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Growing Bonsai from Seed

The first thing to learn about growing bonsai from seed is . . . there is no such thing as ‘bonsai seeds.’  Seeds of trees “suitable for bonsai" is much better terminology.

The Truth About Bonsai Seeds

Buying bonsai seeds is no different than buying the same type of seed in a garden center or collecting them from a tree in your yard.  Don't be fooled by exotic pictures on seed packages.  They are often photos of fabulous old bonsai trees. Being in a pretty package, changes nothing.

It is not what your seedling will look like without many years of study, planning, shaping and maintenance.  And … in many cases, it may not happen in your lifetime!

Japanese Red Pine - 22 Years from Seed

This Japanese red pine group belongs to Jonas Dupuich. He grew them from seed. As they developed, Jonas realized they did not make good single trees, he wanted to throw them away.  His teacher, Boon Manakitivipart, recommended he create a forest of them.


Powder Puff Seed Pod

Some of the seeds we use for bonsai are not viable in all climate zones.  Seeds that may grow in one area may not thrive in another.  Frequently, online sources specialize in plant seeds that will eventually make a bonsai.   Shop around and select a reliable source. 

Always ask about how to plant them, the best time of year and where (climate) they will grow best. The least expensive way to begin is to experiment with seeds from trees where you live.  They're free.  Growing bonsai from seed, although slow, can be fun and rewarding.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 
growing bonsai from seed

Tamarindus indica grown from seed.

The big disadvantage is the amount of time it takes to establish a mature bonsai from seed. Timing will also depend upon the species. Some plants are much slower than others. Another disadvantage is the light required.

For those who grow bonsai indoors, be sure to give your seedlings plenty of light so they remain compact and don't "stretch" trying to reach the sun.

The biggest advantage of seeds is you can manage the shape of your tree from the very beginning.

It’s a good idea to have other bonsai trees in progress while you wait, work and watch the seedlings grow.

A Fun Bonsai Project

There are many plants that grow quickly from seed, including many tropicals. Begin with a plant that will eventually meet the desirable attributes of a good bonsai -- small leaves, proportionate flowers and a woody trunk. The tropical Acacia farnesiana is one such plant.

Acacia Forest from Seed

The planting of this 'forest' began as a scattering of seeds in a long aluminum foil tray. In the beginning, the seedlings were allowed to grow tall to help develop the trunks.

Eventually the small trees were cut in half! Any trees that were too close together or grew crooked were removed.

This is not the traditional method of creating a grouping. It could, however, be a fun way to encourage a person's desire for growing bonsai from seed and at the same time fulfilling their need for instant gratification.

To think a handful of “bonsai seeds” can become a forest is a pretty exciting concept!

Where To Go From Here

 Growing bonsai from seed is only one way to create bonsai

Basic Bonsai Styles

Types of Bonsai Trees





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