Which plants are best suited for the formation of bonsai? There are many but we’ve selected 22 best trees for bonsai.
The Best Trees For Bonsai
Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) is chosen for bonsai primarily due to its lobed leaves, color, and its adaptability to become a bonsai. Also, there are countless varieties and the bonsai tree can be formed in a variety of styles.
Position: The Japanese Maple prefers a sunny, airy position but during great midday heat it should be placed in the light shade to prevent damaged leaves. The Japanese Maple is frost hardy even when trained as a bonsai, but it should be protected from strong frost (below -10° C / 14° F).
Styles: Formal upright, Informal Upright, Broom, Cascade
Bodhi tree (Ficus Religiosa)
Did you know the Ficus Religiosa was the tree under which Buddha received enlightenment? Due to this, it is commonly known as sacred fig, Peepal tree, and Bo-tree. It makes an excellent bonsai.
The Bodhi is a tough plant that grows fast and forms aerial roots. It has attractive shiny heart-shaped foliage that appears in bronze color, which later turns into glossy green as the leaves mature. Also, the leaves can be easily reduced in bonsai culture.
Position: As it is a tropical tree that loves the sun and heat. Place it in a position that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight daily (the more the better) and provides protection from freezing temperatures.
Styles: Formal upright, Informal Upright, Cascade, Semi-cascade, Broom, Rock-over-root, Slanting, Twin-trunk, Literati, and Banyan style.
Cotoneaster horizontalis is often formed in the cascade style or planted on the rock, thus called “rock cotoneaster. It is a deciduous shrub that is suitable for bonsai culture because of its forgiving nature (very suitable for beginners), it looks great due to its long-lasting color, grows best in temperate regions.
Position: It can be grown in full sun or part shade, but flowers best in full sun positions. Protection from frost is required if long cold spells are expected.
Styles: Informal Upright, Slanting, Cascade, Semi-cascade, Literati, Group planting, Saikei.
Tall, gigantic and fabled African tree, the great baobab is truly adaptable to become a bonsai. Easy to care and maintain in warm climates, the baobab tree bonsai requires some care in winter in cooler zones. Learn everything about growing this amazing tree here.
Position: If you live in a warm climate just keep it in the sun, this, largest succulent in our world will thrive. However, if you live in a temperate zone, place the pot indoors in winter.
Styles: Broom, Informal upright, Baobab style
Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
This tall stately tree becomes large to medium sized bonsai specimen and best presented in the style of an upright plant. Young shoots can be easily formed and the leaves in autumn turn to golden yellow color. Keep in mind, the beech tree is a slow grower and takes time.
Position: Keep your beech tree bonsai in semi-shade to full sun position, providing a space that is sheltered from the intense afternoon sun, especially in summer.
Styles: *Group planting, Formal upright, Informal upright, Slanting, Cascade, Semi-cascade
Not only for hedging, boxwood can also become a bonsai. Super adaptable to containers, any species of this genus is easy to care for and maintain and becomes a handsome bonsai. If you are in making your first bonsai, try boxwood.
Position: The boxwood is an outdoor plant that is tough and resilient and withstands the sun as well as shade, however, in its natural environment it grows under the canopy of trees so it is better if you place the plant in partial sun. As boxwoods don’t tolerate severely cold temperatures protect the plant in winter.
Styles: Informal upright, Formal upright, Slanting
Pomegranate is one of the nicest fruit trees and easiest one to make into a bonsai. Because it has shallow root system it adapts well to bonsai culture. This robust plant with eye-catching bark, stunning red flowers, and gorgeous fruits looks magnificent.
Position: It should be kept outside in full sun for the whole year except when the temperature drops below 41 F (5 C) bring the tree indoors, in a bright position.
Styles: Informal Upright, Semi-cascade, Multi-trunks, Slanting, Deadwood and twisted trunk.
Junipers are one of the most popular trees for bonsai. It is a genus of 50+ species of evergreen coniferous shrubs of which “Juniper Procumbens Nana” is very popular among beginners who are just starting out to make a bonsai tree. All junipers are easy to train and care and makes very appealing bonsai.
Position: Junipers cannot live indoors. Best to place them in a sunny spot with shade from afternoon sun. Protect the tree once temperatures drop below 14 F in winter.
Styles: Junipers can be made into a variety of styles, including informal upright, slanting, semi-cascade, full-cascade, driftwood, twin, and triple trunk.
It is probably one of the most attractive trees among the tropical bonsai growers. Easy to style, resistant to negligence and mistakes and probably the best plant for both beginners and advanced level bonsai growers. You can learn the basics of bonsai making by doing experiments on it and forming it in different styles.
Position: If growing in warm climate keeps it in partial sun. You can also keep it indoors, especially in cool temperate climate, in a well-lit position but out of direct sunlight.
Styles: Formal upright, Informal Upright, Slanting, Cascade, Semi-cascade, Broom, Rock-over-root, Clasped-to-rock, Twin-trunk, Clump, Sinuous, Straight Line, Group planting, Saikei
Benjamin Ficus (Ficus Benjamina) is one more popular plant you should consider. It is a beautiful evergreen tree that makes a wide canopy of fine branches that cascade down towards the ground giving it the name weeping fig.
Position: It can be grown either outdoors or indoors on a windowsill that gets bright light.
Styles: Formal upright, Cascade, Semi-cascade, Broom, Rock-over-root, Informal Upright, Slanting, Twin-trunk, Clump and Group planting.
Jade tree (Crassula ovata) is a succulent plant with thick fleshy stems and leaves. Is an easy-care evergreen bonsai. Its hardiness and thick trunk give it mature look quickly.
Position: Tree Jade can be grown indoors, although it enjoys sunny positions and high temperatures. Keep temperatures above 41 F (5 C) or all the times.
Styles: It can be trained into many styles including informal upright, clump, slanting and root over rock.
Crape myrtle is one of the best trees for bonsai. Its key features are exquisite branch formation, showy flowers of pink, white or purple and moreover it shed outer layers of bark from time to time and the color of the underlying bark can vary from gray, rusty brown to almost pink.
Position: Crepe Myrtle enjoys the full sun for the formation of flowers. Although it can be kept indoors on a sunny windowsill. In winter maintain the temperature of 45-54 F and low light to stimulate dormancy. Move it to good light again in spring when buds begin to swell.
Styles: Cascade, slanting, root over rock, informal upright, curved trunk can be made with this tree.
Fukien tea (Carmona retusa)
One of the best plants, Fukien Tea is a great addition to any bonsai collection that makes great small indoor bonsai. Its small dark-green shiny leaves have tiny white dots on them. Small white flowers bloom all year round and sometimes produce tiny red berries.
Position: Fukien Tea is an indoor bonsai but can be kept outside all year round in warm climates. It needs bright sunny position in the house. The perfect temperature is around 50 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Styles: It is well suited for the informal upright, broom and literati.
One of the most splendid elms, this east Asian native becomes a spectacular bonsai easily. This ideal plant is really forgiving and doesn’t mind regular pruning and styling.
Position: Keep the plant in a spot that receives the sun in the morning and in the evening if possible. Chinese elm can tolerate the wide range of temperatures but doesn’t like cold drafts.
Styles: Broom, Informal Upright, Cascade, Semi Cascade
Bougainvillea is one of the best bonsai plants. So colorful and pretty, its beautiful papery flowers of many colors make an attractive display, appear incessantly, especially in favorable climates. Bougainvillea grows fast, its branches are easy to wire and it can be made into almost any style.
Position: Place it in a spot that receives at least 5-6 hours of sunlight. Protect it from freezing temperatures.
Styles: Bougainvillea is suitable for any traditional style of bonsai except formal upright.
Dwarf Schefflera (Schefflera arboricola) is one of the most popular indoor bonsai trees. It is easy to grow, drought resistant and difficult to kill which makes it a perfect bonsai plant for beginners. It is easy to train too and forms aerial roots, it is very good for making a dramatic banyan style bonsai.
Position: Position your dwarf Schefflera bonsai in bright, indirect light and protect from direct sun. It can also survive in low light conditions.
Styles: Banyan, Informal Upright, Cascade, Semi-cascade, Rock-over-root, Clasped-to-rock, Clump, Group planting.
Indian Banyan (Ficus benghalensis)
Banyan tree, which is also called “Bargad/Bar” in the local language is the national tree of India. It is one of the largest tree species. The tree releases its aerial roots and once these roots reach the ground they grow into the woody trunk. The tree naturally looks old and becomes an amazing bonsai specimen.
Position: The tree requires warm humid climate to thrive. If you live in a cool climate you can try to grow it with care in winter. Place the plant in a spot that receives all day long sun but shade in the afternoon.
Style: Banyan style, Informal Upright, Cascade, Semi-cascade
Thick bulbous trunk, vibrant blooms, and glossy foliage makes the Adenium an ideal tree for bonsai. This flowering tree creates fast and natural looking bonsai with minimal efforts.
Position: It needs a sunny position sheltered from the wind. If growing in non-tropical climate, in winter, bring the tree inside and maintain the temperature around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Styles: Informal Upright, Twin Trunk, Slanting, Cascade, Baobab style.
Olive bonsai is easy to care for and very strong so it is a suitable choice for use as bonsai. Their smooth trunk and good branch structure make them a spectacular bonsai.
Position: Hardy in zone 9, an olive tree can be successfully grown as an indoor plant, but it is best to keep it outdoors in full sun.
Styles: Formal upright, Informal Upright, Slanting, Cascade, Semi-cascade, Rock-over-root, Clasped-to-rock, Twin-trunk, Clump, Straight Line, Group planting, Saikei
Azalea is a must-have Bonsai and looks unbelievably stunning. It is popular for its growth habit and bountiful blooms that come in many different colors, shapes, sizes, and patterns. It requires plenty of care and acidic soil to thrive well.
Position: Azalea needs to be outdoors in a sunny spot that gets afternoon shade to produce its beautiful blooms.
Styles: Root-over-rock, Informal Upright, Slanting, Semi Cascade, Windswept, Multiple Trunks.
Not very popular but guava tree becomes an excellent bonsai and doesn’t require too much care or maintenance. It is even possible to make it produce fruits that make an amazing display.
Position: The guava is a tropical plant and therefore, it should be placed outdoors in a location that is sunny. If you live in a temperate region keep your guava bonsai indoors in winter.
Styles: Informal Upright, Formal Upright, Slanting, Semi-cascade, Broom
Pines make a wonderful bonsai. However, they are not ideal for beginners. Pines are a classic bonsai species and their rugged, rough bark and trunk make them appear old.
Position: Place the pine outdoors in full sun, where it will get good air circulation.
Styles: Formal upright, Informal Upright, Slanting, Cascade, Semi-cascade, Literate, Rock-over-root, Clasped-to-rock, Twin-trunk, Clump, Group planting, Saikei
Read next: How to Maintain Houseplants Alive in Winters