Ten Main Types of Bonsai Trees
A bonsai tree is a miniature tree that is typically associated with Japanese or Chinese culture. Bonsai trees are used primarily for aesthetic purposes (they do not grow edible foods). Seven main types of bonsai trees exist, but more than 10 can be found when you look into the more unique styles.
- Two of the types of bonsai are upright styles. One is known as the Chokkan style. It looks more like a small Christmas tree because it has a trunk that grows straight upward. The branches are also straight, and they grow longest at the bottom and shortest at the top, producing a tree shaped like a cone.
The second upright style is known as the Moyogi style. It grows upright, but with a curve. Its branches also curve, giving the tree an asymmetrical appearance. It is similar to the Chokkan style in that its branches are longer at the bottom of the trunk than they are at the top.
- When multiple trees are grown together, they are called group or forest bonsai. The official name for this style is Yose Use. Usually a Yose Ue bonsai doesn’t mix one style with another, but grows a few different sizes of one style. It should be a single type of bonsai style grouped in one pot. In Chinese culture, Yose Use usually contains an odd number of trees, but never four.
- The slanted bonsai tree is also known as the Shakan style. This tree is very similar to the Chokkan bonsai, but instead of growing upward, it emerges out of the soil at an angle or slant. Its branches are straight.
- The Kengai bonsai grows out and over its pot, eventually growing down below the bottom of the pot, thus creating a cascade. It has an intense curve that gives it the appearance of a tree growing over a mountain ledge or waterfall. If it has not yet grown below the pot, it is called a Han Kengai, or semi-cascade style, bonsai.
Raft and Multi-Trunk
- The official name of the raft style bonsai is Netsuranari. This bonsai looks like a tree that has fallen over in the forest. New vertical trunks grow upright from the horizontal trunk of this bonsai. These trunks can be straight, sinuous or slanted. It looks like there are many trees in the pot, but a raft style bonsai actually is one tree.
The multi-trunk style is very similar, but instead of all trees growing out of one horizontal tree, they all grow out of one root system. They are not separate trees.
- The Literati probably has more curves than any other style of bonsai. It grows skinny and long and is known as one of the most artistic types of bonsai tree. Because it is tall, it symbolizes the phenomenon of competition for survival in nature. Literati bonsai is also known as the Bunjin-gi style.
Ishizuke and Sekijoju
- The Ishizuke and Sekijoju are two different types of bonsai, but they are very similar. The Ishizuke is commonly known as the "growing-on-a-rock" style because the roots of the tree grow from the within the cracks of a rock. The Sekijoju is often called the "root-over-rock" style, because all of the roots grow on the outside of a rock.