They may be the size of a potted plant, but bonsai is actually a living miniature tree in a tray. Although the two types of bonsai are indoor and outdoor, there are many different varieties and styles. All bonsai contain three main components: a trunk, branches and foliage. Bonsai trees differ from others in that the branches are either removed or shaped to achieve a desired form. When deciding on a bonsai plant for your home or garden, select a variety that appeals to you and fits with the style of your home and garden decor.
Indoor Bonsai Plants
Indoor bonsai plants are easy to grow and care for as long as they are displayed in an area that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. For beginners, ficus, baby jade and Hawaii umbrella bonsai are good starter plants. As you become more adept at styling, training and pruning, other indoor bonsai varieties are brush cherry, gardenias, sago palms, money tree, fukien tea and aralias.
Outdoor Bonsai Trees
The two types of outdoor bonsai trees are evergreen and deciduous. The evergreen variety includes pines, junipers, azaleas and boxwoods. Deciduous bonsai trees include elms, maples, crabapple, larch and ginko, with some varieties producing small flowers and fruit.
Unlike deciduous bonsai trees, evergreen varieties retain their foliage year-round. Of all the outdoor bonsai trees, the juniper is the most common variety because of its eye appeal and ease in training its shape and growth.
Bonsai Trunk Styles
The type of trunk defines the style and characteristic of a bonsai plant. There are upright, slanted and cascade style trunks that are further defined by their shapes. A straight trunk has branches growing on all sides of the tree, while a slant trunk has branches growing on the same and opposite side of the slant. With an informal upright trunk, branches grow on one or more sides.
A windswept trunk is a common bonsai style, with branches growing off to one side in a manner that looks like they have been swept by the wind. Likewise, in a cascade style, branches flow down one side of the trunk. With a weeping branch trunk, the branches appear as an umbrella covering all sides of the trunk. In a sprout style branch, numerous growths sprout upward alongside the plant's trunk.
Common Flowering Bonsai Plants
Among these are camellia; Okinawa holly; brush cherry; Chinese bird plum; satsuki azalea; wisteria; jade tree; cotoneaster; serissa; English box; fuchsia; fukien tea; star magnolia; lavender star flower; zelkova; and jaboticaba.
There is also the fruit-bearing Chinese elm, as well as the flower- and fruit-bearing dwarf pomegranate, ficus, flowering crabapple and flowering quince.
Common Non-Flowering Bonsai Plants
Non-flowering bonsai trees are hardy growers needing very little care. Among the more popular bonsai in this category are cedar; elm; juniper; Japanese black pine; Japanese white pine; snowbush; ponytail palm; Chinese juniper; Hinoki cypress; bamboo; ginkgo; and Hawaiian umbrella tree.
Although non-flowering, the Japanese maple, bald cypress and Trident maple provide pretty hues as their leaves change colors throughout the year.