Growing bonsai is more than growing miniature versions of mature trees. Bonsai is an art form, a composition of shape, color, and presentation. It’s all about starting with a tree with good bonsai potential and training it to achieve artful balance and form.
Bonsai can be started from seeds but may take many years to become good bonsai trees. It’s easier and faster to start a collection buy purchasing bonsai from a reputable vendor. If this is your first attempt at bonsai you may want to start with an inexpensive juniper or ficus which are relatively easy to care for while learning how to prune and train bonsai.
Many factors determine the best bonsai tree for your growing environment. Will you be growing indoors or outdoors? In a cold-frame, greenhouse, or unheated porch or sunroom? If growing outdoors, what trees are indigigenous to your area? If you can provide or mimic the natural seasonal changes of the tree variety you choose your chances of success will be much greater. If you are planning on growing indoors you are more likely to succeed with a tropical plant such as a ficus tree, especially if your indoor temperature remains relatively static and you cannot provide a nighttime drop in temperature.
If you have an unheated porch or sunroom your options are greater, and if you plan to grow outdoors you can choose any tree native to your area as long as you provide some protection in the winter since container plants are more susceptible to freezing temperatures.
The first step in choosing a tree is to research the kinds of trees that grow in the type of environment you will provide, taking care to note any special requirements such as winter protection. Once you have a list of appropriate trees you’ll want to decide whether you want a flowering bonsai, anevergreen, or a deciduous tree (one that sheds its leaves and goes dormant for part of the year.) Bear in mind during your research that bonsai trees are susceptible to the same tree diseases and pests that attack regular size trees, whether grown indoors or outside.