjae (분재). The art is still practiced in China today, often under the name of penjing. As the Chinese art is intended for outdoor display the plants tend to be some what larger than seen in Japanese bonsai.

Cultivation of Bonsai

A bonsai is not a genetically dwarf plant. It is kept small by shaping and root pruning. It is claimed that a properly maintained bonsai can outlive a full size tree of the same species. However, a bonsai needs much care, and an improperly maintained bonsai will probably die.

Artistry of Bonsai

In the art of bonsai a sense of aesthetics, care, and patience come together. The plant, the shaping and surface of the soil and the selected container come together to express “heaven and earth in one container” as the Japanese cliché has it. Three forces come together in a good bonsai: shin-zen-bi or truth, essence and beauty. The usual plants used in Japan are varieties of pine, azalea, camellia, maple, beech, bamboo and plum. The plants are grown outdoors and brought in to the tokonoma at special occasions when they most evoke the current season.

The Japanese bonsai are meant to evoke the essential spirit of the plant being used: in all cases they must look natural and never show the intervention of human hands. Chinese penjing may more literally depict images of dragons or even be guided to resemble highly intricate Chinese characters, such as 壽, “longevity”, in various styles, but usually cursive.

Bonsai tree spiritual benefits

Humans and plants are living side by side from the beginning and they have developed a good relationship which brings benefits for both entities. When we keep these plants inside our rooms in the form of bonsai, they bring a wide range of health as well as spiritual benefits.

Calm and Relaxed

Having greenery in small shapes inside your room has a great effect on lowering blood pressure while keeping you calm and relaxed all the time.

Reduces Stress

Because of their refreshing environment, bonsai plants have the ability to tackle various psychological aspects and feelings including stress.

Develops Well Being

Living while having greenery and bonsai plants around you can enhance your daily productivity and change your attitude as well, in a positive manner.

Help you be Patient

Bonsai usually take a lot of time to grow to their full extent. Waiting for it develops a sense of patience and this helps you achieve your goals more effectively.

Become Compassionate

As you need to take care of bonsai on a regular basis, it makes you more responsible in your daily routine as well.


It helps you achieve spiritual peace and keep all things balanced while being grateful for what you have.

Simplicity and Harmony

Having bonsai in your room makes you love simplicity and harmony.

Make Soul Happy

You get more attached to nature and get happiness from these little things instead of finding happiness in an outdoor noisy environment.

Advantages of bonsai tree

Where it brings huge benefits for your soul and spirituality, it can also play an important role in the welfare of your body and other aspects of your life.

Bonsai tree has the ability to:

  • Make you Physically Active: The bonsai tree requires constant care and maintenance which not only makes you a physically active person but also develops a habit of doing hard work to achieve your goals.
  • Purify the Air: Most bonsai trees have the ability to remove impurities from the air and make it healthy for humans as well as pets to breathe and live in.
  • Less Health Issues: It mitigates the chances of various short-term health issues mainly including tiredness, fatigue, coughs, and sore throats.
  • Develops a Refreshing Environment: Bonsai has the ability to keep the indoor environment, always refreshing just like a garden. If you have one in the room, it still gives a refreshing feel and uplifts your mood at any time of the day.
  • Easy to Take Care: One of the biggest benefits of having a bonsai at home is that it requires far less care and maintenance as compared to a full garden plant.

Disadvantages of bonsai tree

One of the biggest and most challenging disadvantages of having bonsai trees is the fact that most of them require a lot of maintenance, time, and care.

As most of the bonsai trees are imported from far regions of the world, they can sometimes be extremely costly and hard to get as well. The average price for a small or premium size bonsai tree ranges from a minor $20 to a whopping $2000.

As bonsai trees are just like normal plants, they can attract insects and pests. This is a messy factor but can easily be avoided with the help of pesticides and providing an efficient growing environment. Anyway, no worry. We will show you how to get rid of bugs on bonsai tree.

Bonsai trees usually take a lot of time to reach the full extent of their beauty and blooming. This may mitigate your interest in bonsai trees or may even wipe it off completely.

Make sure you keep the bonsai pot clean as having a buildup of mold inside the room will cause some serious health hazards. Inhaling the black mold can directly lead to memory impairment, body fatigue, sinus congestion to memory, etc.

Bonsai tree is not like planting a tree and just watering it. You need to have some skills or at least some proper knowledge to handle bonsai trees effectively. It will only take caring for one bonsai to get used to it.


Types of bonsai trees indoor

It really doesn’t mean that indoor bonsai trees cannot survive in outdoor conditions but it is a fact that indoor conditions are more preferable for them to grow to the fullest. Some of the major indoors species and bonsai tree types include:

Types of bonsai trees outdoor

Bonsai care for beginners

Why bonsai care is important?

Bonsai is one of the few things that need proper and constant care to grow efficiently. As old people say; “if you can’t work for something to reach its full strength, you can never see what they have to offer.” Bonsais are very choosy in terms of weather conditions, watering, sunlight, temperature, and all other maintenance aspects.

You need to take care of all these aspects by knowing their desires as there are thousands of bonsai types and almost all have varying care needs. One thing is sure that all the hard work and care will be worth it as you will treasure an extremely beautiful and aesthetic nature piece in your house.

Common bonsai tree FAQs

Are bonsai trees low maintenance?

Bonsai trees are actually low maintenance and don’t require you to stay with them all day long. The thing that makes their maintenance changeling is the fact that people don’t really know how to take care of them. If you are keeping it in their desired conditions, all you need is to water them on time and do the pruning and trimming occasionally, that’s it.

What care does a bonsai tree need?

Bonsai trees need care in a few specific aspects which mainly include choosing the best suitable soil, positioning at the right place, providing enough light (direct or partial shade), humid environment, and adequate watering on a regular basis. Some other practices need to be done on an occasional basis such as pruning, trimming and repotting.

We strongly recommend you read our previous air layering bonsai care guide.

Will bonsai survive the winter?

This factor varies from bonsai to bonsai but in general, bonsai can survive in winter. The actual question is how much low temperature they have to bear in your region. Some bonsai can grow efficiently in moderate winter temperatures while some have the ability to even withstand heavy frosts. You should find this out before placing bonsai in outdoor conditions.

What is a bonsai tree good for?

While providing aesthetics and beauty in your house is a permanent factor, there are many other things that have made bonsai a good piece of nature to be kept in your homes. They purify the air and make it healthy to breathe, preventing residents from tiredness, fatigue, coughs, sore throats while reducing stress, urging peace, and much more.

How long do bonsai trees last for?

It mainly depends on the care and maintenance provided to them. Where bonsai trees can easily live for 50 to 80 years, they can last as long as 100 to 300 years as well. If you keep them in their best suitable conditions and facilitate them with proper care, they can live up to more than 1000 years and there’s an actual example of that long-living bonsai as well.

What should I name my bonsai tree?

Naming your bonsai tree is a bit tricky as you need to consider various factors. The name should be linked to you as you are the owner instead of the tree itself. Apart from this, the name should have a story behind its origin which can provide great significance in the future.

When to plant a bonsai tree?

The ending phase of the winter season is considered the best time to plant bonsai trees as they can germinate rapidly during the spring season and it is the general way of nature’s working as well, in terms of plants. Also, the bonsai tree will have enough time to grow big during the summer season before it reaches the fall and winter seasons again.

Can you fly with a bonsai tree?

TSA (Transport Security Administration) has allowed passengers to carry plants with them in the plane. It may require you to get checked twice at some airports but there would be no problem flying with bonsai trees.

Which bonsai tree is the most expensive?

The age of the bonsai tree is a great factor that contributes at the first spot in increasing or decreasing its prices while care required, tree type, and all other things came in second places. Bonsai trees can be prized in millions. There is a real example where a Pine was sold at $1.3 million as it was centuries old. The auction was held at the International Bonsai Convention in Takamatsu, Japan.

When do bonsai trees shed their leaves?

As spring and summer are the seasons to grow, winter and fall are the seasons when bonsai trees shed their leaves the most. Your bonsai tree can shed leaves outside the season as well and the most common reasons behind this include rotten roots, leaf spot disease, rust, blackspots, sooty mold, etc. If you are referring to ficus bonsai, please read our previous guide, why my ficus bonsai losing leaves.

How long does it take a bonsai tree to mature?

Bonsai trees start growing and reach a well suitable height in a matter of months or a maximum of a couple of years. If you are talking about maturity where it reaches its highest peak, it can take about 5 to 15 years for most of the bonsai while some species can take 20 to 30 years as well.

Can you trim a bonsai tree with scissors?

There are no issues at all. Trimming is just done to remove the dead stems or to shape the plant according to your desires. All you do is just cut off the branches wherever you want and this can be done either with scissors or you may use any other sharp tools according to your convenience. We also strongly recommended you learn why are bonsai scissors so expensive.

Do bonsai trees change color?

Not all but most bonsai tree species change their leaves color over time while some can change even with the changing seasons. Deciduous bonsai trees are the most common plants to have such properties and they can change colors during flowering, blooming, and while bearing fruits as well. It is obvious that bonsai trees look way more attractive when they have leaves in varying colors.

Can a bonsai tree cause an allergic reaction?

Well, this thing depends on the residents and tree types as well. If someone in the home is allergic to indoor plants, they may get reactions because of the trees’ pollen and allergens in the air. Apart from this, some bonsai types are also reported to cause allergic reactions which mainly include Juniper bonsai and cedar bonsai trees.

Can my cat eat a bonsai tree?

Are bonsai trees poisonous to cats? You should never let any of your pets go near the bonsai as most of the bonsai trees are either toxic or completely poisonous for them. Where minor issues such as dizziness, tiredness, vomiting, and things like that can happen most commonly, some bonsai trees are so poisonous that they attack directly to the liver and can lead to a shock or sudden death as well.

How can you tell how old a bonsai tree is?

There is no such way as cutting a tree and determining its age by the number of rings like we do with normal trees. You can only tell its almost exact age with the help of a math equation. All you need are two values, the growth rate, and the current diameter. Multiplying these two values will get you its lump sum age.

How long can a bonsai tree live without water?

This thing varies from bonsai to bonsai as some cannot even survive a few days while others can live for weeks. People usually have bonsai trees that require less maintenance and if you have the one which can live for a few days without water, it can be said that they may live for 3 weeks but not longer than that.

How much does a 50 year old bonsai tree cost?

It mainly depends on the type of bonsai tree and its quality but on average it can cost you somewhere from $5000 to $50000. This is just a range but there are possibilities that you may find one for just $1 or maybe for a whopping $150,000. On average you can find a bonsai tree in just:

Bonsai Age Bonsai Tree Price
0 to 5 Years $5-$150
5 to 10 Years $150-$450
10 to 15 Years $500-$1000
15 to 20 Years $1200-$2200

Why does my bonsai tree have black spots?

Black spots are actually a disease that can badly affect its leaves. The good news is that it can easily be treated with the help of a good fungicide as fungus causes this disease. You can find such products in any pesticides shop and should spray the leaves according to the instructions written on the bottle while keeping the bonsai type in mind as well.

Are bonsai trees Japanese?

The concept of the bonsai tree itself originated and was first initiated in Japan and China. They started the trend with dwarf bonsai trees and named them tray-planted because they are planted in small pots of the container. This is the reason that bonsai trees are widely regarded as Japanese and most of its print species also come from this very same region.