How to Make a Bonsai Tree from a Normal Tree: A Concise Guide

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Growing a bonsai tree from a normal tree is a rewarding experience that requires patience, skill, and dedication. With the right approach and a lot of patience, you can create a stunning bonsai tree from any regular tree. In this guide, we’ll provide you with some tips on how to make a bonsai tree from a normal tree successfully.

Selecting a Suitable Tree

Species Selection

When transforming a normal tree into a bonsai, choosing the best species is essential. Popular choices include pine, ficus, junipers, and spruce trees. Each species has unique characteristics that contribute to the aesthetic and ease of care for your bonsai.

Health and Age of the Tree

Always select a healthy tree with no signs of disease or damage. While it is possible to create a bonsai from a young sapling, using a more mature tree allows you to take advantage of pre-existing branches and foliage.

Here are a few important factors to consider while selecting a suitable tree:

  • Choose a tree with distinct characteristics, suitable for bonsai.
  • Opt for a species that is native to your area or can thrive in your climate.
  • Check for visible signs of damage or disease before selecting your tree.
  • Use a more mature tree, if possible, for better results.

Preparing the Tree

To make a bonsai tree from a normal tree, you will need to prepare the tree by pruning its roots, branches, and styling it initially. This process helps to create the ideal bonsai shape and structure.

Pruning the Roots

Begin by removing the tree from its pot and carefully untangling the roots. Trim back the longer roots and remove any dead or damaged ones using a pair of sharp scissors or pruning shears. Be cautious not to remove too many roots, as it may harm the tree’s health. This step helps to control the tree growth and maintain its miniaturized form(source).

Pruning Branches

Next, focus on the tree’s branches to give it a distinct shape. Using a concave cutter, snip off the top of the tree and remove any undesired branches(source). Maintain a balance between removing smaller branches and preserving enough foliage for photosynthesis. This helps to refine the tree’s overall appearance and enhances its artistic value.

Initial Styling

With the roots and branches pruned, start giving the tree its initial bonsai shape. Use thick bonsai wire to anchor the tree to the soil, and then wrap the wire around the trunk up to the top(source). The wiring process allows you to bend and shape the branches, creating curves and angles that define the tree’s unique style. Make sure not to overtighten the wires, as it may damage the bark or inhibit growth.

Planting in a Bonsai Container

Choosing the Right Container

It is essential to select a suitable container for your bonsai tree to ensure its proper growth and development. The bonsai container should be shallow, as bonsai trees require shallow root systems. Consider the size and style of the tree when choosing a container, making sure it provides adequate space for the roots to spread and complements the overall aesthetics of the bonsai.

Bonsai Soil Mix

Bonsai trees need a specialized soil mix to thrive. This mix should be rich in nutrients, yet extremely well-draining, with a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5 (Plantophiles). A well-balanced bonsai soil mix helps promote optimal root development and supports healthy growth rates.

  • Akadama: A fired clay specifically for bonsai soil, providing excellent water retention and drainage properties.
  • Pumice: A lightweight, porous, and absorbent volcanic rock that helps improve soil aeration and drainage.
  • Lava Rock: A volcanic rock that provides structure, while helping to maintain adequate moisture levels.

Combining these ingredients in a well-proportioned mix will create an ideal environment for your bonsai tree to flourish.

Securing the Tree

When planting a bonsai tree in its container, it’s crucial to secure the tree to ensure its stability and support its growth. First, place a layer of the bonsai soil mix at the bottom of the container. Position the tree in the desired location and gently spread the roots to facilitate proper growth.

Once the tree is in place, fill the container with the remaining bonsai soil mix, making sure to cover all exposed roots. Use a chopstick or similar tool to remove any air pockets around the roots. Finally, securely anchor the tree using wire that runs through the container’s bottom drainage holes. This will provide stability and keep the tree in place during its developmental stages.

Bonsai Tree Care

Bonsai trees require special attention in terms of watering, fertilizing, and environmental conditions to thrive and maintain their miniature forms.


Proper watering is essential for bonsai tree health. It’s generally recommended to water your bonsai tree when the surface of the soil starts to feel dry. Be sure to use a watering can with a fine nozzle to ensure even distribution and avoid disturbing the soil (Bonsai Resource Center).


Bonsai trees need regular fertilization since they live in small pots with limited nutrients. Use a well-balanced, slow-release fertilizer specifically designed for bonsai. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the application rate and frequency.

Environmental Conditions

Bonsai trees flourish in the right environmental conditions. Place your tree in a location with sufficient sunlight, ideally receiving morning sun and some afternoon shade. Additionally, consider the specific needs of your tree species, such as temperature and humidity requirements, and adjust the environment accordingly.

Ongoing Maintenance and Training

Bonsai trees require consistent attention and care to maintain their unique appearance and proportions. This section outlines the essential aspects of ongoing maintenance and training for bonsai trees, including regular pruning, wiring and shaping, and repotting.

Regular Pruning

Pruning is vital to control the growth of your bonsai and maintain its desired shape. It involves removing excess branches and foliage, allowing the tree to flourish in a compact form. Regular pruning helps ensure a healthy root system and develops the tree’s overall structure. It’s essential to use clean, sharp tools and to prune at the right time of year, according to the specific species of your bonsai.

Wiring and Shaping

Wiring is a technique used to manipulate the shape and position of the branches and trunk of your bonsai tree. Flexible wire is wrapped around the branches and gently bent to achieve the desired shape (This Old House). It is essential to monitor the growth of the wired branches regularly and remove the wire before it digs into the tree’s bark. Proper wiring and shaping contributes to an aesthetically pleasing bonsai tree, reflecting the artistic vision and enhancing the tree’s natural characteristics.


Repotting is a crucial aspect of bonsai tree maintenance as it promotes healthy root growth and prevents the tree from becoming root-bound. Bonsai trees need repotting every two to five years, depending on the tree’s age and species (Bonsai Resource Center). When repotting, it is vital to use a shallow container with adequate drainage holes and a well-suited potting mix to provide essential nutrients for the tree. This process also offers an opportunity for root pruning, which contributes to further controlling the tree’s growth and overall size.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases can be a significant problem when growing a bonsai tree from a regular tree. Some common pests include aphids, spider mites, and scale insects. To tackle these issues, use a gentle insecticide or insecticidal soap, ensuring not to over-apply as it can cause more harm than good.

When dealing with diseases, proper diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment. Fungal infections, such as root rot, can be prevented by ensuring proper drainage and avoiding over-watering. If your bonsai tree succumbs to a disease, it’s essential to treat it promptly to prevent further damage or spreading to other plants.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Like any plant, bonsai trees require essential nutrients to thrive. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are vital macronutrients that your tree needs. Should your bonsai tree suffer from a nutrient deficiency, you may notice symptoms such as stunted growth, yellowing leaves, or weak stems and branches. To combat such deficiencies, it’s crucial to use an appropriate fertilizer, carefully following the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid over-fertilization, which can harm your tree.

In conclusion, effectively troubleshooting common issues faced when creating bonsai trees from regular trees improves the overall health and appearance of your bonsai. Keep an eye out for pests and diseases, maintain proper watering and drainage, and ensure your tree has the necessary nutrients to support growth and development.

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