Bonsai Tips for Beginners

When we start we all buy and kill trees.
We all buy loads of rubbish in the attempt to make a collection very quickly. Like stamp collection you first collect everything. Then specialize in a region and finally in specific specialist area with a few prized examples. However, you do need to learn the craft of keeping and maintaining the trees.

Horticultural techniques, of plant management and soil characteristics is good to have. Artist appreciation and styling is also important. A bit of soul and Zen is also part of the recipe for quality trees.

If you are up to the challenge then the next most important think to do is trying – you have to work to graduate from apprentice into a master craftsman. A man with a hammer and saw and a mornings training does not become a cabinetmaker and could not turn apiece of wood into a Chippendale chair. Equally a wine conquer does not develop a refined pallet after guying and tasting some supermarket plank.

Buy one or two trees to start with and read and learn how to look after them. You will soon want to move on to more impressive stuff or start to create them yourself. Larch is probably the easiest to try. They are flexible, they rebud on old wood and develop a good size trunk quickly with flakey bark within 15 years.

What follows is a basic route for you to make a small tree and create a bonsai image.


  1. Select a tree with taper, movement, and low branches
  2. Decide on style to be created. (Formal upright, informal upright, wind-swept, cascade, literati) N.B. see description of terminology in the glossary.
  3. If in doubt don’t cut it off – you can always do it later.
  4. Wire everything – (N.B. No description on wiring techniques) They all look meaningless and incomprehensible until you start. The reason you don’t cross wire over wire, or don’t secure your ends, will become evident very quickly. Keep trying and wire and rewire until you are happy with your end result.
  5. Move branches into position and try to create an image that reflects the one in your mind. If none exist, copy something you like from a picture.
  6. The tree should be viewed as if you, in scale, were standing in front of it on the ground looking into it, not down on it as if in an airplane. Pads or branches may look too thin at this stage and may take years to create. This is not a hobby for the immediate fix society we live in. You use wire to shape to mould the tree into a older tighter image. Like a splint on an arm you see the branch in a position so when the wire comes off the branch is set where you want it, straight or bent!

Completing the first tree is a very satisfying feeling but very soon you will look back at this effort with amusement. If you don’t, your going nowhere. Hopefully you will and you are on your way. Remember – Don’t be in too much hurry to get your tree into a bonsai pot. Never wire and re-pot at same time – recipe for quick death. Always wait until the tree is established in a pot-stand, this is easily shown by a solid root ball.

Bonsai Tree Guide