Bonsai is a rewarding practice that can last a lifetime, but it can be a little overwhelming to get started. From watering schedules to wiring techniques to all that new lingo—there’s a lot to learn. Read on to learn how to start a bonsai tree!
This beginner-friendly resource list will connect you with answers to ALL your pressing questions. (And probably some you haven’t even thought of yet!)
Ready to jump in? Here’s how to start a bonsai tree!
FAQ: What is the best bonsai tree for beginners?
Almost any plant can be grown in bonsai form with the right care. But when you’re still learning the ropes, some are more forgiving than others. Here are a few of the best bonsai trees for beginners:
- Ficus trees are hardy and tolerant to rookie mistakes like too little sunlight or water.
- Juniper trees are flexible and respond well to wiring and pruning, making them easier to train.
- Fukien tea trees are a flowering variety that is amiable to indoor growing.
How to Start a Bonsai Tree
How do you turn a regular plant into a bonsai tree? It’s not as hard as it might seem. With the right tools and techniques, anyone can create a showstopping bonsai specimen from nearly any type of plant.
The first step of starting a bonsai is to make sure you’ve got the right equipment on hand. These helpful tools will help you grow a beautiful tree that thrives for years to come.
- Pruning shears: For cleanly cutting delicate shoots and twigs
- Concave cutters: To cut larger branches flush to the trunk during structural pruning
- Root rake: For removing soil around the bonsai roots during repotting, weeding, and loosening up compacted soil
- Training wire: To shape the direction of your tree’s new growth
If you’re looking to master the basics without drowning in the details, these starter guides can help! Start here for a clear overview of bonsai tree care before diving in deeper.
- How to Keep Your Bonsai Small
- How to Take Care of a Bonsai Tree
- Guide to Indoor Bonsai
- Guide to Outdoor Bonsai
Specific Learning Resources
The first rule of bonsai: Never water on a schedule. All trees are different: watering frequency comes down to species, time of year, and even the individual tree! Instead, learn to watch for the signs that your tree is ready for a bath.
You must master fertilizer to be successful at bonsai care. That’s because plants absorb nutrients, and nutrients are limited in containers with little soil (like a bonsai planter). Our ultimate beginner guide will teach you how to get the balance just right.
Potting soil is your bonsai tree’s universe: it retains water, provides essential nutrients, and acts as a base for a solid foundation. But bonsai trees can’t survive in standard potting soil. They need a specialty mix that can facilitate their needs in limited soil.
4. Choosing a Container
Maybe you know how to start a bonsai tree, but do you know how to finish it? You can tend to a tree for its whole lifetime, but it’s not truly bonsai until it’s paired with the perfect pot. The material, color, and aesthetics of your container should be chosen to complement the male and female traits in your tree.
Are your roots growing over the soil or through the drainage holes? Your tree is looking for a new (bigger!) home. Repotting entails either removing your tree and trimming its roots or moving it to a larger pot altogether. Repotting is essential for a healthy, happy bonsai—but your tree can seriously suffer if you’re not sure what you’re doing.
6. Wiring & Training
Wiring and training are two practices that make new growers shake in their boots—but they’re not as scary as they seem! It comes down to choosing the right material, understanding the proper technique, and, as always, keeping a watchful eye on your tree. Take a deep breath, you’ve got this.
Uh oh! Something isn’t right. Perhaps your tree’s leaves are yellowing, or its stems and branches look wilty and unwell. With the amount of time and energy that goes into growing a bonsai, mystery ailments can cause serious panic. But many common bonsai tree problems are easy to remedy. You just need to know how to identify the issue—and what to do next.
Petiole? Yamadori? Rootball!? It’s tough to learn how to start a bonsai tree if the terminology goes over your head. Set yourself on the right foot by learning all the language you might encounter along the way. Our definitive glossary of bonsai terms is just the helping hand you need.
9. Helpful Reads
Are you a budding bonsai enthusiast with a bookworm habit? Dive into your practice deeper with incredible reads from some of the world’s most knowledgeable growers. Whether you’re looking for an inspiring picture book or a technical guide, our bonsai reading list has got you covered.
What else do you need to know about how to start a bonsai tree? Drop your questions in the comments section below!
Bonsai With Us!
The Bonsai Resource Center is here to help you learn how to make a bonsai tree 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!