Bonsai is the Asian art of growing miniature trees. Tiny trees are grown in small pots and carefully shaped and pruned by the gardener to look like a full size and ancient tree. The trees used for bonsai are not dwarf varieties, but pruned full sized species. These tiny trees can live for hundreds of years with careful gardening. Traditional trees for bonsai are pines, azaleas and maples, but any type of tree can used for a bonsai.
A bonsai tree can be started from seeds, seedling or cuttings of larger trees. They are kept in a container, which helps control the growth of the tree. Bonsai can be anywhere from 3 inches to 3 feet in height. Trees with naturally small leaves are good for bonsai. Japanese Red Maples or Chinese Elms make good starter trees for beginning bonsai gardeners.
Bonsai are trained into shape by re-potting, pruning or by using wires to encourage growth in a particular direction. Special tools can be purchased for bonsai gardening. You will need small scissors, pruners and wire cutters.
Most of the pruning on a bonsai is done to the trunk to give it the illusion of being a much larger tree. Leaves can be pinched off when they become too large, and the roots are also restricted to maintain the small size of the tree. Young trees can be re-potted every year.
Bonsai are meant to be kept outside, but it has become popular to grow them indoors. Since bonsai are trees are not houseplants, care must be given to their placement in the home. They must receive plenty of light to grow and maintain health.