How to Bonsai


More than 1,000 years ago, the Chinese began the art of bonsai. Around the 13th century, Zen Buddhists introduced the Japanese to bonsai. Japanese bonsai masters dedicated their time to developing these mini trees into spectacular works of art representing a beautiful unity between man, nature, elements and change. There are five main styles of bonsai: formal upright, informal upright, slanting, semi-cascade and cascade. Bonsai maintenance is a lifetime process, as most bonsais outlive their larger counterparts.

Step 1

Look for a bonsai tree that is intact with no missing sections or damage to the tree. Search for a tree with smooth bark. Lift the bonsai to ensure the roots are not sticking out of the pot's drainage holes. Make sure the leaves are healthy and not falling off the tree.

Step 2

Place the tree on a turntable, trimming down the nursery pot and exposing the bottom trunk. Search for the true base of the trunk with the chopsticks and root hook. Check for roots that overlap or wrap around the trunk. Straighten out these roots. Remove roots that will not flatten out. Determine the best face of the tree by picking out the widest spot on the root area.

Step 3

Examine the tree to decide which bonsai style will suit the tree. Find the main trunk line and follow it. Cut off any branches that will not be used in the design. Start at the bottom of the bonsai and prune the tree for design. Work on the first branch positioned in the front of the tree. Move on to the second branch located opposite of the first branch. Prune the third branch. Design the bonsai to form a triangle shape topped by the apex of the tree.

Step 4

Wire the bonsai tree's branches into the placements needed, starting at the bottom of the tree. Keep a 45-degree angle in the wire and make sure all the branches are at the same angle. Support the wire when making bends on the branches. Modify the tree's appearance by trimming, if needed.

Step 5

Select a container to plant the bonsai in. Choose a pot that does not overpower the tree, but complements the style of the bonsai. Determine the size of the pot by surveying the bonsai's trunk, visual weight and moisture required by the root system.

Step 6

Place a mesh screen over the drainage hole in the pot's bottom. Read the instructions of the fertilizer for proper usage amounts. Fill the pot halfway with bonsai soil mixed with organic fertilizer. Position the bonsai in the pot and wire the bonsai to the pot through the drainage holes. Add more soil until it reaches the top of the container. Water the bonsai liberally and keep in the shade for up to one week.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not over-water the bonsai tree. Branches should never stick straight out of the bonsai.

Things You'll Need

  • Bonsai tree
  • Turntable
  • Chopstick
  • Root hook
  • Spray bottle
  • Pruner
  • Copper wire
  • Container
  • Mesh screen
  • Bonsai soil
  • Organic fertilizer


  • The Bonsai Site: A Detailed History of Bonsai
  • The American Bonsai Society: Basic Steps in Creating a Bonsai
Keywords: learn to bonsai, pruning a bonsai, potting a bonsai

About this Author

Since May 2009, Christina Delegans-Bunch has been pursuing her career as a professional writer. Her work has been published on eHow and GardenGuides. She holds a certification in floral designing and wedding consultation from Harcourt Extended Learning.