How to grow Bonsai trees

What type of plant should I use for my Bonsai?

Award winning cascading juniper bonsai tree

Creating a Bonsai takes years of practice and patience, but one must not forget to start with the right type of tree.  One of the questions I’m asked by many beginners is  “what is the best type of tree or plant to make into a Bonsai?”  I’ll do my best to and help you pick a great tree for your first Bonsai.

The tree that you use for your first Bonsai should have the following characteristics.

Small Leaves.  In creating a Bonsai, your goal is to replicate a large tree in nature on a much small scale.  Plant material with very small leaves will help you achieve this goal.

Branches that bend easy.  In creating your Bonsai, you will need to twist and bend your branches with copper Bonsai wire.  When first starting out in Bonsai it's best to have branches that are flexible and forgiving.  Choosing plant material with brittle branches may result in that bone chilling snapping sound which we you do not want to hear.

Heartiness.  When first starting out in Bonsai, you want to choose plant material that is forgiving when it comes to  insects, diseases, various climate conditions and watering conditions.

Available in your area.  You’ll want to pick plant material which is available at your local nursery or Home Center.  This will make it easy for you to acquire the plant and will also give you a variety to choose from.  Acquiring your plant material locally will assure it will thrive in your geographical location.  You will also be able to get a recommendation for the best fertilizer from where you purchase the tree.  You do not want to purchase material from online or from a different part of the country for your first Bonsai.

What plant material is the best when starting out in Bonsai?
The type of  plant material that meets all of the above criteria is the Juniper.   There are many different types of varieties and styles most of which are great for creating Bonsai.  They are also hearty and forgiving trees with very small leaves and are pretty easy to take care of once they become Bonsai.  You’ll find them at most nurseries and they are usually pretty inexpensive to purchase.

For my beginners class students create their first Bonsai using small Junipers trees in two gallon pots.

So if you’re just starting out in the art of Bonsai, and wondering what type of tree to use for your first Bonsai, I highly recommend the Juniper tree.  You’ll find it easy to work with and forgiving enough so you’ll be able to enjoy it for decades to come.

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Photo above:  Award winning Cascading Juniper created from a two gallon juniper purchased at a local nursery and trained as a Bonsai for six years.


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