23 of the Smallest Bonsai Trees

The practice of bonsai is an ancient art form first practiced in Eastern cultures. It is a visual representation of the balance of nature, and great skill has gone into the making of many of these miniature tree replications. Bonsai trees have long been valued not only for their aesthetics but also the harmony and balance they bring to the spaces they are grown within.

Many bonsai can be grown directly in a garden with careful pruning and planning, but others make wonderful houseplants. The smallest bonsai trees make the best tabletop decoration to show off their delicate growth and colorful foliage. The following examples bring to life many of the plants you can use to grow your own.

Friendly Forest

Italian Cypress Evergreen Bonsai Tree
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The small nature of bonsai and their shallow root systems allow you to plant multiples together, such as these tiny evergreens. Influenced to grow upright as they would in nature, this little forest is balanced by a well-manicured forest floor and well-placed rock for further interest.

Simple Branches

a bonsai tree with simple branches in blue pot

Trimmed to showcase delicate, reaching branches, this tiny tree is the perfect centerpiece. Your choice of container is also a large part of the bonsai art form, and the graceful arch and curve of the bowl showcase this tree well.

Creeping Forth

a bonsai tree in a moon shape brown container

Although this is not a traditional container, this tiny evergreen has been carefully cultivated to look as it is slowly creeping from the depths of a crater. Reaching its branches forth, it has been well trimmed to show the delicate curves of the branch and interesting foliage.

On the Banks of the River

Japanese Kingsville Boxwood Planted on a Rock Slab
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Container options truly are a part of the overall effect, and unique planter looks as if it is curving along the banks of a river- complete with variations in the depths of its edges. The tiny bonsai is the perfect choice to bring to life this effect.

All Season Interest

japanese white pine bonsai

Evergreen trees are an obvious choice for bonsai for a variety of reasons. They are slow growing and therefore easy to shape, trim, prune, and train to shape. They also keep their color year-round, providing not only textural interest but also foliage leaf and color.

Large and Glossy Foliage

Golden Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai Tree
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Just about any plant can be grown into a bonsai. Even if your plant of choice has large leaves, careful cultivation from a seedling can help support the growth of the branches that will be strong enough to support them. Pick and choose the most favorable growth and allow your plant to grow upwards, rather than out.

Bonsai Collection

a various collection of bonsai under the rays of the sunlight

Once you begin to collect and grow bonsai, you’ll want to keep adding to your forest. Each of these plants is unique in species, shape, form, color, and texture and look wonderful together when shown off. No matter whether you choose to stagger their appearance or line them up along a shelf, they are sure to be a main focal point.

The Smallest Grove

Flowering Lavender Star Flower Bonsai 3 Tree Forest Group
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You can turn your favorite fruit trees into bonsai, and even though they won’t produce a large crop, they most certainly will provide you a fruit or two to enjoy. Plant a small grove to enjoy year-round and carefully cultivate for blooms and production each spring and summer.

Shady Spots

an outdoor bonsai providing a little shade

If allowed to grow to its full potential, this tree looks like the perfect candidate to take a shady rest under during a sunny day. It also is the perfect candidate to showcase as a table centerpiece, or as part of a landscaped garden when grown in bonsai form.

Bonsai Nursery

Bonsai tree nursery

The cultivation of your bonsai trees is truly a lifelong endeavor. These plants will continue to grow when properly cared for, and even though they may eventually reach a mature stage with very little new vigorous growth, they still will require trimming, shaping, and repotting. Although caring for bonsai is not strenuous, it does require attention to detail and a long term commitment.

Pick Your Choice

View of Bonsai trees in the street market

Many people feel a bit intimidated with starting their own saplings but gain confidence in the care of their tree as it matures. Bonsai popularity has resulted in many nurseries and easy access to maturing and matured bonsai trees that you can start your new obsession with!

Landscape Interest

Japanese Kingsville Boxwood Bonsai Tree
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Bonsai allows for a lot of creative imagination to be incorporated into their habitat. The addition of rocks, statuary, and even miniature scenes are easy to envision. If your bonsai reminds you of anything, let your creative juices flow and roll with it to create exactly what you see.

Cliff Hanger

Photograph of a traditional japanese bonsai tree

This bonsai looks like nothing less than a windswept tree reaching across an open abyss. The rougher edges of this unique planter complete the look, and all you need to do is place the tree along the edge of a shelf or countertop.

Symmetry and Balance

Exhibition of japanese bonsai trees

This tiny tree is grown fairly symmetrical with two upswept branches and a nicely domed crown. Although many bonsai are interesting due to their unique curves, others mimic their natural growth habits and are prompted to grow in a similar, albeit dwarfed, shape.

Miniature Scenes

Ficus Oriental Bonsai Tree - Water Bonsai Pot
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Creating miniature scenes with bonsai is a popular way to showcase your interests in a creative manner. Create your own little reminder of your favorite escape to gaze upon during a long afternoon in the office or when you’d rather just be doing something surrounded by nature.

Ancient Wisdom

Exhibition of japanese bonsai trees

Part of the bonsai interest is the thickening of the trunks as the trees mature. Trunks will continue to widen while you suppress the crown, creating ancient inspired growth. Choose containers that are wider than they are tall to showcase your trunks and their associated root structure.

Simple Starter

a bonsai tree starting to grow planted in blue pot
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Sometimes the draw of these miniaturized plants is simply the size, rather than the fantastic shapes they can be grown into. This very simple tree is grown to mimic its natural growth and showcases its beauty in its carefully chosen branches.

Years of Care

A full grown bonsai tree in the shade
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Although small, bonsai takes many years of cultivation and care to look like this mature ‘giant’. Just like a full grown tree, bonsai can take up to 20 or more years to reach their full potential depending on the species you are working with. There are some bonsai still in existence that are over 1000 years old!

Challenging Choice

a tiny bonsai in the palm
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More of a challenge than anything, this tiny bonsai was most likely carefully cultivated from a larger tree cutting and then planted after it began to take root. One of the biggest cares you must take when working with small, shallow trees and their shallow roots are how you water. Be sure to use special planting sunstraights for bonsai.

Fruiting Options

Pyracantha Coccinea Rare Scarlet FIRETHORN Bonsai Berry ECC
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Most woody perennials make good bonsai options, you don’t have to use a tree species to get the desired bonsai effect. If you love the idea of changing foliage colors, flowering, and fruiting, then cotoneaster and other berry-bearing bushes are a great choice to use.

Tiny Choices

a very small bonsai plan in the hand
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This is yet another challenging growth option, but with care and attention to the watering can be done. If you are looking for a new way to cultivate bonsai and would like to try your hand at a truly miniaturized version, this is a great place to start.

Blooming Beauty

Miniature rose seeds, A little cute plants for miniature garden plant
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Fit for a doll’s house, this tiny branch has been cared for to help bring forth a cluster of spring blossoms. Although growing bonsai at this scale is considered a job for experts, they most definitely can be enjoyed by all who see them.

Bringing Forth Blooms

a minuscule bonsai supports multiple clusters of branching blooms
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Highly challenging, this minuscule bonsai supports multiple clusters of branching blooms. Knowing how to trim, water, and feed is crucial to bringing these trees to this point as it is quite challenging to do so. If you aspire to grow some of the smallest bonsai, practice first with larger versions to understand the care needed to attempt such an undertaking.

Conclusion

Bonsai is an advanced art form that balances nature with careful cultivation and aesthetic choice and preference that results in miniaturized versions of many different species of woody plants and trees. The smallest of these take carefully grown plants and trees from saplings and regular care to create beautiful versions of their larger selves.

Caring for bonsai does not have to be difficult, but it is a long term commitment and requires the knowledge of plant growth- and careful consideration of pruning, trimming, watering, and replanting. Let us know which of the above were your favorite, and why bonsai is an interesting art form for you. As always, please share!

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