Bonsai is an ancient art form that originated in China, known as Pen-Jing, where it is still popular today, however the Japanese were the major influence on Bonsai in western culture. Chinese Trees being less styalised than their Japanese counterparts. The term bonsai literally means 'a plant in a tray', the generally accepted meaning, however is a tree in a pot. The aim of bonsai is to capture the beauty and strength of an ancient tree, without showing that the tree is manufactured by the 'Hand of man'. The art of bonsai involves the bringing together of tree and pot in visual harmony. Bonsai may have one or more trees, these being referred to as group plantings. Trees in a group planting should be of the same species, mixed species plantings with rocks and ornamental figures are called 'Saikei' Bonsai are classified by styles, relating to the trunk angle, shape or the number of trunks, formal upright, informal upright, slanting, cascade and group planting. They vary greatly in size from shito bonsai trees grown in containers the size of a thimble, to trees needing several men to move. A bonsai should have a well tapered trunk and have branches all around the tree to give the bonsai visual depth. The lower part of the trunk should be visible to show its 'power', It is assumed that age is a prerequisite for bonsai, this is not the case. There are several techniques available to the bonsai grower to increase the apparent age. Branches on young trees are wired down for as long as needed, to encourage them to set into the desired position, increasing the impression of age. Jin and Sharimiki are two techniques involving the removal of some of the bark and subsequent carving of the exposed wood to add to the effect of an ancient tree that has suffered a trauma many years ago. Bonsai do not differ genetically from trees found in nature and stay small because they are confined in a container, however they are well fed and watered. Their tops being pruned as needed to ensure they do not appear out of balance with the pot and that the foliage pads indicative of a mature tree are maintained. Both Coniferous and Deciduous trees are used in bonsai, with Pine, Maple and Juniper forming the 'Classic' bonsai, however with the spread of the art throughout the world many indigenous species have been used to good effect. How often the tree it is repotted and the roots are pruned depends on it's age, younger trees may be repotted every other year, older trees perhaps every three or four years . This causes fine new roots to develop near the trunk, increasing the trees vigour. This operation is usually carried out in the spring, prior to the new buds opening.
Craig Cooper is a Minnesota home gardener. More of his articles and other gardening information can be found at or you can e-mail
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
Add image file
Upload is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.