Can Any Tree be a Mini Bonsai?


Mini bonsai are small- so small that they can be put on a children’s palm.  It is often thought that mini bonsais are made from special kinds of trees but it is not true.

Mini bonsais can be created from almost any tree with proper care and styling.  Especially, trees with tiny leaves, abundant foliage, a lot of small branches, close knots, and beautiful tree bark are suitable for mini bonsai trees.

Can Any Tree Be A Mini Bonsai?

Although mini bonsai trees are small (less than 4 inches),‎ they should look like normal trees in nature.  Almost any tree can be a mini bonsai tree but those with the following characteristics look “natural” even in a small bonsai pot and make the best mini bonsai.

  • Trees with tiny leaves
  • Abundant foliage
  • Lots of fine branches
  • Short internodes
  • Beautiful tree bark

Let me explain in detail below.

Trees with tiny leaves

A mini bonsai made from trees with normal size leaves would not look “natural” and thus are not good for a mini bonsai.

So, either

  • Tree species with tiny leaves
  • Individual trees with tiny leaves (Leaf size differs from one tree to another even if the parent tree is the same.)

are the best candidate for a mini bonsai.

Abundant foliage

Again, a mini bonsai tree without abundant foliage does not look “natural”.  Tree species with abundant foliage such as the maple tree in the picture below will make a good mini bonsai tree.

Lots of fine branches

Depending on the species, a tree grows multiple branches when properly pruned.  A big tree is made up of myriads of branches, and so the trees with a possibility of growing a lot of fine branches are a good candidate for a mini bonsai.

Short internodes

As a mini bonsai tree is very small, a tree with short internodes will look like a normal tree in the pot.  If the distance between nodes is not close enough, a mini bonsai tree will not look like a normal big tree.

Beautiful tree bark

Whether tree bark is smooth or coarse, it has to look beautiful to human eyes to be a good mini bonsai.

Tree with smooth bark (maple)

Tree with coarse bark- pine

What Kind of Trees Can Be Made Into A Mini Bonsai?

Based on the desirable characteristics of mini bonsai trees,‎ the followings are the species of trees that make a good mini bonsai:

(Links are to Wikipedia.)

Coniferous trees
Leafy trees
  • Maple
  • Beech
  • Gingko
  • Mulberry
  • Oak
Flower trees
  • Azalea
  • Plum tree
  • Cherry blossom
  • Camellia
  • Tea tree
  • Gardenia
Fruit trees

What Happens If A Mini Bonsai Is Planted In The Ground?

A mini bonsai tree grows to be a normal size tree when planted in the ground because mini bonsai trees are not a special kind of tree that stay small when they are fully grown.  In fact, most of the mini bonsai species can grow up to a few dozen feet (like pine or oak trees).

Is Creating A Mini Bonsai Tree Torturing A Plant?

Plants have a higher ability to adapt to the surrounding environment compared to animals as they can grow roots and branches that match the environment: nutrition,‎ water, sunlight, or space to grow roots.

For instance, a pine tree planted in the ground grows to be 80 feet tall on average.  But if you grow them in a small bonsai pot, they grow slower with smaller leaves and shorter branches.  So, it is not torture to the tree to place it in a small pot.  Instead, growing small is an adaptation to the environment, even if a mini bonsai tree of 4 inches tall has a potential to be 80 feet when planted in the ground.

A mini bonsai tree would not last long if it suffers from being in a small pot.  In fact, it will last for decades if cared for properly.

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