How to Plant & Treat a Bonsai


Bonsai is the ancient art of "tray gardening," in which an ordinary tree seed is germinated and then grown and trained for many years before being transplanted to a bonsai pot. The bonsai is then carefully pruned and shaped to create a miniature landscape. This horticulture art form began in China and migrated to Japan where it became wildly popular and gained the name "bonsai." Now a popular hobby worldwide, bonsai requires true dedication. A successfully grown bonsai requires years of care, but the end product is a piece of living art to reside in your Zen garden, at your front entrance or on your patio.

Step 1

Use a standard potting mixture to plant your bonsai. Alternately, create your own mix by combining one part loam with two parts sphagnum peat moss and two parts granite grit. Thread wire through the drain holes of the bonsai pot before putting a thin layer of gravel and a thin layer of soil in the bottom of the pot. Position the bonsai in the pot on a mound of soil. Spread out your bonsai's roots, and when you are happy with its position, anchor it in place by attaching the wire above the root ball. This wire can be removed in a few months. Add soil up to just below the rim of the pot.

Step 2

Fertilize throughout the spring and summer--the growing season--and make sure it is getting an adequate amount of water. Over 250 different species of trees are used in bonsai. Research the species of tree you choose to know best what sunlight, food and water needs your bonsai will have as well as the appropriate way to prune it.

Step 3

Prune your bonsai in the spring with your fingers or scissors. Maintain the shape of your bonsai by pinching back new growth with your fingers on trees such as junipers and cedars. Deciduous trees are best pruned with scissor tips.

Step 4

Re-pot your bonsai as often as every two years--in either the spring or fall. At this time prune the root system and replace the old soil. Clean as much soil off the roots as possible, as gently as you can. Use a sharp pair of bonsai scissors and cut away a one-third to one-half of the thick, brown roots. Finally, prune the thinner roots to a size that accommodates the pot and prepare the pot as you did before, anchoring your bonsai until it has settled again into its pot.

Things You'll Need

  • Bonsai pot
  • Gravel
  • Potting soil
  • Aluminum wire
  • Fertilizer
  • Scissors


  • The Bonsai Site
  • Bonsai Gardener: Learn How to Grow and Care for Bonsai Trees
  • Evergreen Garden Works: Bonsai Articles
Keywords: bonsai care and treatment, bonsai planting, maintaining bonsai

About this Author

Em Connell McCarty has been writing for 27 years. She studied writing at the University of Iowa and at Hollins University in Virginia. She writes fiction, creative non-fiction and essays. McCarty's work has been published in Hip Mama magazine.