There are two crucial factors that determine the whether or not a tree makes a good bonsai tree candidate: the horticultural and the aesthetic. The horticultural factors include whether or not the tree can withstand frequent pruning and whether or not the tree can grow well in a pot. The aesthetic factors include the size, shape and color of the leaves and the texture of the tree trunk and bark.
The banyan fig (ficus retusa) makes an excellent bonsai tree. It is a good tree choice for those new to bonsai gardening. The leaves are small, and the tree can be grown in many different sizes and styles. Banyan fig trees require warm conditions, with a minimum temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. They should be kept moist at all times, with generous watering in the summer months. During the growing season, they should be feed every two weeks and repotted every two years in the spring. New shoots should be trimmed back to two to three leaves during the growing season.
Wisterias are a good choice for bonsai trees due to their beautiful and highly-scented flowers. The three varieties of wisteria suitable for bonsai trees include W. sinensis (Chinese wisteria) W. frutescens, and W. floribunda (Japanese wisteria). Wisterias can be grown by seed, but when grown by seed take much longer to flower.
Wisterias thrive in full sun, even in the summer, as long as they are watered well. The soil needs to be well drained, with an ample supply of manure.
Satsuki azalea (rhondendron) makes a beautiful bonsai tree. Due to the density of the flowers, the oval green leaves are often covered. The Satsuki azalea does well in partial shade and needs to be watered every day during the growing season. It thrives in acidic soil and should be fed every two weeks from early spring until it begins to flower.
All new shoots should be pruned after the tree flowers. Dead flowers should be removed once they fade.
Red Japanese Maple
The Red Japanese maple (acer palmatum), known for its brightly colored red leaves that are smooth, with a downy texture, is a popular bonsai tree.
It does well in full light, but needs to be protected from excessive heat to keep the leaves from scorching. Red Japanese maple trees prefer acidic soil and need to be watered twice daily in hot weather. They are prone to infestation from aphids and scale insects.
They should be fed weekly for one month, after the leaves first open. Large leaves should be removed during the growing season.
Sacred Bamboo (nandina domestica) originated in Asia. The shoots go from pink to yellow, to dark green, and then red in the fall. The plant also produces red berries in the fall. It is a difficult plant to grow, and it is not easy to shape into a good form. Therefore, it is not a good choice for those new to bonsai trees.
The sacred bamboo plant can be kept outdoors in the summer, but must be brought indoors during the winter months if temperatures dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. During the winter it should be watered sparingly.