The Best Bonsai Trees for Beginners - Backyard Boss
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The Best Bonsai Trees for Beginners

Bonsai gardening is an impressive hobby that can be surprisingly addictive, hypnotic, and therapeutic! Bonsai growers would agree that it’s an art form that survived centuries, and hence it truly can’t be ignored!

You’d be amazed to know that bonsai plants aren’t that difficult to grow if you have enough dedication and choose the right tree and size. If you’re interested in it, here are some bonsai trees for beginners that can thrive even if you’re starting from scratch.

Baby Jade Bonsai

Woody Succulents With Unique Oval Leaves

Jade bonsai tree
Image Credit: allisonmeier via Creative Commons

A hardy and sun-loving tropical plant with a thick trunk that’s very responsive to pruning.

The Baby Jade bonsai also referred to as the Dwarf Jade bonsai and known scientifically as the Portulacaria afra, is a woody succulent that originates from South Africa.

As succulents, these indoor plants store their water in their thick trunks, helping them develop a sturdy bark. Their foliage is also unique since few other bonsai trees grow glossy oval leaf clusters like theirs. When pruned, these tropical trees tend to grow more branches than originally, making them easily achieve a thick and full bonsai look.

This Baby Jade plant is best kept indoors and is, fortunately, very forgiving to bad watering habits or accidental overwatering, making them an ideal choice for beginners.

Pro-Tip: Once every month, spray your bonsai with a non-toxic pest repellant to keep aphids, spider mites, and other similar pests away. When spraying, make sure the soil is moist and not dry, as the repellant can burn the roots.

Chinese Elm Bonsai

Undemanding and Slow-Growing Bonsai

Chinese Elm Bonsai
Image Credit: jeremy_norbury via Creative Commons

Weather-tolerant East Asian Elm trees that allow year-round pruning and need lots of direct sunlight.

Many kinds of Elm are used for bonsai, but the most popular and traditional choice is undoubtedly the Chinese Elm bonsai tree.

Chinese Elm bonsai are tough indoor and outdoor plants that originated from East Asia, making them tolerant to most climates as long as they’re kept inside for the winter. The Chinese Elm bonsai’s most notable feature is its refined textured look.

These beautiful trees grow small oval leaf clusters and have naturally S-shaped trunks with pale corked bark. While they mature, this bark chips away to reveal gorgeous warm tones. These trees grow very slowly, which gives you ample time for wire training them.

Despite growing at such a slow pace, they’re absolutely beautiful, making them an ideal bonsai tree for beginners!

Pro-Tip: If this is your dream bonsai tree, remember they love bright places. Avoid placing them in dark places. Placing them where they get plenty of light will make them happy. Also, while these plants love light, during the summer months work out a way where they get the light minus the heat!

Common Boxwood Bonsai

Fast-Growing Ornamental Tree

Common Boxwood Bonsai
Image Credit: ragesoss via Creative Commons

Hardy and light-tolerant trees with an easily trained trunk and pompom-shaped foliage with small leaves.

The Common Boxwood is a go-to European tree for landscaping. In bonsai, the Common Boxwood is adored for its naturally curling tree trunk and quick-growing abilities.

These sturdy tree trunks have a pale wood color and are great for creative bonsai shapes. As long as you wire them while their bark is soft, it should be easy to train them.

Additionally, Common Boxwood bonsai grow small leaf clusters and can be trained to cover your tree like a pompom. They thrive in a lot of water, making it great for those who overwater their plants, and are ideal bonsai for beginners who’re excited to learn about shaping.

Pro-Tip: These trees love their homes (pots) but if you fancy giving them a new home, ensure there’s a gap of at least 2-3 years between new pots! If you re-pot these trees frequently, they’ll grow vigorously.

Buddha’s Hand Bonsai

Broad-Leaved Plant That Loves Humidity

Buddha’s Hand Bonsai
Image Credit: Parisette via Wikipedia

Uncommon yet easily maintained perennial evergreens with a unique aerial trunk and glossy oval-shaped leaves.

Buddha’s Hand Bonsai is also called citrus medica var. sarcodactylis, fingered citron, or Buddha’s Palm. Please do not mistake this bonsai for Buddha’s Ear, Buddha’s First Lily, Chinese Taro, Hooded Dwarf Elephant Ear, and Nai Habarala.

Buddha’s Hand bonsai hails from Southeast Asia, meaning it thrives in tropical climates. They have unique aerial stems and grow large deep green leaves with distinct veins. Once these take root, a fully-grown bonsai could outgrow the area if left unkempt. Buddha’s Hand grows edible yellow fruits that look like tentacles or fingers.

These fruits are highly fragrant when mature and can be eaten raw, or used in potpourri. They have medicinal values too, but we don’t recommend you experiment with them without your doctor’s approval.

Although they can live both indoors and outdoors, they prefer to be placed in a semi-shaded location that gives them protection when the afternoon sun comes out, especially during the summer months.

Pro-Tip: Buddha’s Ear can also grow flowers and berries that you shouldn’t ingest since they’re poisonous. Luckily, these berries are easy to spot and pick off. Keep Buddha’s Ear away from children and pets.

Ficus Bonsai

Go-to Fig for Novices

Ficus bonsai
Lakeisha Ethans for Backyard Boss

Low-maintenance bonsai with striking aerial roots and a thick banyan trunk system that can be fused with wire.

Ficus bonsai trees are the most common choice for bonsai gardeners with zero experience because of their hardy nature.

The Ficus bonsai is also named the Chinese Banyan or the Common Fig. They mature very quickly and develop thick woody trunks with deep green pointed leaves.

Ficus trees are great for indoor gardening and don’t require regular pruning. As long as their room temperature and environment are warm, they will grow healthy and full foliage even without proper care.

These trees can be trained to grow their aerial roots over decorative rocks. Since they’re banyans, expect them to grow countless accessory trunks that you can wire train and fuse together for a robust trunk look.

Pro-Tip: If you’d like your bonsai to have a thick trunk (unlike the one in the image above), let it freely grow for a couple of years before pruning. If you desire a thin trunk like the one in the image above, regular pruning will help maintain the tree’s glory.

Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai

Fuss-Free Flowering Evergreens

Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai
Image Credit: Emmanuelm via Wikipedia

Exotic humidity-loving bonsai that grow a natural domed crown of thick foliage with thin aerial roots.

The Hawaiian Umbrella bonsai is also called the Dwarf Umbrella tree and, when left in the wild, matures into a small shrub with leathery evergreen leaves.

This miniature tree gets its name from its naturally umbrella-shaped foliage and thin stems. Its aerial roots make it look fantastic, especially once it grows flower clusters and berries during summer. When indoor gardening, imitate subtropical conditions for best results.

Although its trunks are difficult to shape, beginners love Hawaiian Umbrella bonsai since it’s so reactive and will show clear signs of under or overwatering, gently correcting your mistake. As long as you keep its soil moist, aerated, and loose (to prevent root rot), this will grow beautifully in your care!

Pro-Tip: These trees don’t like to be disturbed much and so re-pot them once every two years to keep them happy. Propagation works like a charm with these bonsai trees. Use the seed or the cutting either in soil or a glass of water to pave the way for a new Hawaiian Umbrella bonsai.

Japanese Red Maple Bonsai

Colorful Ornamental Bonsai Tree

Japanese Red Maple Bonsai
Image Credit: Ryan Somma via Creative Commons

East Asian tree that’s best grown outdoors and has five-pointed leaves that shift from green to red over time.

Japanese Red Maple bonsai are known for their gorgeous star-like leaves that slowly turn from bright green into yellow, orange, and red leaves. In spring, these deciduous trees also bloom dainty flower clusters.

This attractive tree is deceptively easy to grow. This type of tree grows best in windy spaces with lots of sunlight and water. It’s even thirsty enough to survive slight overwatering, especially while it’s young.

Although this sturdy tree is frost tolerant and best for the outdoors, it’s better off in the shade when temperatures are below freezing.

These trees naturally grow unique trunk structures and don’t require wire training, which is a huge relief for beginner bonsai gardeners. Instead, these will cultivate your pruning technique.

Pro-Tip: These trees prefer wet or moist soil underwatering, or overwatering can quickly kill them. As far as re-potting is concerned, older trees can be re-potted every 2.5 years, and younger trees can be re-potted every alternate year in spring.

Juniper Bonsai

Sun-Loving Bonsai Meant for the Outdoors

Juniper Bonsai
Image Credit: M. Carter Brown via Creative Commons

Traditional bonsai trees are known for their manicured needled foliage and require little involvement to mature.

Juniper bonsai are some of the easiest trees to find and grow in a container. In their natural habitat, they’re voluminous shrubs and trees with flexible branches, trunks, and needle-tipped foliage.

Juniper bonsai are cypress evergreen trees that love sunlight. These are great for outdoor bonsai gardens and can be left out all year so long as protective measures are taken during cold temperatures.

When they’re trained early on, they can be molded into intricately twisting and bending shapes while developing your wiring skills.

If you’re concerned about proper pruning, know that these can survive heavy-handed grooming and aggressive pruning sessions. Pruning this will paint a clear picture of the delicacy and care needed when grooming bonsai.

Pro-Tip: You need sharp tools to prune this bonsai but don’t trim it entirely. This tree won’t bud from branches that are bare so unless you want certain branches gone, ensure there’s foliage left to encourage growth.

In Summary

Bonsai gardens can be decades old and still look young, beautiful, and fresh, especially with the right set of tools! The beauty of bonsai is once you grow them, they’ll be with you for years, some even lasting for 15 to 30 years. If you keep them in the right conditions, they could even outlive you!