22 The Most Popular Bonsai Species

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We present the most beautiful and popular types of bonsai for indoors and in the garden – from ficus to maple, there is something for everyone.

The bonsai is a garden art in which various plants, mostly shrubs or trees, are transformed into a small format of themselves through targeted cultivation and cutting of roots and shoots. In the following, we will introduce you to the most popular types of bonsai with their special care requirements.

Which species are suitable as bonsai?

There are no strict restrictions – the main thing is that the plant used gives way to deliberate cramping and keeping it small. Particularly small-leaved trees and conifer species are in the foreground because the filigree greening fits perfectly with the rest of the dwarf design of the bonsai and thus offers an optimal overall picture. A good cut tolerance is also an advantage since an impressive and imaginative design for the different bonsai shapes can only be realized through the regular cut of the bonsai. Over the centuries, classic bonsai species have emerged that adorn Japanese gardens and rooms. And a few species that are native to us have also established themselves as bonsai over time. In this article, we will give you a little insight into the variety of bonsai and introduce the most popular types of rooms and gardens.

The most popular indoor bonsai species

The indoor bonsai is probably the best-known form of mini-trees for us. Most indoor bonsais are small exotic species that sit enthroned on the windowsill all year round. However, you can do most species a favor by shipping them to a sunny spot in front of the door in summer. They should only spend the winter in a sheltered place, as the species are usually not hardy and sometimes get problems at temperatures below 15 ° C. Otherwise, there is a large selection of different plants that are suitable for beginners as well as professionals and allow a wide range of bonsai shapes due to their different growth and greatly varying leaf shapes.

Tip: In the following profiles we will also name suitable soils for each bonsai. Often, special earth is traditionally used, which contains lava rocks from the Far East. But substrate manufacturers from Germany also offer high-quality basic soils for bonsai. The clay granulate it contains does not necessarily come from China or Japan, but the bonsai is indifferent to the origin of its soil anyway if the quality is right. And it is always better for the environment if the raw materials used come from the USA and are not flown in from Asia.

Chinese fig/laurel fig ( Ficus microcarpa ˈGinsengˈ)

This plant, known as Chinese fig or bay fig, is the absolute beginner’s bonsai for indoors: The focus is very robust and is characterized by rapid growth, high adaptability, and high tolerance to pruning. This and its affordability make it the perfect bonsai for the inexperienced.

origin southeast Asia
growth Fast-growing; at very high humidity, e.g. B. by cultivation under a bell jar, the Ficus can develop aerial roots; noticeably thick roots
leaves Evergreen with oval, glossy dark green leaves
earth 1: 1: 1 Akadama, lava chippings, humus; 2: 1: 1 potting soil, akadama, and pumice
Location Sunny without direct sunlight; no space above a heater
wintering Not hardy; overwinter at 12 – 22 ° C
Cut/upbringing Very easy to cut; can be wired very well; not very versatile
particularities Requires high humidity (e.g. by spraying the plant), never let the substrate dry out; if the ficus spends the summer (> 15 ° C) outside, a leaf cut should be made beforehand to reduce evaporation

Bonsai species: list of the 22 most popular species

Chinese elm ( Ulmus parvifolia )

The Chinese elm is also wonderfully suitable for beginners. The plant forgives a little maintenance mishap and is characterized by a high level of robustness and adaptability.

origin China, Korea, Japan
leaves Elliptical to ovoid in glossy green; deciduous to semi-evergreen in indoor culture
earth Akadama Earth
Location Fully sunny window seat to partial shade
wintering 0 – 10 ° C are ideal
Cut/upbringing Well tolerated by cutting; Branches thicken quickly
particularities Very easy to care for

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Chinese privet ( Ligustrum sinensis )

The Chinese privet also feels at home in a shady place and is extremely easy to care for – it should only be warm at the location of this bonsai. The Japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum ) is also wonderfully suitable for raising indoor bonsai. If you want to put a privet bonsai in the garden, you should rather use Ligustrum ovalifolium , L. lucidum, or the common privet ( Ligustrum vulgare ). These are hardy down to at least -10 ° C and will spring out again after freezing back.

origin China
growth Fast-growing; bears white flowers in summer
leaves Summer green; small and dark green
earth 1: 2 basic bonsai soil and Akadama soil
Location Bright location without direct sunlight; place in partial shade in summer
wintering If possible, overwinter at 15 ° C
Cut/upbringing Very easy to cut
particularities Very easy to care for

Bonsai species: list of the 22 most popular species

Tip: Basic bonsai soil is a special universal soil that can be used on its own or as a basis enriched with other ingredients. Their ingredients are put together in such a way that the special requirements that are made by the bonsai culture can be met. At the end of this article, you will find our recommendation for, particularly good bonsai soil.

Fukientee ( Carmona microphylla , also Ehretia microphylla or Ehretia buxifolia )

As far as its care requirements are concerned, the blooming Fukientee is also suitable for careful bonsai beginners. You only need a little experience with the design, because the plant should definitely be wired to get a harmonious shape.

origin China
growth Brown-gray bark with fine cracks on the trunk and gray, smooth bark on the branches; flowering almost all year round
leaves Evergreen; small and dark green with white hairs below and dots above
earth 2: 1 Akadama and base bonsai soil
Location Bright location without direct sunlight at over 20 ° C; in the summer sun to partial shade
wintering Winter at 12 – 24 ° C
Cut/upbringing Very easy to cut; must be wired
particularities Only use organic fertilizers when fertilizing, as the roots are very sensitive; ensure sufficient humidity by spraying

Gardenia ( Gardenia jasminoides )

The gardenia has a particularly tropical look, but this only comes to the fore if the plant is handled properly. Therefore, the sensitive plant is more of a bonsai for advanced growers.

origin Asia to South Africa
growth Creamy white, fragrant flowers in summer; orange fruits in autumn
leaves Evergreen; glossy dark green with dots
earth Soil for acid-loving plants, e.g. B. Kanuma
Location Bright, airy location without direct sunlight; reacts very sensitively to change of location
wintering If possible, overwinter at 15 ° C
Cut/upbringing Well tolerated by cutting; cut from May after flowering; Do not cut any more from August so as not to remove flower buds

Banyan fig ( Ficus retusa )

The banyan fig is the second focus on our list. However, it is not offered as often as the focus ˈGinsengˈ, which can sometimes be found in discount stores. However, this focus is much more suitable for designing a bonsai than its prominent relative.

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Its overall appearance is much more coherent and beautiful aerial roots are formed even under room conditions.

origin East India, Ceylon
growth Whitish-gray bark
leaves Dark green, leathery leaves with a short blunt tip (laurel-like)
earth 2: 1 basic bonsai soil and Akadama soil
Location Sun to partial shade
wintering Winter at 15 – 22 ° C
Cut/upbringing All forms possible except literate form; the aerial roots make it suitable for planting rocks
particularities Regular spraying

Bonsai species: list of the 22 most popular species

Jade tree ( Portulacaria afra )

The jade tree is one of the succulents and immediately catches the eye with its fleshy, shiny leaves. As a small bonsai, it combines Asian accuracy and the exotic appearance of a plant from the African savannah.

origin South Africa
growth Reddish branches; thick trunk; fine branching; Bark changes from green to reddish-brown with age; white flowers in autumn after a dry period in summer
leaves Evergreen; succulent, broad, oval leaves; in a sunny location with red edges
earth 1: 1: 1 Akadama, basic bonsai soil and lava granulate
Location Sunny location; sun to partial shade outside in summer
wintering Winter at 8 – 22 ° C
Cut/upbringing Tree shape and forests; Avoid wires, rather bracing
particularities Succulent, so the drying of the upper layer of soil before the next watering can sometimes take several days; very sensitive to waterlogging

Bonsai species: list of the 22 most popular species

Radiant aralia or lacquer leaf plant ( Schefflera actinophylla , Brassaia actinophyla )

With its aerial roots and leaves, which glow bright green all year round, the ray aralia brings the rainforest to the windowsill in miniature format. The tropical plant needs to be nice and warm and can also tolerate radical pruning without problems. The Schefflera offers ideal conditions for training to be a room bonsai.

origin Australia, Southeast Asia
growth Quite fast growing; forms aerial roots (rock shape possible)
leaves Evergreen; long-stalked, radiantly arranged leaves in glossy dark green
earth 1: 2: 2 clay, sand, and peat; 1: 1 Akadama soil, base bonsai soil, and some Kiryu soil
Location Sunny (the more sun, the smaller the leaves)
wintering Not below 15 ° C
Cut/upbringing Well tolerated by cutting; Spread pruning over several days, as the plant exudes a lot of milky sap at the interfaces; radical cut back instead of wires
particularities Spray regularly

The olive tree ( Olea europaea )

If you want to bring Mediterranean flair into your apartment or balcony with an olive tree as a bonsai, you need a lot of patience, but you will be rewarded with a beautiful, gnarled overall picture that is worth waiting for. Because of its small leaves and compact growth, the wild olive tree ( Olea europaea sylvestris ) is particularly suitable for the design of a bonsai.

origin Asia Minor, Mediterranean
growth Robust; slowly growing; The bark later forms cracks and furrows
leaves Evergreen; elongated leaves with a dark green top and a silvery gray underside
earth 1: 2 Akadama and pumice gravel
Location Light location; sunny outside in summer
wintering At 5 – 20 ° C with as much light as possible
Cut/upbringing Very easy to cut; only annual shoots can be wired
particularities Allow the substrate to dry completely between the watering runs, very sensitive to waterlogging

Large-leaved stone pulp or “pine of the Buddhists” ( Podocarpus macrophyllus )

Conifers like the stone disc can also be designed as bonsai. Although these are cut a little differently than the deciduous tree species, they do not make the design more difficult or less diverse. The selection is not limited to just one species, P. Chinensis is also often trained to be a bonsai.

origin Japan, China
growth Growing slowly
leaves Evergreen conifer
earth Slightly acidic substrate; 2: 2: 2 clay (or akadama), peat, and sand (or lava granules)
Location Bright location without blazing midday sun
wintering Light at around 10 – 20 ° C; rather keep dry
Cut/upbringing Well tolerated by cutting
particularities Loves acidic substrates

Bonsai species: list of the 22 most popular species

June snow or “tree of a thousand stars” ( Serissa foetida )

The “tree of a thousand stars” owes its name to its summery floral dress. This is also evident in bonsai and exudes a strong scent.

origin China, southern Japan
growth Abundant flowering in June; Even as a young plant it forms a cracked bark
leaves Very small green leaves that are yellow-edged or veined depending on the variety
earth 1: 1: 1 Akadama soil, basic bonsai soil, sand (very permeable)
Location Very bright without direct sunlight; outside in summer sun to partial shade; is sensitive to change of location
wintering Light at 12-20 ° C; not above the heater
Cut/upbringing Very easy to cut; Roots give off an intense smell when cut
particularities Needs constant site conditions, temperatures, and water; Spray outside of the flowering period

The most popular types of bonsai for the garden

Several species are great for bonsai training and can be outdoors all year round. You should note that the culture in the bowl has its pitfalls in winter. Since the shell freezes through quickly due to its small volume, care should be taken in winter to have a protected place and good protection of the roots from the cold, even with completely hardy plants. If this is observed, nothing stands in the way of year-round forest bathing in your own miniature wonderland. We introduce you to a few particularly beautiful species that are suitable as outdoor bonsai.

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Maple ( Acer )

A real bonsai pearl right from the start: Many Asian maple species have uniquely shaped leaves. These include, for example, the red and green Japanese maple ( Acer palmatum ), the tricorn maple ( Acer buergerianum ), and the fire maple ( Acer ginnala ). The most prominent among the maple species, however, is the Japanese maple ( Acer japonicum ). Its appearance and its high tolerance to temperature fluctuations make it the ideal outdoor bonsai, which is why we are presenting it here as an example. Learn about Japanese Maple Fertilizer

origin Mountain forests of Japan
growth Picturesque, tree-like shrub, short trunk, wide-spreading crown; reddish-purple flowers when the leaves shoot
leaves Deciduous in bright green; 7- to 11-lobed leaves with a serrated leaf margin; red autumn leaves
earth 4: 1 Akadama soil and pumice gravel
Location Penumbra; full sun in autumn and spring; sheltered from the wind
wintering Conditionally hardy (-10 ° C)
Cut/upbringing Very easy to cut and malleable; cut in winter
particularities Very tolerant of temperature fluctuations; Multiple waterings may be necessary on hot days in summer

Pine ( Pinus )

As with the maple genus, several species of pines can be trained as bonsai. Dwarf forms with particularly small needles are particularly beautiful here. The different species hardly differ in their care. Ideally, the incision should be made in winter, as this is when the least amount of resin escapes, and the best wound healing can be expected. Below is a small selection of pine trees that are great for outdoor bonsai.

Bonsai species: list of the 22 most popular species

Pine trees that are suitable as bonsai for the garden:

  • Japanese pine ( Pinus parviflora ): Soft, curved needles, each grouped in groups of five
  • Scots pine ( Pinus sylvestris ): Thin, possibly slightly twisted needles, standing in pairs; Bark on the upper trunk mostly reddish
  • European black pine ( Pinus nigra tbsp. Nigra ): Long, strong needles in clusters of two; older bark brownish-gray with dark cracks that create a plate pattern
  • Mountain pine ( Pinus mugo ): Short, strong needles, in twos in tufts, dark brown bark
  • Japanese black pine ( Pinus thunbergii ): Long, twisted, dark green, firm needles, standing in pairs
  • Japanese red pine ( Pinus densiflora ): Light green, delicate, slender needles, standing in pairs
origin Mainly widespread in the northern hemisphere
growth Cracked bark of older plants
leaves Evergreen needles; arranged in bundles/tufts
earth 2: 1: 1 Akadama, Kiryu earth, and pumice gravel
Location Full sun needs a lot of light
wintering Well hardy
Cut/upbringing Very malleable; cut in winter, as this is the time when resin production is minimal
particularities Very sensitive to waterlogging

Bonsai species: list of the 22 most popular species

Yew trees ( Taxus )

Yew trees are not only useful as hedge plants in the garden. Instead of keeping people from looking, they can also become real eye-catchers as bonsai. Due to its easy-care disposition, the yew tree is also particularly suitable for beginners. The local common yew ( Taxus baccata ), the Pacific yew ( Taxus brevifolia ) and the Japanese yew ( Taxus cuspidata ) do particularly well.

origin Europe, North Africa, West Asia
growth Irregular branch growth; gray-brown bark with red inner bark; dark, upright trunk
leaves Needle-like and dark green
earth 4: 1 Akadama and gravel
Location Sunny, but without direct summer sun; Penumbra after the cut; also grow in the shade, but not as compact here
wintering Hardy; sunny location
Cut/upbringing Very easy to cut; very flexible wood
particularities Very high water consumption; Spray occasionally, all parts of the plant except for the fleshy seed sheath are poisonous

Azalea ( rhododendron )

Azaleas such as the Indian azalea ( Rhododendron simsii ), the Satsuki azalea ( Rhododendron Indicum ), or the evergreen Japanese azalea ( Rhododendron japonicum ) are valued as bonsai in apartments because of their flowers. These so-called room azaleas are not hardy because they come from tropical or subtropical regions. So they have to be brought indoors at least in winter. But the genus also has a few hardy species ready. Garden azaleas such as the Japanese azalea ( Rhododendron obtusum ) or the yellow azalea ( Rhododendron luteum ) can be cultivated as bonsai in the garden all year round.

origin Asia, North America, Europe
growth Depending on the species, it blooms between March and July
leaves Summer green; oval, elongated leaves in light to dark green
earth Lime-free, slightly acidic; pure Kanuma is very effective for azaleas
Location Sunny, but without the direct summer sun
wintering Hardy
Cut/upbringing Cut the base more strongly than the tip, as azaleas are very dominant on the base
particularities Acid-loving; pour with soft tap water or rainwater

Common Juniper ( Juniperus communis )

The most popular juniper species for training in bonsai include the common juniper, the Chinese juniper ( Juniperus Chinensis ), and the Japanese hedgehog juniper ( Juniperus rigida ).

origin Europe, North America, West Asia
growth Reddish-brown bark; blackberries used to make gin
leaves Very hard gray-green, prickly needles
earth 1: 1 basic bonsai soil and pumice gravel
Location Sunny location
wintering Conditionally hardy (-10 ° C); sunny
Cut/upbringing Very easy to cut; malleable by wire
particularities Let the substrate dry well between the pouring runs; spray occasionally

Wild apple or crab apple ( Malus sylvestris )

Even fruit-bearing trees can be brought into miniature form. Apple trees such as Malus Sieboldii , Malus halliana, or – the local variant – the wild apple ( Malus sylvestris ) are particularly popular because of their beautiful blossoms, although cultivated forms with rather small fruits are particularly suitable. This creates a particularly beautiful overall picture.

origin Europe, Middle East
growth Flowering in spring; Fruits in summer or autumn; fast-growing; scaly gray-brown bark
leaves Summer green; oval dark green leaves
earth 1: 1: 1 peat, pumice gravel, and akadama
Location Sunny; a shade in summer and winter
wintering Winter protection necessary
Cut/upbringing Very easy to cut; Leave short shoots as they will bear the flowers in the following year; shorten shoots after flowering; wire to promote flowering and to support fruit formation
particularities High water demand; Reduce fertilization during flowering

Elms ( Ulmus spec. )

As mentioned above, the Chinese elm is one of our most popular indoor bonsai species, but elms can also enrich your green oasis as bonsai in the garden. Hardy species are suitable for this, such as the field elm ( Ulmus minor ), the mountain elm ( Ulmus glabra ), or the Dutch elm ( Ulmus x hollandica ), especially the the ˈJaqueline Hilerˈ variety with its particularly small leaves.

origin Europe
growth Growing fairly quickly; greyish bark
leaves Summer green; very small leaves, tapering to a point; strong autumn colors
earth 1: 1: 1 Akadama, peat, and pumice gravel
Location Full sun
wintering Winter protection necessary
Cut/upbringing Easily malleable; well tolerated by cutting; usually wires can be dispensed with
particularities Prevent infestation with elm splint beetle (carrier of the fungal disease “Dutch elm disease”)

Hornbeam ( Carpinus betulus )

The high cut tolerance and vigor make the hornbeam our favorite among the domestic bonsai species for the garden. This deciduous wood, otherwise known more as a hedge plant, is an excellent bonsai for beginners. Apart from C. betulus, the Korean hornbeam ( Carpinus turczaninowii ) or the Japanese hornbeam ( C. japanicum and C. laxiflora ) are also suitable for creating a miniature tree in the shell. The oriental hornbeam (Carpinus Orientalis ) is an insider tip among the hornbeams.

origin Europe, East Asia
growth Fast-growing; narrow, twisted branches; Bark light gray, often with cracks
leaves Summer green; oval with ribbing in strong green; yellow autumn colors; Leaves are usually only shed with new shoots in spring
earth 5: 4: 1 base bonsai soil, akadama, and sand
Location Sun to partial shade; a shade in summer
wintering Hardy
Cut/upbringing Very easy to cut; latest cut in August
particularities Very robust beginner plant; pour with soft water; high fertilizer consumption

Bonsai species: list of the 22 most popular species

Cotoneaster or Cotoneaster

The Coton brings everything that is needed for training to become a bonsai. The already low growth in combination with the small leaves as well as the very good cut tolerance makes the cotoneaster interesting not only for experts. Even beginners can enjoy the diverse design options that the plant offers them. Cotoneasters conspicuous, C. horizontalis, C. praecox, C. microphyllus, and C. congestus are particularly suitable.

origin Europe, Asia, North Africa
growth White, pink, or red flowers in spring; yellow to red fruits in autumn; growing low
leaves Small, glossy green leaves; deciduous or evergreen, depending on the species
earth Pure Akadama or basic bonsai soil
Location Sun in spring and autumn; partial shade in summer; airy
wintering Conditionally hardy (-10 ° C); Cover evergreen species in severe frost
Cut/upbringing Can be shaped very well and in a variety of ways; Topiary during spring emergence; very easy to wire
particularities Tolerates short dry periods; fertilize from April to early September; keep rather dry when the leaves are sprouting, so the leaves sprout particularly small

Bonsai species: list of the 22 most popular species

European larch ( Larix decidua )

The European larch is also one of the native plant species. It is therefore ideally adapted to our climate and can be placed in a sunny spot in the garden all year round. The actual forest giant can also be brought into a shell shape thanks to its good cut tolerance and wearability. The Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi ) is also not indigenous, but resilient. Its gray-green needles and red-brown, cracked bark is also visually impressive.

origin Temperate zones of Europe
growth The bark is light brown to red to gray-brown with cracks
leaves Summer green; dark green, soft needles that turn golden yellow in autumn
earth 1: 1: 1 Akadama, lava granulate, and pumice gravel
Location Full sun; the lighter, the smaller the needles
wintering Hardy (-40 ° C)
Cut/upbringing Well tolerated by cutting; easy to the wire; Cut from May to September; Topiary before budding in spring
particularities Watering by showering with rainwater to increase humidity; never let it dry out

Bonsai species: list of the 22 most popular species

Winter linden ( Tilia cordata )

Among the linden species, the winter linden is particularly suitable for designing as a bonsai because of its small leaves. The tree receives even smaller leaves after leaf pruning in summer, which the winter linden can tolerate excellently.

origin Central, Northern, Eastern Europe
growth Black roots; fragrant yellowish cup flowers in summer; oval to spherical nuts; black-gray cracked bark with age
leaves Summer green; round to slightly heart-shaped leaves; golden-yellow foliage
earth 3: 2 Akadama and humus with a good drainage layer of gravel
Location Sun to shade; the more sun, the smaller the leaves; Partial shade to avoid dehydration
wintering Hardy; overwinter in the shade
Cut/upbringing Very easy to cut and malleable; the last cut in early August; wire carefully; Topiary from shoot through to summer
particularities Very sensitive to salinization (pour rainwater and fertilize organically) and drought

After you have found the right bonsai for you, the next step is the right care. You can find out how to water your bonsai correctly here.

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