The Basics of Bonsai


by Green Country Bonsai Society


Bonsai literally means “tree in a tray” or “tree in a pot,” but is much more. Bonsai is art and horticultural practice in one. As generally practiced today, the bonsai artist attempts to produce a plant that represents a mature fully developed tree from nature, but within the confines of a relatively small container.


Bonsai are living trees, and since no trees are native to the indoors, with the exception of tropical varieties, they must live outside. Bonsai require the full range of seasons just as the trees in our yards including a cold period of dormancy. Deciduous species will display fall colors, and then drop their leaves. Flowering varieties will bloom in season and may bear fruit.


Growing bonsai requires commitment to their needs. Bonsai are living things and require all the care of the average child or pet but are less portable. It is very relaxing to go out among the trees after work. You can peer through a forest, admire a tree clinging to a mountainside, or lose yourself under a seaside cypress, all on your backyard patio. While watering is a daily requirement in hot weather, and spring can be busy with repotting, most maintenance such as pinching and weeding can be done as time allows. You can pick a tree or two to work on and pinch or weed as necessary, and at the same time, evaluate its progress and health, and consider styling options such as pruning or wiring.

While we recommend you start and style your own bonsai instead of buying one, the requirements for success are the same. If you have a tree and want to learn more or would like to start your own, we invite you to attend our meetings. The Green Country Bonsai Society meets at 7:00 pm on the first Monday of each month in the Tulsa Garden Center. If you have a tree and need advice, bring it to a meeting. If you aren’t ready to jump in, or would simply like to see some bonsai, please attend our fall show on October 5th from 10:00 am–4:00 pm.


1. Bonsai are not a type of tree, but rather a method of growing a tree.

2. Bonsai are not naturally small but require training to maintain their size.

3. Bonsai age is not as important as the impression of age.

4. Bonsai are not houseplants.

5. Bonsai are never “finished”.

Dylan AxsomComment