Bonsai is a Japanese expression that means to plant in a shallow tray. Though the Japanese popularized bonsai trees, they originated in China. Making a bonsai tree requires a great deal of patience and takes time to learn, but the rewards and sense of accomplishment are significant. Bonsai trees can be purchased ready made, but making a bonsai tree from start to finish allows a greater degree of creativity.
Choose a pot. The pot should have good drainage holes, but the holes should be small enough that the water doesn't drain completely out.
Make sure to select a pot that provides room for the roots to grow. The amount of depth needed for roots differs from one type of tree to another, but in most cases, there should be room for 3 or more inches of soil.
Select and buy a plant or small garden shrub. Dwarf varieties are a popular choice for bonsai trees. Some favorite options include bamboo, red Japanese maple, juniper, and banyan fig.
Add soil to the pot. The soil should come close to the top of the pot, but not so high that the lower branches of the tree will be covered up. Add the plant to the soil, and gently but firmly press the soil around the roots.
Prune the plant. Remove the small branches and cut the remaining branches so they are close in length on each side.
Trim the roots. Using a root hook, untangle the roots and remove clumps of dirt from the roots. Trim the longer roots and keep as many of the fine roots as possible. Trim any roots that grow straight down.
Add wire to the tree. Ideally, aluminum anodized wire made specifically for bonsai trees should be used, but it is expensive and may only be found in bonsai nurseries. If aluminum anodized wire is unavailable, copper wire that has been stripped and cleaned may be used. Use different thicknesses of wire. For instance, thicker wire should be used for thicker branches and for the trunk of the tree. Start from the thickest part of the branch or trunk and wrap the wire around toward the thinner portion of the branch or trunk. The wire may be wrapped in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction, but it is important to be consistent. Twist the wire around the branches and the trunk of the tree, using the wire to hold the trunk and each branch in the desired shape.
Snip off the wire. Periodically check the wiring to make sure it isn't cutting into the branches of the tree. As long as the tree has grown enough so that the branches are shaped as desired, the wire can be removed so that it doesn't damage the branches or trunk of the tree.