Bonsai Making

By TamilNadu Agricultural University on 29 Jul 2015 | read

Bonsai is an art of growing and training of a plant to a miniature form having a natural look of old age. It was originated from china, but it was called as the Japanese art. It involves techniques of extreme dwarfing. The optimum size of bonsai may be only 30 to 60 cm in height, but miniature sizes of below 25 cm have also been preferred. Bonsai of minimum 10 years old are period, but of 100 and even 200 years of age are available and are highly valued as ‘venerable’ specimens.

Bonsai requires special types of containers. They should be usually shallow with 5 to 7.5 cm deep (except for cascade type of bonsai for which deep pots can be used). Round, hexagonal or square shaped containers with 25 to 30 cm diameters are preferred. Containers with specific colours like mosaic, sky blue, terra cotta, grey or jungle green are well suited for bonsai culture. Plants adaptable for extreme dwarfing like juniper. pine, elm, maple, cypress are suitable materials for bonsai culture. But in tropical places like India, the tree species like Manilkhara, Sapota, Bassia, Tamarind and Ficus spp. and shrubs like West Indian cherry are well suited.

Trunk and branches may be bent, forced and tied by coiling them with heavy wire. This wire is removed after several months when training to shape has been accomplished. The bonsai plants may be trained to different shapes like twisted trunk, upright, S-shaped, semi-cascade, cascade, slanting or any other formal shape. Planting of both tips and roots is usually done at planting time and periodically pinching the tip and removing the excess side shoots are essential to maintain the general outline of design. Annually, the plants are either repotted or lifted from the pot, root pruned and reset.
The bonsai plant is fed sparingly of week fertilizer solution containing major and minor nutrients. Sometimes extracts of oil cakes may be also added. Similarly, the plant is given only minimum requirements of moisture. It is advisable to water twice a day to plants kept in shallow containers and once a day to plants kept in deeper pots.

Selection of hardened woody plants that have been subjected to adverse conditions is a good starting point. Such kind of planting materials may be collected from rock crevices of from the walls of any buildings. Old seedlings kept in containers form any nursery or cutting, grafted plants or layers may be also utilized in bonsai culture.

Where it succeeds?

Under open sunny conditions

Under air conditions

As indoor near windows only.

Rules for Bonsai making
For trunk

Height can be 6 times the caliper of the trunk.

Should lean towards the viewer.

It should anchor the plant

Roots should radiate.

No eye poking roots.

Should taper  as it ascends

Should not move back

For Branches

Should not cross the trunk

No eye poking branches

First branch should be at one third height of the tree

No belly branches

Should be opposite

Should diminish in size as it ascends

Secondary branches are to be alternate

Principles of Bonsai
Look for 

Small leaves or needles

Shorter internodes

Attractive bark or roots

Branching characteristics

To enhance the ageexpose the one third of the roots

Before potting, the twisted and tangled roots are to be straightened.

Upper branches should not overshadow the lower branches.

Styles of bonsai

Formal Upright
It is one of the most natural styles where the trunk is perfectly straight. The branches should alternate left to right to suggest age. The bottom third branches are removed and the remainder is drawn downward.

Informal Upright
This style is characterized by a lightly curving trunk displaying the harsh elements of nature. This can be achieved with ease using wire and/or cords. It is as appropriate for conifers as with deciduous trees.

Informal Upright


It has a straight trunk that begins to divide and subdivide into many branches. The characteristics are its thick and finely branched crown. Some trees for this style are Beech, Elm, False cypress and Maple.


It is so called because the general slope of the trunk is highly pronounced. The branches should lie horizontal or droop slightly downward. The surface roots have an unstable appearance but have a well anchored impression.


It is rare in nature. This kind of tree is found on cliffs or mountains. The trunk, branches and twigs are trained in a single direction to give the affect of a strong wind and storm.

The Clasped-to-Stone

It is a much loved but difficult to create style. The size and shape of the rock should complement the plant that is set on a gravel or water dish. A whole chapter could be spend on this style.


Agrotechniques for Bonsai

Through seeds, cuttings, layering or grafting
Seeds: Pines and Junifers
Cuttings: Ficus, Pomegranate, Mulberry and Bougainvilleas
Layers: Jasmine, Ixora, Bougainvilleas and Pome granate
Grafts: Mango, Sapota, Citrus

            1 July - August
            2. Febraury - March
Best time is before opening of the buds

1. Propagation

2. Season

3. Potting and repotting

4. After care

5. Container

6. Planting media

Potting and repotting

1/3 of the roots can be trimmed

Long tap roots are to trimmed

Excessive branches are to thinned out

Balanced nutrition and adequate watering is must

Potting is not advisable during winter or hot months

Repotting is done after 2-3 years 

After care
            Pinching        -           Once or twice
            Pruning         -           For its shape
            Training         -           Desirable shape
It is achieved through copper wire or polythene tape. It is to be removed once the shape is attained.


Mostly terracotta or ceramic

Small in size

Square/round/rectangle/oval in shape

Preferred is oval / rectangle

In round / square the plant is to be in the centre
In others placed in the sides of the containers.

Planting Media
Media consists of 
                        Loam soil                 2 parts
                        Leaf mould               1 parts
                        Coarse sand             little

Media can be covered with moss and one or two pebbles can be placed to give a natural look.