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Beginner Bonsai Trees

Different teachers recommend different beginner bonsai trees. However, most agree the following plants are some of the best bonsai starter plants.

If you are a new to bonsai, it is important to understand:

When certain plants are recommended ...

it does not mean all plants in that species are good subjects.

There are certain basics to look for when selecting potential bonsai trees (as well as more established bonsai.)


Click here to Review the 'Basic Things to Look For' List

Beginner Bonsai Trees
Recommended Plant List

Juniper Bonsai

Junipers are one of the most popular subjects used as beginner bonsai trees.

beginner bonsai trees, juniper bonsai, juniper

They can easily be made into shapes that resemble old pine trees. They also have a bad reputation with many beginners. This is due to many misconceptions, as the plant itself is not difficult.

First, juniper is not an indoor plant! Other beginner mistakes include root pruning at the wrong time of year and over watering.

There are many different kinds of juniper.  Juniper procumbens nana are very popular as beginner bonsai tree.

There are more pages on this site that will help, including a page showing how a juniper nursery plant became a beautiful bonsai.

Another page is all about juniper care notes and a special technique.


Ficus Bonsai

As the demand for “indoor bonsai” has risen, Ficus bonsai trees have gained great popularity as one of the best bonsai for beginners.

beginner bonsai trees, ficus bonsai, fig trees

Many masterpieces have come from tropical and sub-tropical areas.

In tropical areas of the world they are not considered indoor bonsai! They are grown outdoors, often in full sun.

Nevertheless, in good light, many are excellent indoor subjects. There are hundreds of types of Ficus and many of them are good for bonsai.

Numerous varieties have small leaves, don't even bother with large leaf types.

See 'Favorable Ficus Bonsai Characteristics' for the many reasons Ficus bonsai are so popular.

Chinese Elm Bonsai

The Chinese elm, Ulmus parvifolia, has many attributes for potentially good bonsai.

beginner bonsai trees, chinese elm, ulmus bonsai

The typical shape of an imported Chinese elm bonsai shown here. They can easily be trimmed and restyled.

The very small leaves are a plus. Their extensive "stringy" root systems are perfect for use as rock plantings.

Many imported Chinese elm bonsai have been grown for use as “indoor” trees and adapt very quickly.

Indoors, they most likely won't gain much growth in girth. The branches, however, will need to be trimmed frequently to keep the shape.

To learn lots more about this plant as bonsai (more photos too), be sure to see the full page on Chinese elm bonsai trees.


Dwarf Schefflera (arboricola)
A Favorite Beginner Bonsai Tree for Indoors

beginner bonsai trees, schefflera arboricola, arboricola bonsai

The Schefflera arboricola is well known as an ordinary houseplant and has many common names including Umbrella tree and dwarf schefflera.

Bonsai artist Andy Graham styled the arboricola bonsai shown here.

Many think it is native to Hawaii; it's actually native to Taiwan.

It was made famous as a potential bonsai by Hawaiian David Fukumoto. David refers to the arboricola as the “true indoor bonsai,” and it is definitely recommended as a bonsai for beginners.

The Jade Bonsai Tree

beginner bonsai trees, jade bonsai, bonsai jade, portulacaria

Many bonsai beginners start with the traditional jade plant, Crassula a.

Once they discover the portulacaria afra they realize how much easier it is to create a tree looking subject with the small leaf 'jade.' 

This African succulent is another good indoor plant, but it needs lots of light.

It also likes to be on the dry side and frequent pruning will keep it in shape.


Getting Started

There are many ways to get started.

In addition to good bonsai tree choices, you need good instructions.  Books are always helpful, however if you live anywhere near a bonsai club, they are a great place to start!

Where to Go From Here

I consider the above plants to be some of the best overall beginner bonsai trees. There are many more types of  bonsai to investigate.

If you are thinking of growing indoors only, see beginner bonsai trees for indoors.

Once you make a selection, but sure to get specific information about the care.  Not all bonsai require the same care!

Best wishes for fun and success in your new hobby!




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