First Bonsai Tree

Sep. 28, 2010

Im so excited about my first bonsai tree. I have NO prior bonsai experience, just did a little research and gave it a shot. You can do this too!  I Love those end of season sales! Its the perfect time to grab a tree for bonsai. Since many of those leftover plants are gangly, its easier to see the internal structure and there isnt much left to cut out. Perfect for beginners.

The last 3 gallon Cotoneaster Apiculatus wasn’t very full, but still healthy, and for $5 it was so mine. So it was time to give bonsai a shot. Nothing here is traditional bonsai and my technique may not be ‘bonsai correct’ but I am pleased with the results.

First Bonsai Tree: Before

First Bonsai Tree - Cotoneaster Apiculatus: Before

First Bonsai Tree: After

First Bonsai Tree - Cotoneaster Apiculatus: After

Since I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on my first bonsai tree, I used only materials that were available to me. Bonsai trees can grow in anything. Ive seen them planted without a container, straight onto a rock! And since ordering a pot online wouldnt get here TODAY, I just picked something from the store. This is a standard rectangular deck planter. I figured, good enough.

Bonsai soil is largely comprised of gravel, sand or other well draining aggregate. I didn’t have that either. So I just used peat moss, mixed with some compost I made. We’ll see what happens. I’ll keep my first bonsai tree out of the sun for a while and overwinter in a cold greenhouse to protect it from harsh winter winds, covered with plastic for moisture.

bonsai moss alternative: stonecropMoss is a standard soil cover to garnish your bonsai. If you find a clump of moss growing in a sunny spot in the yard, go for it! I came up short on the moss, but DID find a tiny sprig of stonecrop ground cover hiding under the weeds. How Lucky! And I actually like it better. Hopefully it spreads.

bonsai toolsBonsai is totally doable with the tools you probably already have in the garage. Regular garden pruners, needle nose pliers, and a wire cutter.  I have NO idea where this blue wire came from or its true purpose, but it did the trick 😀 It was heavy duty enough for the larger branches, while the thin green plant wire worked well on smaller branches.

Here are the basic steps to create your first bonsai tree:
Find a healthy plant to bonsai, Junipers are popular. Shake the container soil from the roots of your plant and trim the roots to fit your container. I’ve seen people hack roots in half and shove huge rootballs into tiny containers. I guess plants are tougher than i thought! Give the roots a good soaking with the hose. Place the plant into your container and position to your liking.

Look through the structure of the plant, try to find a basic composition. Working bottom to top is helpful. Cut away branches that you don’t need for your final tree composition.

Start wiring your branches. If necessary for lower branch shaping, sink one end of the wire into the soil. For higher branches, start the wire wherever you need to. Wrap the wire around the branch tightly, being careful not to break any branches or gouge the bark. Now you can shape the wire bound branches into place. The branches will grow to the form you’ve set.

Smooth the top of your soil and add moss, rocks or whatever is adorably mini!

Keep the tree out of the hot sun for a while until it has time to establish itself into its new home.

Being my first bonsai tree, Im not sure how long to keep the wire on. Im guessing its different per plant and to make sure to remove the wire before it  digs into the bark.

Go slow, be careful, and you’ll have your first bonsai tree in just a few hours!


A visual primer can help a ton before trying your first bonsai tree. I chose youtube to watch bonsai demonstrations. This is a long series (3 parts) but be patient, its very helpful in learning bonsai technique:


Graham Potter is a true master of his craft. His videos are long as well, but there are more advanced techniques here. Here’s are a few of my favorites, and check out Graham Potter’s channel for more.


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5 Responses to “First Bonsai Tree”

  1. R Western says:

    cool. i need suggestions from bloggers like your self to have my websites up to par. great info, well put together.

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