The Japanese word "bonsai" is actually made up of two words - "bon" and "sai". Literally translated, these words mean tray growing, which is a pretty accurate description of just what a bonsai is. There is not a certain tree or shrub that makes a great bonsai, and that's what makes the art form so flexible. Growing and shaping a bonsai is something that takes quite a bit of time and just as much patience, but can be well worth the wait.
The ficus is not only a good choice for beginner bonsai enthusiasts, but it's also a great indoor tree; it's one of the easiest to grow and to shape.
Keep close tabs on how wet the ficus bonsai's soil is. Before watering the ficus, the soil should be allowed to dry out completely. Never water the ficus from the top; instead, set the tray that holds the ficus into water, and let the soil absorb as much water as it needs. This way, it will never be over or under watered.
A ficus bonsai should be repotted on an average of every two years, to be sure the roots have plenty of room. Ficus are also easy to shape using a wire frame, another benefit to using these lush green trees as a bonsai.
Some California grapes--including the chardonnay and Cabernet sauvignon--make excellent bonsais; not only can they easily be grown in miniature, groomed to reach heights of only about a foot, but-- unlike most trees traditionally thought of as bonsai--most actually bear edible fruit as well.
The grape bonsai is difficult to grow. While tolerant of different temperatures, the grapes require plenty of water, fertilizer and sunlight. Since they're a fast growing plant, it's important to keep on top of pruning and shaping the bonsai in order to keep the proper ratio between leaves and vine.
Pruning should be done in the winter, repotting in the spring and fertilizing just before the bonsai is ready to bear fruit.
A normal Chinese elm tree can reach heights of up to 60 feet. However, they are also well-suited to being trained and grown in miniature, and they make excellent candidates for bonsai. Just as beautiful in miniature as they are in full size, their bark is gray with flecks of cream and red, their leaves dark and leathery. Bonsai Chinese elms have beautiful fall foliage, just like their full-size counterparts.
The Chinese elm is a classic choice for beginners. The trees are very hardy, and their slow growth rate allows their caretakers to become accustomed to the difficult processes of shaping and pruning the tree. They are also forgiving; they need only moderate water and do well in sun or shade. Chinese elm can be grown indoors or outdoors in mild climates.