Bonsai Plant Types

Bonsai plants are miniature versions of trees, shrubs or vines that are aesthetically pleasing. According to The Bonsai Site, bonsai is translated as "tray planting." Bonsai plants require constant pruning and shaping and are usually grown indoors. Several plants make good candidates for bonsai training.


The Satsuki azalea makes a suitable bonsai plant as it is hardy and produces large, showy blooms that may be up to 7 inches across. A member of the Rhododendron genus, azaleas are evergreen shrubs with colorful blooms. Also known as the Southern Indica hybrid, the Satsuki azalea is available with blooms that range from pale pink to magenta. Azaleas are hardy in warmer climates, usually U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone 7 and above, and will thrive as a bonsai plant.


Holly (Ilex) is a deciduous or evergreen shrub that is well suited to being trained as a bonsai plant. Foliage is usually small, smooth and bright green and plants respond well to shaping and trimming. There are more than 400 species of holly. Japanese holly (I. crenata), which resembles a boxwood and has narrow, fine-toothed leaves, and Chinese holly (I. cornuta), which has glossy, leathery, nearly rectangular leaves, are both good bonsai choices. Both are evergreen.

Japanese Maple

Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is a slow-growing tree that can reach 20 feet in a home landscape. Native to Japan and Korea, this tree is easily trained as a bonsai plant. Japanese maple has dense, deeply lobed foliage that is red when young, aging to green, then orange, red or yellow in fall. Even when trained as a bonsai, leaves will turn color and put on a spectacular show.


Wisteria (Wisteria) is a an invasive, fragrant, deciduous vine that is easily trained as a bonsai plant as it responds well to pruning and shaping. Usually trained as a bonsai for its clusters of blue, pink or white blooms, wisteria has bright green leaves and produces 6-inch green pods before blooms. Wisteria is a woody climber that is prevalent in the southern U.S. and is hardy outdoors in zones 5 to 10.

Keywords: bonsai trees, bonsai plants, dwarf trees, miniature trees

About this Author

J.D. Chi is a professional journalist who has covered sports for more than 20 years at newspapers all over the United States. She has covered major golf tournaments and the NFL as well as travel and health topics. Chi received her Bachelor of Arts in professional writing from Carnegie Mellon University and is working toward a master's degree in journalism.