Have you ever wondered why do so many people enjoy growing bonsai trees? Why do they spend their time trimming and pruning these small trees? First of all, let’s see what a bonsai is. Bonsai are miniature trees that are kept and grown in pots or other containers, trimmed in order to remain small, then styled and sculpted to various different shapes. It is basically the product of the “sculptor’s” imagination.
Growing bonsai trees is not just a hobby, contrary to many beliefs, but an actual art; an art that originated from China many centuries ago and then spread in other Asian countries, until it has become a very popular Japanese art. Bonsai are not dwarf plants; they are specially shaped to stay small.
Basically any type of tree and other plants can be cultivated as a bonsai, from flowering to pine trees, quince, maple trees or aromatic plants like rosemary.
If you think about growing your own bonsai tree, it’s advisable to find out which one would better suit your environmental conditions, such as climate, temperatures, humidity, light, and so on. There are so many to choose from, so let’s take a look at some of the most common bonsai types out there, and their main characteristics:
Serissa bonsai is an evergreen or semi-evergreen tree that has a bit of a bad reputation amongst bonsai tree growers, but that can be just because they haven’t been grown in the right conditions. It is native to South East Asia, and it grows mostly in moist and warm areas.
They have small oval leaves of a shiny green, and they ramify pretty quickly, in all directions. The trunk is grey, but tends to get lighter with time. The leaves have a bit of an unpleasant smell. They produce flowers 2 to 3 times per year and they have a long flowering time. The flowers are small, white and funnel-shaped.
Zelkova bonsai has a pretty good resemblance to the Chinese Elm. They are actually related, but the difference between them is that the first has single-toothed pointed leaves, while the latter has double-toothed ones.
It is and outdoor tree but can be easily used to indoor conditions. It is actually better to have it protected during the winter, so even if it grows outside, you can move it inside for the colder period of the year.
They are deciduous, semi-evergreen trees, native to China and Japan, but found now in Mediterranean countries in Southern Europe, like Italy and Greece, but also Turkey and other countries in Asia.
Gardenia bonsai is a tropical plant, an evergreen shrub native from Japan and China, and is one of the most desired plants in the bonsai world, however, is not the easiest one to grow. It requires direct exposure to sun light for a few hours per day (3 to 4 hours), which will help increase their flower and foliage growth, but at the same time, it needs to be grown in moderate temperatures, and needs a lot of humidity.
Gardenia bonsai produces beautiful silky white flowers, with a strong delightful scent, which makes it an exquisite bonsai for your house or even the office, giving it a pleasant Asian touch. It has glossy waxy leaves, dark green in color.
Shohin and Mame Bonsai (Miniature bonsai)
Shohin and Mame are two of the main Japanese categories of miniature bonsai. They are absolute exquisite pieces of art, considered to be very hard to create and grow, but absolutely worth the challenge.
The word shohin means “small thing”, and a Shohin bonsai can reach a height of maximum 8 to 10 inches. “Mame” means “bean”, and, according to its name, Mame bonsai is quite tiny, growing up to 4 inches tall. They can fit into the palm of your hands.
Because of their small size, they need to be grown in smaller pots, so they need to be watered more regularly. They need more protection from the sun, especially the really small ones, and need to be kept out of wind, which may dry them up or even tip them over. Due to their small size, you can keep many of them in your house or apartment, which creates diversity and an oasis like feeling.
Sakura Bonsai, commonly called Cherry Blossom Bonsai or simply Cherry Tree Bonsai, is very common and loved in Easter Asian countries like China, Japan or Korea, which they are native from. Here, every spring cherry blossom festivals take place, as a celebration for the breath taking blooming of the trees. The word “sakura” actually means “cherry blossom” in Japanese language.
Sakura Bonsai are deciduous trees, part of the “prunus” species (peaches, apricots, almonds, are all part of that species), with beautiful white and pink flowers blooming at spring time, leaving behind a small black fruit. Their leaves turn different colors of red or yellow notes. Japanese people use to pickle both the cherry blossom and the leaves.
Don’t confuse these trees with Brush Cherries, which are different species altogether!
Bonsai Oaks are absolutely stunning during autumn. Their foliage is medium to dark green, but turns all sorts of yellow, orange and light green fading shades. It is absolutely breath-taking.
It is a hardy tree that can surpass extreme climatic conditions, though it’s still best kept inside during winters. Though appreciates full sunlight, they do very well in shady areas as well, and moist conditions don’t bother them as much as other bonsai.
The English Oak, the White Oak and the Cork oak are some of the most commonly grown. They have big trunks and not very large leaves, but their branches fracture pretty easily.
They are widely spread around Europe and the USA