Bonsai is the art of growing trees in small containers. The tree's roots are restricted by the pot, and careful pruning restricts the growth of new and undesirable shoots. The remaining branches are trained, usually with wires, to grow in certain directions. In this way, the tree eventually becomes a potted miniature of its cousins in the wild. Any tree or shrub can be used for bonsai, according to the University of Arkansas, but those that easily tolerate pruning and training are the most popular.
Junipers (Juniperus spp.) are the most commonly used species for bonsai, according to the University of Arkansas. These plants, which range from towering giants to ground-covering shrubs in the wild, are very tolerant of pruning and training and come in a wide variety of shapes and colors. Juniperus chinesis, or the Chinese juniper, in particular is a favorite species because it can grow in all types of soil and has soft, evergreen needles.
The bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is a slow-growing tree that can be found growing in the swamplands of the Southeastern United States. This is a very popular bonsai tree, according to the Bonsai Gardener website. The bald cypress is desirable for its delicate-looking foliage that turns deeply orange in the fall and for the fact that it will grow in a wide variety of soils as long as the soil is kept continually moist. In fact, this is one tree that will not suffer from root rot if you over-water it, making it an excellent choice for beginning bonsai gardeners.
Crabapple trees (Malus sargentii) are one of the most popular, spring-blooming ornamental trees, and they are also one of the best choices for bonsai if you want to cultivate a tree that blooms. The flowers of this particular species appear in the spring before the leaves, covering every inch of the tree with white, fragrant blossoms. The small red fruit is also highly ornamental. This tree is easy to grow, making the sargent crabapple another great choice for those who are just starting to learn the art of bonsai.
Lucky bamboo (Dracena sanderiana) is a favorite of bonsai gardeners, according to the Bonsai Gardener website, but it is not a bamboo plant at all. It is a species of Dracena that, when stripped of its lower leaves, resembles bamboo. The stems can be braided for added effect, and the plant is traditionally thought to bring luck to its owner.