What’s the first step to becoming a bonsai master? Buying a bonsai tree! Getting your first tree is an exciting experience, and selecting a healthy, visually appealing specimen can reward you for years to come. But there are a few things to keep in mind before you buy a bonsai tree.
This beginner-friendly guide will teach you how to buy bonsai tree specimens—from choosing your retailer, to picking a promising tree, to understanding the bonsai price tag.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
Where to Buy Bonsai Trees
There’s no straightforward answer to the question “Where’s the best place to buy bonsai trees?”—it depends on your particular needs. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of some of the most common options.
- Major garden center: Many major garden centers sell bonsai trees, but since they’re often grown in bulk, you’re not guaranteed the highest-quality specimen. If buying from a major retailer, take your time and choose the healthiest, most vigorous-looking tree of the lot.
- Small local nursery: Shopping at a local nursery or garden center may have a slightly higher price tag, but you’re more likely to take home a tree that was raised with extra TLC. (Plus, you’re supporting small businesses!)
- Specialty bonsai retailers: If you live in or near a city, there may be a specialty bonsai retailer near you! These shops are the best place to get expertly grown bonsai trees, with trained professionals on-site to answer all your questions.
- Online bonsai stores: If you’re looking for a less common variety or a tree with specific features, try searching online! Although these retailers tend to be a little pricier, you’ll get a high-quality specimen that meets your ideal specifications.
What to Keep in Mind Before You Buy
1. Environmental Factors
Before you head to the store, identify where you’d like to keep your bonsai tree. Even the healthiest specimen will suffer in the wrong conditions. Will you display your tree indoors or outdoors? Is the location sun-drenched or slightly shaded? Can you control the temperature? Choose a species that will thrive where you plan to place it.
2. Bonsai Size
Bonsai come in all sizes and shapes. After you’ve identified where you’d like to place yours, make sure you select a tree that’s the right size for the space. Some bonsai will stay ultra pint-sized, so these specimens are great for countertops and shelves. Others can grow large enough to take up an entire corner of your garden.
3. Desired Aesthetics
While you’ll continue to shape the growth of your tree for years to come, some of its aesthetics are here to stay. It’s hard to make a masculine tree feminine, and vice versa. And trunk shape won’t change much over time. Buy a bonsai tree you already find visually appealing, and nurture it into your masterpiece.
4. Health & Vitality
The best way to grow a healthy tree? Start with a healthy tree! Here’s what to look for when you’re selecting your perfect specimen.
- Leaves: Healthy trees will have vibrant, lush foliage. Avoid bonsai with dull, crispy, or otherwise unhealthy-looking leaves.
- Branches: Select a tree with a robust canopy and symmetrically distributed branches. These specimens will be more likely to grow evenly in the future.
- Trunk: Damaged or marred trunks betray a tree that has been improperly cared for (unless it’s part of the aesthetic!). Look for smooth bark and a trunk that’s thickest around the base.
- Roots: Roots should be slightly visible; this shows the container is shallow enough. But roots crawling over the surface signify the tree is overdue for repotting and may be struggling beneath the soil.
Bonsai is a lifelong practice: you’ve got plenty of time to master your skills. Don’t start with a finicky species better suited for experts. Instead, choose one of the beautiful species most suitable for new growers.
The Best Beginner Bonsai Trees
- Juniper: Juniper bonsai are easy to train and prefer to dry out a bit before bath time—perfect for creative, absent-minded types.
- Fukien Tea: Flowering Fukien Tea bonsai prefer indoor environments, making them a great pick for new growers looking to bring their practice inside.
- Ficus: Ficus trees are tolerant to rookie mistakes like low humidity or too little sunlight. Their branches gnarl easily—ideal for growers with big vision and little technical know-how.
- Chinese Elm: Slow-growing and “oopsie”-tolerant, Chinese elm bonsai are great for novice growers still learning the ropes.
Ready to get started? Our guide to beginner-friendly bonsai trees tells you how to care for each of these excellent starter species.
How Much Do Bonsai Trees Cost?
Bonsai tree prices vary drastically. While you can snag a budget bonsai for $20 or less, some of the oldest, rarest trees have sold for upwards of a million dollars. A mid-tier tree is perfect for new growers; these specimens generally cost between $40–$100.
You also need to buy bonsai tree containers. You can order a flimsy factory-made pot for pennies online, while a handmade traditional pot can cost hundreds (but you’re rewarded with stunning craftsmanship). Don’t worry: there are plenty of quality mid-priced containers that won’t break the bank.
Why Are Bonsai so Expensive?
Simply put: Trees take a long time to grow. When you buy a quality bonsai, you’re paying for hours of meticulous care that went into creating it. And with something that can live for hundreds of years, it’s worth investing in a specimen with a solid foundation for healthy growth.
Want to know more about buying bonsai trees? Drop your pressing questions in the comments below!
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The Bonsai Resource Center is here to help you learn the best bonsai tree care and provide you with the tools you need to keep your tree healthy and strong. Explore our other articles, visit our online shop, and connect with other bonsai lovers in our Facebook group to learn everything you need to know about this rewarding hobby!
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