Most people associate bonsai trees with Japan, but they originated in China during the Tang dynasty. In Japanese, 'bonsai' means to plant a tree in a flat tray. No two bonsai trees are the same, but they share basic design principles. They grow in containers and generally grow smaller than the same species grown in natural setting. Although bonsai trees can be purchased, growing them from scratch provides a great feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Buy a small shrub or tree from your local garden shop. Think about long-term goals for your tree and plan accordingly. Popular species for bonsai trees include banyan fig, Japanese black pine, juniper, Japanese red maple and bamboo. Dwarf varieties make good bonsai trees.
Purchase a container for your bonsai trees. Bonsai planters are shallow, but should be deep enough to cover the roots and the bottom of the tree. Trays a few inches deep are usually sufficient. Select a tray with large drainage holes. The ideal pot combines both beauty and function.
Add soil to the pot and gently place the tree in the soil. Carefully cover the roots with soil; gently press the soil in place over the roots.
Water your bonsai tree with care. Bonsai trees are prone to root rot, so do not allow the roots to sit in water. Touch the soil to test for dryness and only water when the soil feels dry to the touch.
Provide plenty of sunlight to your bonsai tree. If you grow your bonsai tree indoors, you may need to supplement natural sunlight with artificial grow lights. Rotate any trees that grow near windows so all parts of the tree get enough light.
Wire your bonsai tree. The wire holds the trunk and branches in place and is part of the shaping process. Use thinner wire for thin branches and thicker wire for thicker branches and the trunk. Begin wiring at the thicker part of the trunk or branch and work toward the thinner part.
Prune your bonsai tree in the spring. There are many pruning methods and styles, but the main thing is to prune methodically with a specific design in mind.