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  1 indoor vs outdoor  2 sizes  3 styles

1  If you are creating your first bonsai, the most important choice to make is where you'll enjoy keeping your tree, indoors or outdoors. Tropicals can live inside all year, though they benefit from some time spent outside - weather permitting. All other trees will need to live outdoors all year except for a special indoor display occasion. Outdoor plants will need protection in inclement weather, depending on the size of your tree and the severity of your winter. See "Plant List & Climate" for suggestions. Try indoor and outdoor bonsai! Consult local nurseries for indigenous trees; you may find something perfect for the hobby of bonsai in your locale. Design your own for the fun of it!

2 Japanese bonsai sizes are described below. You can find a size that will suit your own creative ideas and also suit the space you are designing for in your yard, home, apartment, condo, or office. These size breakdowns are according to Bonsai Master John Naka of California from his book Bonsai Techniques I, pages 121,122. This is your 2nd most important decision!

OMONO Bonsai
The tree size would be a little over 3' tall, but not over 4' tall.
This size
more than one person to move it carefully.


The tree size would start at over 1'6" and not over 3' tall. In general,
one person could move it easily. We have a 1'7" tall bougainvillea
that weighs 6 pounds. It shows well on a large table.

One hand lifting
The tree size would be 8" to 1'6" tall. This size is very popular because it is small, but still large enough so that basic training, pruning, and care are easy, and it will fit well in a medium to large tabletop design.

 KOMONO Bonsai
The tree size would be 4" to 7" tall. More of a challenge to work with
because of the small sized leaves, branches and proximity of branches. Especially important here is to select trees that lend themselves to becoming miniatures by having naturally small leaves, flowers, fruit, and berries to start with. Some good choices are Chinese Elm, Juniper, Cotoneaster, Pyracantha, Portulacaria, and small-leafed Jade, Azalea, and Bougainvillea.

MAME Bonsai
Palm size
This tree size will be below 4" usually. A few can fit in the palm of your hand. The Mame will need constant care because its pot holds such a tiny amount of soil and water. A Mame pot can measure as small as 1 by 1 inch. Very small leafed plants and dwarf varieties are necessary. Try succulent (water-bearing) plants like small leafed Jade and Portulacaria for an easy start. Mames especially can thrive on misting.

3 Style traditions originated in Asia. The knowledge of creating bonsai has been passed down from generation to generation in China for over two thousand years. The art of bonsai spread to Japan around the 12th century.

In the 20th century, enthusiasts in America, England, Germany, Italy, Australia, and many other countries are practicing these long-lived horticultural traditions of artistically pruning trees to miniature forms for pleasure in hobby and competition.

Bonsai styles are based on the characteristics of each particular species and/or an individual tree. Also used in design are the natural characteristics of trees caused by the effects of wind, terrain (flat, hilly, mountainous, rocky cliffs), proximity to water (oceans, lakes, streams), sun, shade, and rain. Following is a group of popular bonsai styles with examples of trees that adapt well to each style:

Formal Upright
A straight tree growing tall reaching for light and space. A good style
for starting a collection because of the basic and sturdy characteristics.
Examples: Cypress, Sequoia, Ginkgo, Pine, Cedar, Chinese Elm, Cryptomeria.

Informal Upright
Not a straight trunk but bending and/or branching from a low point. Strong, often large trunks.
Examples: Oak, Juniper, Pine, Maple, Apple, Azalea, Pomegranate, Wisteria.


Naturally occurring slanted trees happen for a reason.The slanted tree will find its own balance as it seeks light. In the landscape, it is likely being crowded by other trees or by being planted too close to a building. In these cases, survival is the Mother of Invention.
Examples: Pine, Juniper, Wisteria. Look for examples in nature and find something interesting to use as a model.

May be found on a rocky cliff, stretched horizontally over water or land. Growing in available soil in a rock is often the cause of naturally dwarfed specimens. And here we have Survival of the
Examples: Pine, Juniper, Apple, Azalea,
Pyracantha, Cedar, Bougainvillea.

Formed like a semi-cascade but the tree grows downward by its own weight or the weight of snow and/or by its characteristic way of growing. A graceful adaptation.
Examples: Pine, Juniper, Azalea, Pyracantha, Bougainvillea.


The style of trunk varies. Trees with weeping limbs qualify for Shidare Bonsai- not Wisteria or others with hanging flowers. "The answer my friend is blowing in the wind!"
Examples: Weeping Willow, Weeping Cherry, Weeping Elaeagnus.

Click on menu "Indoor vs Outdoor" for beginner-easy training information.

Acquiring plant stock:
Local Nursery Stock is usually the most readily available. Collecting from the natural landscape (with permission if privately or government owned) is a fun endeavor and healthful for you as it usually includes good walking exercise and possibly hiking and climbing if that's your style. So far, we have dug plants in the forest and in our own yards.

Click on menu "Elm Seedling" for a yard collection study and "Yamadori Bonsai" for collecting a naturally made bonsai in the wild.

Starting Up