Bonsai!

The ancient practice of pruning isn’t just gardening; it’s an art.

Ficus Ginseng.JPG

Ficus Ginseng.JPG

Keeping the root growth and top growth in balance is the key to making these Ficus Ginsengs successful bonsai.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Costa Farms

Image courtesy of Costa Farms

Keeping the root growth and top growth in balance is the key to making these Ficus Ginsengs successful bonsai.

“The first thing to know about bonsai is that it isn’t a type of tree. That’s a pretty common misconception,” says Justin Hancock, garden expert at Costa Farms. “Bonsai is a way of growing a tree — a specially pruned tree grown in miniature. Regular pruning of the roots and top growth helps keep the plant the size you like, no matter how old the tree or shrub gets.”

Often considered an art, bonsai originated in Asian cultures and has become a living symbol of Eastern philosophy. “Bonsai became part of the ritual for some Buddhist monks before Westerners were exposed to the art of growing mini trees and bonsai went mainstream,” Hancock says. “Pruning your bonsai so it grows into the shape you want at maturity is very much an art.” 

Hancock has seen oak, pine magnolia and even citrus trees pruned in the ancient bonsai tradition. “Ficus Ginseng and Fukien Tea are especially popular, but you’ll also find Japanese maples, ginkgo and junipers,” he says. “Virtually any tree or shrub can be grown in bonsai form.” 

Do you have the patience to prune? Here are Hancock’s tips for trimming your way to a beautiful bonsai: 

Pick Your Planter 

There are so many pretty pots to choose from, but the only perfect bonsai planter is the one that’s “about as deep as the width of the trunk and about as wide as the tree’s canopy,” Hancock says. 

Mix It Up 

Sure, you can purchase commercial bonsai mixes, but if you’re going to take the time to prune a miniature plant for years, you might as well create your own. “Be sure your mix holds enough moisture that you don’t need to constantly water your bonsai,” Hancock says. “It needs excellent drainage so the roots don’t rot in their confined space and should be loose so the roots get enough oxygen.” 

A New Root 

“It’s vital to prune bonsai roots to keep the tree healthy,” Hancock says. “If it gets too root-bound, the tree will eventually weaken and require a lot more watering.” He suggests slipping the plant out of the pot, laying out the roots and cutting them back based on the type of tree and container.

Stay In Balance

The key to bonsai is keeping the amount of top growth and root growth in balance. “Too much top growth can’t be supported by the roots, and the tree ultimately fails,” Hancock says. 

Check the Label 

According to Hancock, watering requirements, pruning times, indoor vs. outdoor placement and light exposure depend on the type of tree. “The key is pruning and remembering to treat it like the kind of species it is,” he says. 

Next Up

How to Cultivate and Care for Bonsai Trees

Learn these botanical basics to fully succeed at planting and caring for your bonsai tree.

Bonsai Tree Turning Brown?

Growing bonsai isn't just an art — it's also a science. Learn more about how to grow a healthy bonsai tree, and what might be wrong if yours is looking a bit sickly.

How to Create Indoor Bonsai Gardens

Bring beautiful, living trees into your home when you practice the ancient art of Bonsai.

How and When to Prune Hollies

Hollies easily tolerate pruning but not necessarily in deep winter.

Lantana Care: Growing and Pruning Lantana

Add easy-care beauty to your yard by growing lantana—you won’t be disappointed.

How to Grow Sesame

Want to make your own sesame seed tahini or hamburger bun topping? Try growing nutrient-packed sesame.

The Paper Birch

This cold-hardy American native is a joy to behold in the landscape.

Witch Hazel Care

Add this subtle beauty to your list of must-have landscape shrubs.

Navigate a Nursery with Confidence

In this HGTV feature, learn a few steps you can take to make your next trip to the nursery a success.

Grow Guide: Pruning Oleander

Gardening expert Felder Rushing gives tips on caring for oleander.

Go Shopping

Spruce up your outdoor space with products handpicked by HGTV editors.

On TV

Island Life

6:30am | 5:30c

Island Life

7am | 6c

Island Life

7:30am | 6:30c

Home Town

8am | 7c

Home Town

9am | 8c

Home Town

10am | 9c

Home Town

11am | 10c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Love It or List It

8pm | 7c

Hidden Potential

9:30pm | 8:30c

House Hunters

10pm | 9c
11pm | 10c

House Hunters

11:30pm | 10:30c

Hidden Potential

12:30am | 11:30c

House Hunters

1am | 12c
2am | 1c

House Hunters

2:30am | 1:30c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.