What is Bonsai

The word “Bon-sai” is a Japanese term which when translated, literally means “planted in a container”. It has been around for a thousand years and the goal is to create a miniature but a real impression of nature in the form of a tree. Bonsai is not a kind of tree but it is an art form using techniques to produce small trees that look like full-size trees.


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The purpose of this miniature tree is only for contemplation for the viewer.
You might find taking care of small tree a hobby as it requires constant effort and care. As a result this is a practice that focuses on long-term cultivation and shaping of trees into miniatures. They require delicate care and everyday attention. You can use any tree specimen to create a small tree.  In other words you are creating a miniature tree with certain techniques.

Cultivation and Care

Bonsai care and cultivation requires tools and techniques that are specialised to support the long-term growth and care of trees in containers.

What is a Bonsai
Bonsai Tree

Sources of Bonsai

Bonsai practice is unusual. Instead of growing from seed it requires you to begin with a specimen of a plant which you would like to transform into a bonsai. The specimen must be partially grown or often mature, to begin with. These specimens may include:

  • Propagation:  From a specimen tree by layering and cutting. 
  • Specimen brought directly from a nursery.
  • You can buy mature specimens from bonsai growers. Bonsai growers will sell specimens that have bonsai features already.
  • You can collect specimens that are in the wild. Dig the specimen out and replant them in a container.

Similarly you can buy bonsai kits that provide everything you need , including seeds too and they do not require a container.


Creating a bonsai tree requires several unusual forms of cultivation in unique ways to achieve the desired miniature tree.
These techniques are:

  • Trimming involves the removal of selected leaves from your specimen branches and trunk.
  • Pruning the branches, roots, and trunk of the specimen tree.
  • Wiring trunks and branches allows you to create a desired form of tree you wish to have.
  • Using mechanical instruments for clamping to shape branches and trunks 
  • Grafting: Adding a bark or twig to a specific part of the tree.
  • For certain species, you can use defoliation.
What is a Bonsai
Bonsai Tree

Maintenance of Bonsai

Specialised care is required for trees grown in small containers. A normal tree would grow roots that are very long and deep into the ground and would grow very tall. But these miniature trees will grow much shorter roots and do not grow very tall. This size difference affects the biology of a bonsai tree. Due to this, trees grown in containers require much maintenance

  • Water regularly according to the type of specimen species. Your specimen may require dry, wet or damp soil
  • As your tree ages and grows, you may have to repot them in intervals. 
  • You can buy special tools developed for bonsai care.
  • Soil and fertiliser again depends on the type of specimen. But most miniature trees will require fast-draining compost.
  • Bonsai will rarely survive indoors, they need to be kept outside. 

To successfully cultivate a bonsai you need time, patience, tools and a lot of practice. Check out my rose planting article if you wish to try something a little easier.

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