Bonsai for Beginners: A Simple Guide

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Bonsai for Beginners: A Simple Guide

Bonsai are miniaturized plants planted in containers or small pots.  As of today, it is one of the most popular forms of house plants both in the U.S. and around the world. According to research, the Bonsai market will grow at 4.10% from 2020 to 2027. This rise is the result of bonsai becoming increasingly popular as a hobby at home. Bonsai Trees are easy to care for and are beautiful indoor decorations, contrary to the misconception that bonsai tree is very fragile, expensive, and difficult to manage by beginners. 

This article will help you get started with bonsai trees and take you from choosing a bonsai to the basic care guide! Dedication and practice can also be a way for you to become a bonsai master.


Bonsai Guide for beginners
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Best Bonsai Guide Tree Kit for Beginners

A bonsai guide tree kit is essential for anyone who does not have experience grafting bonsai trees. The bonsai guide kit includes detailed instructions on how to care for your new plant. It is a great place to start, especially if you are unsure of how to proceed.

A bonsai guide tree kit should contain:

  • A well-developed bonsai plant, pruned and trained just like the pros do it.
  • A bonsai pot that will fit the plant you chose.
  • Bonsai scissors to prune your new bonsai tree.
  • Wire to assist you in training your new bonsai tree where you want it to grow.

The best bonsai guide kit for beginners also comes with drip trays. Using drip trays will prevent mold from developing on your newly acquired plants because excess water will drain from the soil.

Again, look for bonsai starter kits that include everything you need. By doing so, the guide will make the process easier for you to know what you are doing when taking care of your new pet. To find a good supplier for trees and bonsai guide tree beginner’s kits, you should visit your local bonsai guide club and talk to them about it.

Must-Have Tools to Get Started with Bonsai

When grafting bonsai for the first time, it is essential to have the right and best beginner bonsai guide tool kit. Here are among the tools you will need:

1. Bonsai Wire

Bonsai Wire
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You can use bonsai wires in order to train your new tree and shape it as you see fit. It has a soft finish so that it does not damage the bark of the tree, which might happen when using regular metal wire.

Even though there are other types of bonsai plants out there, we will be focusing on the Ficus bonsai guide starter kit. This is because they’re easy to care for. Be sure to have this simple bonsai guide for beginners in mind whenever you start doing your bonsai.


2. Fertilizers

English Ivy Plant Care
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You should always use fertilizer when you are growing bonsai trees because they tend to grow very slowly. One of the most common fertilizers for indoor plants is Osmocote 19-6-12. You can find it in most gardening stores or even on Amazon.  


3. Pruners

bonsai pruner
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Pruners are essential for pruning your new bonsai tree. If you’re just about to start with bonsai, look for an inexpensive pair. You can buy better-quality pruners as you gain more experience grafting and shaping your plant. This will last longer and give you a cleaner cut.

4. Bonsai Scissors

bonsai scissor
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Bonsai scissors are much smaller than regular ones. You have to prune the leaves instead of the entire branch. If you’re about to start with bonsai, look for a set with a pointed tip. This will give you precise control over where you want to cut.


5. Root Cutters

How to Make a Pine Cone Bonsai - Transfer from pot and cutting roots
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A root cutter or also called a splitter is used to cut hard fibrous roots, split tree branches and remove wood. It also provides a clean flat cut to the large roots of bonsai trees. You have to take note that it is necessary to use this to avoid damage to the rest of the roots.

6. Scalpel

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A scalpel is a carving tool designed for bonsai. It has a very sharp blade that will help you easily shape the new roots and remove small shoots. Also, it will give you more grasp of control and as a result, you can achieve a more precise work or art piece.


7. Wire Cutters

How to Make a Pine Cone Bonsai - Wiring
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Wire cutters are used to cut aluminum and copper wires. These wires are mainly used in shaping and training bonsai trees. If you’re about to shape or train your bonsai, make sure that you use small bonsai wire cutters to avoid damaging it and as a result, it will give you a wonderful piece of creation.

8. Root Rake

root rake
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Root rake is a bonsai tool mainly used when repotting. It has sturdy metal lines that make it easy to use when removing dirt around the roots of the plant. It is necessary to use because it helps in maintaining the topsoil by gently stirring the bonsai soil. It also improves the water absorption and aeration in the process.


9. Bonsai Pots

empty bonsai pots
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It would be best to always buy high-quality pots when growing bonsai trees. They will last much longer than regular flower pots, and you won’t have to replace them often. It would help if you pick a container with drainage holes on the bottom. Excess water can drain away from the soil, preventing mold.


10. Drip Tray or Bonsai Drainage Pots

drainage pots
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The drip tray fits under your bonsai pot and has holes for water to drain away from the soil’s surface. This helps to prevent mold and is very helpful for beginners. This is because they tend to overwater their plants until they get used to watering them properly.

These are some tools you will need when grafting bonsai for beginners. A successful graft means happy plants and healthy trees. Make sure not to skip any steps when taking care of your new plant. Bonsai guide kits also come with detailed instructions about how often you should water it or how high you can place it. Be sure to follow them to ensure you don’t damage your plant.

The Best Bonsai Trees for Beginners

Finding the Right Bonsai Plant

Bonsai pros start by finding the right plant to train into bonsai shape using these simple steps:

  • The bonsai plant is necessary to have flexible branches. If not, they won’t bend, so don’t try!
  • It cannot have any flowers or fruit when you get it. These things grow yearly, so you’ll need to wait until it flowers naturally.
  • Find a plant already shaped like the bonsai tree you want. This way, you will only have to train the branches and not create them from scratch.
  •  The roots should be able to fit into your desired pot size with room for some soil.

Which plant will make a perfect first-time bonsai tree? The answer is simple: you can train any plant into something extraordinary. Even if they are not naturally shaped like a miniature version of the original. Some plants that work perfectly as beginners’ bonsai are as follows:  

  • Hibiscus              
  • Nandina                 
  • Jade               
  • Ficus salicifolia               
  • Crepe Myrtle               
  • Dwarf Jade                        
  • Brazilian Raintree                        
  • Creeping

If you want to learn more about beginner bonsai plants you can read the Best Bonsai Trees for Beginners!

Steps to Take After Choosing a Bonsai Tree

After finding the right type of bonsai plant, here are some simple steps to creating an indoor bonsai tree:

1. Choose the shape of your bonsai.

Bonsai has a lot of different bonsai shapes and for a beginner, you have to consider these things. Some of the suitable bonsai shapes for beginners are the following:

  • Formal Upright/Chokkan

This is the most common shape in bonsai trees which gives a rounded or conical style.

  • Informal Upright/Moyogi

This shape is most popular in bonsai trees. Its style shows an “S” shaped trunk and imitates trees grown in rough weather conditions.

  • Slanting/Shakan

The bonsai tree style shows how it dramatically slants in one direction. It also imitates a tree exposed to one way strong blown-off winds.

  • Cascade/Kengai

This bonsai style imitates a plant grown on a cliff as it bends downward when it grows. 

  • Semi-Cascade/Han-Kengai

This bonsai style is similar to cascade; the only difference is that its trunk will not steadily grow downwards as it will slightly bend sideways.

After selecting the shapes you prefer you can now decide its trunk height and angle, and after that, you can determine the bonsai branch placement. If necessary, please use a wire on the trunk to help it bend into place. The purpose of the wire is to change, create and set your preferred or envisioned shape on your bonsai. Also, note that you must use a wire that won’t rust or rip bark on plants. A good wire is necessary to prevent the wire from tearing or breaking.


2. Choose the right bonsai container or pot.

You must make sure you place the bonsai tree in a pot that fits its roots and will not be too heavy for the branches you’ve created. Your pot must have five to seven in a half cm deep or depending on your bonsai plants. Plant the bonsai deep enough in its suited pot, be sure that you cover about one-third of the trunk. It is essential to keep the bonsai soil moist, but not to let it get soggy or dry out completely, especially if the plant is still young. If you want to make your bonsai to be healthy and live for a long time be sure that your bonsai pot has holes, in the right shapes such as round, square, hexagonal depending on the trees, and used a stoneware burned, ceramic or porcelain as it easily absorbed and doesn’t hold water.

3. Have fun creating your bonsai! 

Use an excellent wire to create and set different shapes in small trunks or groups of three. There are two types of wires to consider and also their thickness ranges from 0.3 to 8 mm depending on the branch of the bonsai. 

  • First is the anodized aluminum which is recommended first to use by beginners as it is flexible and easy to use wire. It also makes the bonsai eye-pleasing because its wire is less noticeable on the bonsai branches.
  • Second is the annealed copper compared to the anodized aluminum which is easy and flexible. This wire is harder and ideal for thick branches of bonsai which maintains the place of branches efficiently.

Make miniature forests by planting multiple trees together inside one pot. You can also place stones or pebbles under bonsais with lower branches. In this way, the bonsai will look like they grow near a stream or other body forms of water.

4. Keep your bonsai hydrated and healthy

The first thing to do when you have already got your bonsai is to water it every day but with caution.  Please place it in a sunny window to get enough light to grow. You might have to move it around and change the lighting that it fits. Also, make sure that there is plenty of air circulation, but please avoid the cold drafts caught from open windows. 

In addition to watering your bonsai, you have to gain some control first to avoid damage to it. Keep in mind that by just looking and touching your finger at the soil you can easily tell if it already needs some water.  If the soil shows a dark color and wet texture it doesn’t require more water however if it feels slightly damp and looks brown it now needs some water. In over watering cases, make sure that the water drains from the holes and goes to the saucer and the soil transitions from wet to damp.

5. Cut your bonsai to keep its shape.

Prune your bonsai trees by clipping off branches that are too long or curving back into each other rather than out. Clip the buds that would create leaves to point up if they point down instead. If you’re unsure what to do, ask an expert for advice before changing anything on your plant. 

6. Use fertilizer for your bonsai

Feed your plants once every month with fertilizer made for bonsais, cacti, and succulents. Always make sure that you follow the package directions for the fertilizers. But most of the time, plants only need half the recommended dose. In addition, there are two types of fertilizers for bonsai.

  • One is the liquid fertilizers which can quickly be absorbed by the soil because of their fast-acting nutrients. However, this fertilizer needs frequent applications because every time you water the plants the nutrients are washed away.
  • Next, is the granular fertilizers using this you can control your application in the right amount and check where it is placed. 

7. Keep it indoors when it’s already winter. 

 Keep your bonsai indoors until all chance of frost has passed. Then move it into a greenhouse or sunny outdoor spot out of direct sunlight and wind. Wait four to six weeks for the bonsai to adjust to its new environment before bringing it back inside in the fall.

8. Move bonsai into new pots or containers when it gets crowded

Repot your bonsai every two years if it seems too crowded in its jar or container. Always use the proper soil made only for cacti and succulents, so their roots will not rot or burn from too much fertilizer. You have to take note that the soil mix used for cacti and succulents is way different. For cacti, it needs a gritty, porous type of soil with little organic matter, while succulents need a well-draining potting mixture with plenty of organic material like peat moss or composted manure.

9. Cut bonsai after its flower dies

 Before you can start pruning your bonsai to show off its beauty. You have to wait for your plant’s flowers to die naturally after blooming because doing so will encourage buds to bloom on next year’s growth or flower later on.

10. Move bonsai when it gets heavier

Transfer your bonsai to a larger pot or into the ground if it’s too heavy or top-heavy. And there also comes a time when you want to change the shape of your bonsai trunk, roots, branches, or leaves by grafting them onto another tree. This will give you more choices for changing the look of your plant. A good rule of thumb is to reuse bonsai material three times before replacing it with new growth.

Of course, there are hundreds of different types of trees that make great bonsai. So, some variation in these steps may be essential depending on what kind of plants you choose. Whether you decide to create an outdoor or indoor bonsai, follow these basic guidelines and enjoy this.

Caring For Your Bonsai Plant

The first thing any good bonsai guide needs to teach is how to care for your bonsai plant.  In addition, a guide will teach you how to prune your trees, care for bonsai during the winter months, and repot your bonsai when it is time.

Water Your Bonsai Trees According To Their Needs

Not every type of bonsai will need the same amount of water. Some are leafy and lush, while others are spiky or prickly.

There are different shapes, sizes, and colors, so what will work for one might not be best for another. So if you do not know what your trees are like and need, then always err on caution.

If your bonsai looks droopy, it might be time for a drink. If there is yellowing on the leaves or they look dry and crispy, give them some water.

Remember never to place your plant underwater or leave it there for very long. An excellent way to make sure it gets enough water without drowning its roots is by using a spray bottle instead of dumping water on top.

Repot Your Plant When Needed

Everyone’s plants grow at their rate. So, you will have to gauge when they need a bigger pot by how big they are getting or if their branches are looking spindly and sparse. In case roots are coming out of the holes or becoming visible, it’s time to move to a larger pot.

Repotting will make your plants healthier, but it will also eliminate any pests, bugs, or fungus that might be living inside there. Also, remember to use bonsai soil when repotting, so you do not shock the plant’s system with different types of dirt.

Avoid Harmful Chemicals

If your plants start appearing sickly or spotty after repotting them then this is a sign that they might have gotten chemicals in their system from the previous potting soil. To avoid this happening again try using organic bonsai fertilizer instead to give them the nutrients they need while keeping your plants healthy.

Sanitize Before Reusing Plant Material

When you are looking to make adjustments or changes to your plant, it might be time for pruning or grafting if needed. This will either change the look of the plant itself or the shape of its trunk, roots, branches, or leaves. But before you get started with any kind of work like this on an already grown bonsai plant then always sanitize it first.

Even though pruning your plants will not kill them like how removing flowers would. Cutting into an already diseased tree can still cause problems down the line. So by sanitizing them beforehand, you will not only keep them growing healthier but prevent a whole host of other problems from cropping up as well.

Keep In Mind The Plant’s Needs

If you do just one thing when it comes to caring for your bonsai plant then always remember these few rules about them. They need light, water, and food in order to grow properly.

If you can keep these three things in mind while also learning about your specific variety or kind of tree, then you will have a much easier time keeping them healthy and happy.


Bonsai is believed to be fragile and difficult to manage especially by beginners. But bonsai is a great choice to be a hobby as it is easy to take care of.  In addition, it relieves our mind and contributes to our health. Luckily, this simple bonsai guide will help a beginner like you to enjoy planting and training a bonsai.

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This website contains affiliate links. Any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I use these commissions to help maintain this site to provide helpful information to you.


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