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Favorite Bonsai Books

"I’ve read all the bonsai books printed in English."  Yes, I said that  . . . back in the 1970s!   Today, it’s difficult to keep up.  There are more legitimate bonsai artists, more techniques and overall better exposure. 

The print quality is better, the photos are in color and the sources are plentiful. It’s a whole new bonsai world! 

 Best for Beginners

Bonsai Techniques I - by John Naka is considered by many to be the bonsai 'bible.' John's own drawings diagram his techniques. This is the perfect book for the serious student of the art.

Bonsai: a beginners guide - Published by Bonsai Empire is a newer book and has beautiful photos, and fun how-to graphics.

Perfect Gifts

favorite bonsai books

Giving a bonsai (even to a bonsai person) may not be a good idea. However, a good book?

Now, that's a great idea!

The World of Bonsai

sits on my coffee table. (It's not a how-to-do bonsai book.)

The photographs of people and places are unbelievably powerful.  I highly recommend it as a gift for anyone who enjoys the visual arts.  As a gift, I suggest the hardback version.

Thoughts on Used Bonsai Books

When you see book that seems too pricey, check it out!  There may be a used copy available!  Used books can be  terrific bargains.

Maybe not for coffee table types, but certainly for reference tomes this is a real option.  If you don’t mind a spot on the cover, a couple of turned down pages or just a “little worn” look – think about purchasing used books.

Reference Sources

"Hortus Third"

The Complete name is Hortus Third: A Concise Dictionary of Plants Cultivated in the United States and Canada

These are probably the most important plant reference books I own. (I have a 2 volume set.)  Originally these books were published as hard back and ran about $100.  Today, they are a bargain and often available "used." 

If you are a garden writer (including bonsai) Hortus is a must.    

connate perfoliate leaf shape

Don't miss the 'Index of Common Names' consisting of over 10,000 entries and the Glossary of Botanical Terms including a page of leaf illustrations. 

No excuse not to know what a connate-perfoliate leaf looks like! (Just in case you would ever need to know.)

Note to Tropical Bonsai Growers

"The Biology of Trees Native to Tropical Florida"

If United States tropical plants are your interest, the botanical illustrations by Priscilla Fawcett are clear and close-up!  

The title is a bit of a misnomer because there are more than 'natives' included, which is a good thing.  Click on picture.

About Your  Climate

Most how-to bonsai books are not written for tropical climates.  In you live in a tropical area, for the most part skip the chapters about types of trees to use, times of year to plant and many soil mixes (unless you’re just curious.) 

Find a local bonsai club for more accurate instructions for your zone.

If you live in Miami, Florida a white pine won't survive.  However, tropicals won't live in more temperate zones unless they are grown indoors or wintered in a greenhouse.  

Always consider the climate where you live when selecting bonsai books and especially before deciding on a species to grow.

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