August 21, 2021

Bonsai Plants Selection Guide [2021]

Bonsai plant types are not always so easy to identify. However, there are some unique characteristics that may help you tell one type of bonsai from another.

The first thing to consider is the overall shape of the tree.

There are five major shapes:

  1. windswept,
  2. formal upright,
  3. informal upright,
  4. slanting and
  5. cascading.

The next thing to look at would be whether or not it has been trimmed in a specific way.  Other plants have been shaped by man for centuries.  These include topiary bushes or hedges which have their own distinct styles including boxwood and yew topiaries.

Beyond these two defining factors there is still more work to do in order find out what species your bonsai is. Each region has its own unique species of plant life.

Fortunately, there are some common characteristics that can help you determine what variety your bonsai is.

For example, the leaves may be spade-shaped or oval shaped with toothed edges and jagged points at the tips.

The bark can be grey, black or reddish in color while the flowers can grow to be more than two inches long and are often white in color.

Rainforest plants also tend to have a sort of waxy coating on the leaves which makes them appear shiny or glossy.

You may need to study up on some of the different characteristics of individual species but as is true with other living things, bonsai are capable of adapting to their surroundings.

Types of bonsai plants  

Cascade bonsai plants will grow in a downward manner and may hang over the edge of their container. These types of bonsai are most often found in tropical environments.

Some rainforest species, such as ficus trees, are suited to growing in a cascade shape because they can develop aerial roots which help them cling to cliffs and the sides of mountains which are normally found in tropical environments.

Cascading bonsai trees can also be grown as hedges along trellises or fences because they can easily grow down from branches above.

Informal upright bonsai plants are often used to train new growers how to style a tree into a bonsai.

Formal upright bonsai plants tend to grow in a vertical manner with a uniform shape and size. They are often used as living sculptures indoors because of their ability to be shaped into any form imaginable.

Hawthorn, euonymus, mountain laurel and cotoneaster can all be trimmed into formal upright bonsai.

Formal upright bonsai trees can also be trained to grow in cascading shapes which resemble weeping willow trees or hanging vines on walls, fences and arbors.

Bonsai plant types like Chinese elm, viburnum, holly and jasmine make excellent candidates for growing formal upright bonsai.

Informal upright bonsai plants are just as they sound and grow more in a triangular or oval shape rather than straight up and down.

Often, informal upright bonsai trees have smaller leaves with textured edges that give them greater detail and make them look less uniform.

Sometimes the branches can even reach out beyond the edges of the container which gives them an almost tropical appearance, similar to a candelabra tree.

Informal upright bonsai plants are often grown in cascading shapes as well but because they are not trained as hard and don’t grow straight up and down, they do not fit into any particular shape category.

Cascading bonsai plants are characterized by long, sweeping branches and trunks that make them look like they are growing out of a cliff or overhanging ledge.

These types of bonsai trees are often grown on Y-shaped supports which allow the trunk to hang down toward the soil and at times even beneath it.

Because these trees are so unusual looking, they can often be used in bonsai displays to give the tree a feeling of height and weight.

Cascading bonsai plants come into their own when trained onto arbors where the long, flowing branches drape over one side with small leaves that are perfect for creating an interesting visual effect.

Bonsai plant care

Bonsai plant care involves more than just watering your bonsai at regular intervals. Because they are left to grow outdoors, these little trees are subject to extreme temperatures and other weather conditions, even those of the freezing kind.

Because bonsai plants are kept in containers, there is always the possibility that they will dry out faster than normal trees.

It’s essential for bonsai plant care practices to include keeping your tree thoroughly watered since it’s possible for them to dry out if left unattended for too long.

Also, because of the small size of your bonsai, they are more likely to freeze in colder weather than a larger tree would be. The best way to protect them is by moving or bringing your tree indoors when temperatures drop below freezing.

These guidelines help you keep your bonsai tree alive and healthy so you can enjoy it for years to come.

Bonsai plants care should be a partnership between you – the bonsai gardener – and your little tree.

With proper care, your bonsai will live a long life, putting out fresh new leaves each spring and returning each fall after shedding them.

When you care for your bonsai, you’re also caring for yourself because the satisfaction of growing a living thing from a small sapling is one that will last forever.

How to water Bonsai plants

Most people don’t realize that there are four different methods of watering bonsai trees and knowing how to water your bonsai is a very important part of bonsai plant care.

If you forget about watering your bonsai for weeks at a time, your tree can and will die. Here are the four methods of watering:

1. Flooding Once every couple days, fill the container with warm or cold water and let it drain out. The length of time you flood the bonsai tree for will depend on how big your container is, but once every other day should be fine.

2. Deep Drenching Every few days, water deeply enough so that water flows out the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot, but don’t water enough so that it pours out the top.

3. Mulching A mulch is a layer of organic material, usually bark or peat, applied to the soil surface around a plant’s root area. This helps keep the soil moist longer and reduces weed growth in your bonsai tree garden . Watering with mulch does have its disadvantages, however, as it can promote the growth of fungus and mold.

4. Watering In The Crown Only Once every 7 to 10 days or so, water your tree from above using either a small watering can with a fine mist setting or very slow drip system . However, if you have extra large trees that require a drip sys tem, you need to make sure that it drips only one drop every 20 seconds or so.

There are four main types of deciduous bonsai trees and these include:

1. Needle leaf trees Deciduous needle leaf bonsai trees bear the name “needle-leaf” because their leaves are very long and pointy, much like needles. These types of bonsai trees are not that common since they are harder to grow than other species.

2. Broad leaf trees The most popular deciduous bonsai tree is the broad-leaf type and these include such varieties as maples, magnolias and elms. When choosing a broad leaf tree bonsai, remember that they are more susceptible to humidity than other types of trees and so require frequent pruning.

3. Coniferous conifers, another type of deciduous bonsai trees is the coniferous variety. These trees include spruce firs, pines and junipers and are very popular for beginner bonsai gardeners.

4. Tropical and sub-tropical There are many tropical trees that make fantastic bonsai specimens, including the Chinese Banyan, Ficus benjamina and the fan-leaved variety of cucumber tree. Sub-tropical bonsai trees include the Banana Tree which is actually a giant herb and Pineapple Plants.

Which of these four types will work best in your bonsai garden depends on the type of climate you have available to you, but if this is your first time buying a bonsai plant care guide, we highly recommend starting out with a coniferous tree bonsai since they are so easy to care for and will survive almost any abuse you can throw at them!

How to prune your bonsai plants

The types of pruning you perform on your bonsai depends on the type of plant you have.

Most people think that a bonsai is an incredibly delicate little tree, but in reality, they are quite a hardy plant if you start out with the right seedling to begin with. That’s why it’s so important to choose your bonsai seeds carefully and not just rush out and buy the first specimen that looks nice.

For example, let’s say you’re looking for an Elm bonsai tree for sale and you find one that looks nice. But did you know that the Elm is not a hardy tree? It will not survive long in your bonsai garden if it’s left outside exposed to the elements!

The correct way to choose bonsai seeds is by first checking the USDA’s plant zone guide or asking an expert, such as the clerk in a local gardening supply shop. The easiest and safest way to choose from this variety of trees is by buying from a trusted online retailer, such as Fast Growing Trees where you get FREE shipping too!

In general, pruning your bonsai tree depends upon three factors:

1. What kind of bonsai are you going to have?

2. What time of year is it?

3. How long will you be keeping your bonsai inside?

In the spring, the best time for pruning deciduous trees is in mid-March or early April before they leaf out when it’s warm enough to work outside, but not too hot.

Pruning coniferous bonsai plants

Pruning coniferous trees is a little tricky because they have less active buds. Not to worry, though. After you prune branches and leaves on such plants, it will regenerate the lost foliage in about 2-3 weeks!

In the fall , like with other garden plants, you should cut back your bonsai to about 10-15% of its full size to allow it to store energy for the winter. In other words, you want to shorten your bonsai tree by a third before bringing it into storage for hibernation.

4 Common Pruning Mistakes

1 . Not pruning deciduous trees enough During the growing season, if left unattended, deciduous trees such as maples and willows will grow very tall and spindly and you’ll end up with a weak looking plant that is really hard to containerize. You should prune these species at least once every year in the spring before they leaf out.

2 . Pruning too much When cutting your bonsai, it’s very easy to over-prune. Start by pruning just a little bit at a time and then check the results after about two weeks. Always remove more from the bottom branches than from the top ones!

3 . Using live cuttings instead of deadwood If you’re creating an authentic bonsai display, it would be a shame to buy living bonsai seeds and then cut them down and throw the parts away. What if you get tired of your bonsai? It will take years for that tree to grow back!

Instead, use deadwood from branches or twigs collected in your yard or nearby parks. The best time to remove deciduous wood from your yard is during the winter, and you should do so before it has a chance to freeze solid.

4 . Chopping down branches instead of “skinny grafting” It’s very easy to make mistakes when pruning deciduous trees because of their delicate nature. One of the most common errors made by beginner bonsai gardeners is to prune branches too far or cut them down completely.

The proper way to prune a deciduous tree branch, such as an oak or maple branch, is by “skinny grafting.

This technique involves first cutting the main trunk of the bonsai at a 45° angle. Then, using wire as a temporary support, you attach the branch to a nearby limb.

Your tree will take about two weeks to heal before it can be separated from its parent and become an independent bonsai specimen.

5 Common Pruning Mistakes for Coniferous Trees

1 . Chopping off needles instead of pinching If you’re trying to create a pine bonsai or another coniferous tree, the first thing you’re going to have to do is pinch off all the needles.

This can be done by pulling each needle out one by one with your fingers over a period of time, which will reveal bare branches that will eventually grow new needles. Be patient! It may take a few years of pinching for your bonsai to look like a pine.

2 . Forcing conifers into bloom The second biggest mistake made by bonsai gardeners is forcing them to have flowers and seeds before they are ready, which can sometimes kill or damage the tree permanently.

Although deciduous trees do best if pruned in the springtime, conifers work best if you prune them in the fall because they are preparing to go into hibernation.

3 . Over-fertilizing The third most common pruning mistake is over-fertilizing your bonsai. It’s very important that you only feed your tree with natural compost made from leaves, not chemicals or man-made artificial substances. This will lead to a long and healthy life for your bonsai.

4 . Not cutting back on deadwood Conifers can’t be pruned the same way deciduous trees are because they must grow new needles each year.

If you cut off branches too close to the trunk, you will severely damage the future growth of your bonsai. It’s better to leave excess needles and deadwood at the base of branches, which will eventually fall off naturally and give your tree its own unique appearance.

Pots for bonsai plants

When growing bonsai trees in containers, choose a pot that has an adequate depth to allow the tree to grow for many years. You should also make sure that the container has holes or drainage slits on the bottom.

Try your best to match the size of your plant with a sturdy and well-draining pot.

If you buy a cheap, flimsy container for your expensive bonsai tree, you might end up with a massive and out-of-control plant growing in a small pot. This will lead to root problems and cause slower growth.

Bonsai plants artificial flowers

When growing bonsai trees indoors, you can always add flowers and other plants to your landscape to give it a more natural feel. You can also buy artificial flowers for presentation purposes if you’re not allowed to have real ones inside your home or office.

Bonsai potting soil tips

Although there is no one perfect kind of soil for bonsai trees.

There are several key things to keep in mind when you’re choosing the best potting mix.

1 .  Sandy soil is ideal For starters, it’s generally a good idea to plant bonsai trees in soil that has lots of sand and grit as opposed to other types of soils. While clay can hold in moisture well, it doesn’t drain quickly and can rot a plant’s roots.

2 . Make sure the soil drains well This is another important thing to remember when you’re looking for the right kind of potting mix for your bonsai tree: make sure it has holes or slits to allow water to drain out quickly. If there are no drainage holes, the soil will get waterlogged and your plant will drown.

3 . Add organic materials Finally, it is a good idea to add some organic material like conifer bark or sphagnum moss to help with drainage and aeration. Keeping your bonsai tree in the best potting mix for bonsai can help it stay healthy and strong for years to come.

Bonsai plants for sale

If you’re interested in buying a bonsai plant for your garden, check out the wide selection of them available on eBay. You’ll find everything from dwarf azalea trees to rare pines and more.

Other places for where to buy bonsai plants include Amazon. Also check Google for bonsai plants for sale near me for local selections.


When you want to start a bonsai plant, there are many varieties and species of plants that can be used. Be sure to research the type of plant you would like before planting it in your desired container or soil.

We hope this article has helped you learn more about what types of bonsai plants exist, how they should be cared for, and where to find them!

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About the author 

Greg Reed

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