Although most people associate bonsai trees with Japan, they originated in China during the Ming dynasty. In Japanese, the term "bonsai" means to plant in a flat tray. Bonsai trees are different from conventional trees in that they grow in containers and often grow much smaller than the same species grown in the wild. Known for their distinctive shapes and styles, bonsai trees are a work of art. You can purchase preformed bonsai trees or develop them from scratch. Bonsai trees take time to grow and require patience, but the rewards are tremendous.
Purchase a small tree or shrub from the local nursery. Consider your long-term desire regarding the size of the mature tree, and plan accordingly. Dwarf varieties work well as bonsai trees. Common bonsai tree species include Japanese maple, banyan fig, bamboo, juniper and black pine.
Select a container for your bonsai tree. Although bonsai tree containers are shallow, they should have room for at least a couple inches of soil. Bonsai trees are susceptible to root rot; therefore, choose a pot with large drainage holes. Pots are a fundamental part of the overall design of your bonsai tree, so take time to find a pot that pleases the eye.
Plant the tree in the pot. Add soil to the pot, put the tree in the pot and then cover the roots with soil. Gently press the soil in place.
Water your bonsai tree regularly, but do not overwater. Excessive watering leads to root rot; allow the soil to dry out in between watering. Use your finger to check for moisture in the soil. Water when the soil is dry.
Provide adequate sunshine to your bonsai tree. Different species require different amounts of sunlight, but all require some light, even if grown indoors. Use natural or artificial light for bonsai trees grown indoors. Rotate plants growing near windows once a month to provide sunlight to all parts of the tree.
Shape your bonsai tree through pruning and wiring. Trim in the dormant season, when the tree is not growing. The dormant season is different for different species. For instance, trim pine trees in the fall and deciduous trees in the late winter or early spring. Use wire to hold the trunk and branches in the desired shape. Remove the wire after a few months before the tree grows enough that the wire cuts into the tree.