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.)
Junipers are one of the most popular subjects used as beginner bonsai trees. 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. Another page is all about junipers.
As the demand for “indoor bonsai” has risen, Ficus bonsai trees have gained great popularity as one of the best bonsai for beginners.
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.
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 so many types of Ficus bonsai are so popular.
The Chinese elm, Ulmus parvifolia, has many attributes for potentially good bonsai.
The 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 won't gain much growth in girth.)
The branches will need to be trimmed frequently to keep the shape. To learn more about this plant as bonsai (more photos too), be sure to see the full page on Chinese elm bonsai trees.
There are approximately 125 species of Maple and many are used as bonsai. Trident maples are perhaps the favorite. All are deciduous trees, not good for indoors.
This Red Maple grouping from the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum is a beautiful example of how several individual trees can create a beautiful forest.
The Schefflera arboricola is well known as an ordinary houseplant and has many common names including 'umbrella tree' and dwarf schefflera. 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. (Many think it is native to Hawaii; it's actually native to Taiwan.)
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 this small leaf 'jade.' This African succulent is another good indoor plant, but it needs sun or very high light, and frequent pruning.
There are many ways to get started.
In addition to good bonsai tree choices, you need good instructions. Bonsai Books are always helpful. If you live anywhere near a bonsai club, they are a great place to start!
The above plants are some of the best 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!
is my free monthly newsletter. Subscribe to get current tips, ideas and photos that may not appear on this site.