Plants that can be used for bonsai

Acer palmatum

The Bonsai They are trees that live in shallow trays, and that remind us of landscapes rather than nature, since each one has its own defined style. This style is not forced; In other words, the designer has respected the movement of the trunk of the plant, making it look very natural. But what types of plants can we use as Bonsai? In summary, it could be said that all those woody plants can be candidates to become one of them.



Of course, the trees They are at the top of the list: their trunk is woody and the vast majority accept pruning well. But ... not all are suitable for Bonsai, and less if we do not have the necessary knowledge for its cultivation. We will exclude those that have some of these characteristics:

  • large leaves (such as those of the Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) or those of some Ficus like the (Ficus elastica)
  • excessively rapid growth (such as albizia procera)
  • life expectancy of two to four decades (as Leucaena leucocephala)

Some of the best most used candidates for Bonsai are:

  • All kinds of maples (either Acer palmatum, Acer ginnala, Acer pseudoplatanus, ...)
  • Small-leaved ficus (like the ficus retusa o Ficus benjamina)
  • Olmos
  • liquidambar
  • serissa phoetida



The shrubbery They are exceptional plants to use as Bonsai, as most have small leaves, and very controllable growth. Without forgetting that many of them have very ornamental leaves and / or flowers. Some of the most used are:

  • Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica)
  • Camelia
  • berberis
  • Boxwood
  • Forsythia



Conifers, the most primitive type of plant existing today, have been used for many centuries in the Bonsai technique. Today, in the most prestigious exhibitions, specimens of two or three millennia old can be seen. All conifers can be formed as Bonsai. However, some of the most used are:

  • Pinus silvestris
  • propagating through a pine forest (Pinus halepensis).
  • Pinea pine
  • taxodium (Swamp cypress)
  • Taxus (Yew)
  • cupressus (Cypress)

Climbing plants

Bougainvillea bonsai

Our climbing plants They can be used as Bonsai, but… they have a small added difficulty: they have to be pruned regularly to control their "climbing instinct", and thus concentrate their energy on the trunk so that it can thicken. Not all climbing plants can be used; only those that have a woody trunk. For instance:

  • Jasminum nudiflorum (Jasmine)
  • Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea)
  • Wisteria
  • Parthenocissus tricuspidata (Virgin vine)

Final Tips


Now that we have an idea of ​​which plants can be used as Bonsai, and which ones are better to leave for later, we can go in search of our nursery plant that will help us to learn and gain experience.

My advice is don't go looking for an expensive plant. In the nurseries there are usually many plants in offers or labeled as »Opportunity plant» which are very discounted, which can serve you. It is highly recommended that you acquire native plants to begin with. They are the ones that will give you the least problems, and with which you will enjoy the most. If you don't know what they are, ask the nursery staff any questions you have.

It is important that, whatever the price, look healthy. If you can, take it out of the pot and check that the root ball does not crumble. Take the opportunity to make sure that it has many roots and that they are in good health. Take a good look at the branches and leaves, the top and the underside. If they look yellow and / or have a lot of dryness, it is a sign that you are not having a good time.

Once at home, you can move it to a larger pot. This has to be big; For example, if the pot it is in is about 20cm in diameter, the new pot should be at least 35cm in diameter. The substrate to be used may be the universal one, or mixed with perlite. The location will have to be in full sun, except if it is a plant that lives in partial shade. Do not forget to water it abundantly and to pay it every fortnight, from March to October, always following the manufacturer's recommendations.

Last but not least: be patient. There are no »Bonsai express». During the first year it is best to leave the plant to acclimate to its new home. From the second we can start pruning and clamping only if necessary.

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  1.   Adriana said

    Thanks! Was your information very helpful?

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      We are glad that it has been useful to you, Adriana 🙂

  2.   Paul said

    Thanks for the info I have 2 Japanese maples what I would like to know is how to make moss grow to decorate it a bit my grandmother left me as an inheritance this cute hoby that really calms you down and dexterity

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hi, Pablo.
      To grow moss you can do two things:
      -Buy blond peat.
      -Or pick up some moss from the field.

      In both cases you have to put it in a container with water, but not totally submerged.
      a greeting

  3.   Fernando said

    Hello, I am new to this and I would like to know if you can make a bonsai with a lemon tree.
    Thank you.

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hello Fernando.
      Yes, it can be done, but it is complicated. You have to prune the highest branches so that they grow lower, move it to a wide and large pot so that the trunk thickens, and after a while (2-3 years), it is planted in a bonsai tray, trimming the roots and the branches, giving it a style.
      If you want to start, I recommend doing it with an elm, or with a Ficus if you live in a climate without frost, as they are all-terrain trees that support pruning well.
      A greeting.

  4.   ridan said

    Hello. I really like this art. I live in hot weather. Doña Mónica I cannot find the plants you mention in my area. I would like to know if acidic lemon can make bonsai

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hi Ridan.
      Yes, no problems. If in doubt, upload an image to tinypic or imageshack, copy the link here, and I tell you how to proceed.
      A greeting.

        1.    ridan said

          This is the size of the plant currently and the link above is its normal development.

          1.    Monica Sanchez said

            Hi Ridan.
            That plant is still very small 🙂.
            My advice is to keep it in a pot until its trunk thickens between 1 and 2cm. As it grows you can prune the branches, so that it will have this shape (more or less):

            The image is from

            If you have any questions, ask and we will answer you as soon as possible.
            A greeting.

      1.    ridan said

        I appreciate your responses. I just have one more question. I need your opinion about this plant that I acquired today. If I can prune or hope, or any other opinion that deserves you. Thanks in advance. Greetings brother.

        1.    Monica Sanchez said

          Nice cypress 🙂.
          For now, I would recommend leaving it. However, you can transplant it to a larger pot in spring, using a very porous one (akadama, tile -very- ground, kiryuzuna ...), and clean the trunk, removing the lower branch that comes out on the right side with a small hand saw. disinfected with pharmacy alcohol.
          A greeting.

  5.   LEANDRO said

    Hello .. I live in a cold climate .. in Argentine Patagonia .. and from May there are some frosts… which tree is best for me in this area? maybe some pine ?? in winter I have followed .. in that case the plant should keep it at home or just leave it out in the open ???

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hi leandro.
      Conifers can (and indeed should) be outdoors year-round. Pines, cypresses, yews, or if you have room and it rains frequently you can also put a Taxodium (cypress of the swamps).
      A greeting.

  6.   angely002 said

    the photo of the bonsai in the sexion of bushes that has white and green leaves, what is it called? and do you need sun or is it shade?

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hi Angely.
      It is a Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea'. It is semi-shadow 🙂.
      A greeting.

  7.   Juan Pablo Ramirez said

    Good, aromatic plants like mint, basil and rosemary serve to create a bonsai?

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hi Juan Pablo.
      The rosemary yes, the others not because they have very tender stems.
      A greeting.

  8.   Jose Gregorio said

    Hello, how are you? In January of this year, I bought a jade and the person from the nursery told me that it had eight months to date, it has eleven months, I have to change the pot, prune it and brighten it.

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hello Jose.
      For now it is enough to change the pot. Next year you can prune it, if necessary.
      A greeting.

  9.   Jhoan said

    Hello, I would like to know if you can make a bonaai with a jobo tree? And how .
    Thank you

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hi Jhoan.
      Because of the type of leaves it has, I do not advise it, since it is difficult to reduce its size (you have to try to fertilize with low nitrogen fertilizers).
      But if you want to try it, you must plant it in a large pot, about 40cm, with a sandy substrate, and trim the branches so that its trunk grows fat. Once it is about 2cm thick, you can transfer it to a bonsai tray.

      If you want, you can send us photos through our Facebook profile and we are telling you.

      A greeting.