How to Start a Bonsai Tree


Although most people associate bonsai trees with Japan, they originated in China. All bonsai trees have certain things in common, but the actual design of each tree depends on its type, the bonsai style selected and the skill and desire of the bonsai gardener. Making a bonsai tree from scratch provides a strong sense of accomplishment and satisfaction compared to buying a ready-made bonsai tree. Bonsai trees truly are a work of artful design.

Step 1

Choose a container. Make sure the container has drainage holes that are big enough to allow the water to flow out easily, but not so large the soil also falls out. The container must also allow room for the roots to develop and be deep enough to cover the roots. In most cases, a container that is 3 or more inches deep will do.

Step 2

Choose whether you want to start your bonsai tree with a small plant or grow one from seed. Growing a bonsai tree from seed requires a lot of time. Growing bonsai trees take a great deal of patience anyway, so particularly those new to growing bonsai trees may do best by starting with a small plant. Whether starting your bonsai tree by seed or with a small plant, select a species that works well as a bonsai tree. Some great options include red Japanese maple, banyan fig and juniper.

Step 3

Put soil in your container and plant your purchased plant or seeds in it. If starting with a purchased plant, make certain that soil covers all the roots.

Step 4

Prune your bonsai tree. Remove small branches and twigs, paying special attention to cleaning up the lower portion of the tree. Trim the tree so that the branches are symmetrical and balanced.

Step 5

Shape the tree using wire. Wrap wire around the trunk of the tree and onto the branches. Start at the thickest part of the trunk or branches and twist the wire around, working toward the thinner end. Twist the wire clockwise or counterclockwise; just be sure to wrap the wire in the same direction throughout the tree. Gently bend the wire and the branches in the shape you want the tree to grow. Clip off any excess wire.

Step 6

Check the wire occasionally to see if it has begun to cut into the tree. Ideally, you want to remove the wire before the tree grows so much that the wire becomes tight around the trunk and branches, resulting in damage. Once the tree has formed well, it will hold its shape even after you have removed the wire.

Things You'll Need

  • Container
  • Plant or seeds
  • Soil
  • Garden clippers
  • Wire
  • Wire clippers


  • "101 Essential Bonsai Tips"; Harry Tomlinson; 1996
  • "Bonsai in Your Home"; Paul Lesniewics; 1997
  • "Bonsai: The Art of Growing and Keeping Miniature Trees"; Peter Chan; 1985
Keywords: grow bonsai tree, plant bonsai tree, start bonsai tree

About this Author

Rebecca Moore has been a writer since 1994. She has been published on Associated Content, Suite101, eHow and numerous print magazines. Moore attended Living Word Bible College and Leeward Community College. Moore enjoys spending time at garden shops and botanical gardens and experimenting with hydroponics and square foot gardening.