Bonsai trees have been miniaturized through potting, pruning and growing methods. They are not dwarf varieties. The oak bonsai tree, if planted in the wild, would grow into a full-size 50-foot-tall oak tree. Growing bonsai trees take patience and effort but can be learned by just about anyone.
Select a variety of slow-growing tree that does well in your geographic area during spring, summer and fall. The tree must be taken inside during the freezing winter months; otherwise the roots will freeze, and the tree die. Evergreen trees are better for bonsai novices because they don't lose their leaves or needles.
Choose a tree whose shape resembles a mature tree. Interesting twists or bends in the stem will result in a more realistic bonsai. Multiple stems will resemble multiple trunks. A straight singular stem is acceptable as well. Trees with small leaves will look better as a bonsai than those with larger leaves. The idea with bonsai trees is to resemble in miniature a full-grown tree. A bonsai tree that is 1 foot tall with leaves 4 or 5 inches long looks out of proportion.
Select a plant container that is slightly smaller than the nursery pot the tree is growing in. Make sure the container has holes for drainage. Cover the drainage holes with a coffee filter to keep the soil in but let excess water out. Layer about one inch of fresh potting soil in the container.
Remove the tree from its nursery pot. Cut off about 1/3 of the root system with the pruning shears. Place the tree in the plant container, pushing down firmly. Tuck the edges of the potted plant and roots into the corners of the container to eliminate gaps. Cover the soil with gravel to weigh it down. Water well. Do not add fertilizer or plant food. The bonsai should grow slowly.
Prune the leaves on the bottom third of the main stem(s) to resemble a tree trunk or trunks. Carefully thin out crisscrossing stems to open up the center of the tree. Nip off branches on the end to encourage fullness.
Select three or five main branches (an odd number looks best) and gently wrap them with the copper wire. The wire should be spiraled about the branch about every half inch. The wire will allow you to bend the branches into the shape you want without breaking the branch. It also holds the branch in the shape you want. Bend the branches into a downward angle or up-swept as if being blown by the wind.