Most Bonsai, with perhaps the exception of tropic or sub-tropic varieties, will need to spend almost their entire time outdoors. It will sometimes be desirable, however, to bring the bonsai indoors and appreciate its beauty. In Japan, a particularly stunning bonsai will be brought indoors and put on display when an honored guest is expected.
The Japanese will display bonsai in special alcove for the purpose called a Tokonoma. Generally the Tokonoma will be placed in a central location in a room, where it can be easily viewed. The back of the alcove will be painted in light colors, and there are sometimes discreet decorations on the wall behind the alcove. The Tokonoma is not cluttered, however, often a simple scroll is displayed behind the plant. Usually bonsai on display indoors will be placed on a small tray that lifts them up from the surface of the table. A small object or two may be placed near the bonsai for balance. Unless they are very small, only one bonsai should be displayed at a time.
It is possible to break away from the more traditional displaying of bonsai, and add small figurines or other plants to the display to create a scene. Anything that accentuates the appearance of the bonsai as a full-sized tree is appropriate.
Before bringing the plant indoors, be sure to prepare it by removing any dead leaves and debris from the pot, cleaning the pot itself, and cleaning any moss on the branches or trunk. If the plant is to be displayed indoors for any amount of time, the leaves should be misted to prevent damage.
When displaying bonsai outdoors, it is important to remember again the idea of Japanese simplicity. Ideally, plants will not be cluttered together, each should stand alone to be observed individually. Bonsai should be displayed off the ground. Benches are often used. To maintain the effect of the tree, bonsai will ideally be placed close to eye level. Bonsai can also be placed individually atop columns made of brick or wood.
The location of the display area is important. There should not be much in the way of distraction behind the plant. Practical matters should be considered as well, such as the amount of sunlight the plants will get, protection from wind and how easy it will be to maintain them. Benches or shelves that are constructed to display bonsai should be slatted so that water has a place to drain.
Displaying bonsai outdoors can be as simple or ornate as the individual enthusiast wishes. Many commercial display tables and benches are available, but gathering some friends and constructing one’s own display from good plans can be a satisfying and rewarding experience. Just as with an indoor display, scenes can be created with figurines, or outdoor Japanese lamps can be added for effect in the display area.