How do bonsai trees stay small is a question of interest as the bonsai is known for their dwarf appearance and beautiful foliage, look amazing.

Techniques for Keeping Trees Miniature

They are a symbol of aesthetics and aristocracy in indoor and outdoor spaces, but have you ever wondered what techniques bonsai experts apply to keep the tree and its leaves in such a miniature form?

Our experts have all the answers for you to know and appreciate Bonsai trees.

How Do Bonsai Trees Stay Small?

To make Bonsai stay small is through pruning techniques applied by gardeners, and using smaller pots manipulates the growing techniques of these trees to make them dwarf. Moreover, as you begin to bind them with wires, and limit their growing ability, the trees will remain small. 

As gardeners give shape to the bonsais using wires, it stresses out the tree. So, its growth hormone release becomes slower, which results in its smaller size. Hence, its unique constrictor technique is responsible for maintaining the dwarfism of the bonsais. 

– Use of Smaller Pots

The smaller pots used for bonsai cultivation are the primary reason bonsais stay so small. Seeing the large tree species fitting inside such a tiny space seems magical. Well, the magician is none but the pot itself. The pot confines the root and stops its expansion.

Usually, bonsai trees, such as juniper, pine, and Canadian maple tree, have large size. Their width and length can be overwhelming but have you seen the pots used for their bonsais? The pot is not even 1/100 part of the original width and length of the natural bonsai trees. Moreover, the pots are shallower than those used for indoor plants.

Role of Small Pots in Bonsai Maintenance

Hence, the smaller and shallower pots control and stop the unrestricted growth of the bonsais. The strong base and wall of the pot will trap and restrict the bonsai roots from growing freely. Thus, within a couple of months, the roots get trapped and stop spreading like their natural habitats.

As a result, the tree won’t get as big as it does in its usual conditions. The easiest way to determine it is to plant bonsais in nutrient-rich soil. It will start growing within a couple of months there.

– Special Pruning Technique

Talking about dwarfism of the bonsai, pruning is responsible for the size too. Usually, gardeners apply to follow two pruning techniques for these little trees, the structural pruning, and root pruning.

Bonsai experts will apply special pruning techniques to stunt the natural growth of bonsai. As the bonsai tree grows, people regularly prune and trim the branches and foliage. Thus, we will only see proper growth of the bonsai year after year, which means that if you want to see it get smaller, it will not, on the contrary, it will get much bigger and bushier.

Typically, like all trees, the bonsai plant grows in the summertime with enough nutrients and water. So, the tree starts exfoliating and may become bigger. At this moment, bonsai growers start pruning the trees. It may include different pruning mechanisms.

First, you must begin by choosing light pruning, the reason is that it helps maintain the size and shape of the tree in desired conditions. The gardener will typically trim the branches and foliage, and consequently, the tree appears as it was a year ago.

On the other hand, when you aim for some heavy pruning may include cutting the tree branches to give the bonsai their perfect shape. An expert bonsai artist will play with different structures and shapes to give the tree small and unique looks. It is more known as structural pruning.

– Binding by Wiring

You may have seen robust wiring connecting the different trunks and branches of bonsais. These wirings are secured with a stronger base. Bonsai artists usually use wires to bend the trunk and branches of their bonsais in their favorite and desired shape.

Power of Wiring for Branch Training

As the wiring continues for many years, it tortures the tree, so, small bonsai trees will find themselves under extreme stress. The stress affects their natural growth hormone release procedure. 

As the wiring gets stronger, the tree starts releasing the hormone growth even slower. When it continues for years, the tree loses its growing energy. Henceforth, the wiring also limits the growth rate of the bonsai plant. The presence of the tiniest pots, continuous pruning, and binding the tree branches with solid wires help gardeners maintain the small size of your tree.

– Defoliation Mechanism

You may wonder how the bonsai trees’ small leaves become so small. What techniques do bonsai artists apply to maintain the smaller size of the leaves? Well, the answer lies in the pruning technique of the leaves.

Of course, experts don’t cut off the leaves directly from the branches every day. Instead, they will use a defoliation mechanism to keep the foliage limited. During the growing season of the different species, gardeners will defoliate all or most leaves of the bonsai. As people defoliate the leaves, the tree starts growing newer leaves.

However, there’s a catch to this defoliation and root pruning technique. In the following season, the leaves will grow in their natural size. It suggests that defoliation only has a temporary effect on the bonsai leaves.

Henceforth, bonsai artists and exhibitionists will apply the defoliation mechanism on special occasions.

Nonetheless, the recent leaves will be much smaller as they lack soil nutrients. Usually, bonsai growers will cut off the bonsai stem from the connecting branch. As they continue the process for many years, slowly, the leaves keep getting smaller and smaller.

– Root Pruning

If you get a bonsai at home, you must defoliate it each year to maintain the perfect shape and look. Root pruning happens at the root of the bonsai. Typically, the gardener will trim the roots to keep them within the pot. As it happens, it slowly restrains the growth rate of the bonsai and its roots, as a result, eventually, it will stop expanding.

Implementing Root Pruning Techniques

Besides, gardeners often seek the help of routine pruning for daily tree maintenance. During the pruning, gardeners will defoliate the plant. So, the larger leaves eventually start growing smaller.

Also, root pruning works too in dwarfing the leaf sizes. Through root pruning, these trees get trapped, affecting the overall growth, including the leaves. Plus, the lack of nutrients in the soil will further restrict the leaves from growing at their standard size.

– Soil and Water Requirements

The soil needs to have maximum drainage. You can add perlite, stones, volcanic rocks, and pumice to improve the soil structure and drainage. It also improves the air quantity in the soil. Plus, add clay to boost the water-holding ability of the soil.

For watering, you must saturate the bonsai root. Since each species have different water requirements, maintain it individually. As you water the bonsais, look for overwatering cycles such as leaves yellowing, damaged stems, and so on.

What are Some Small Bonsai Tree For Newbie Gardeners?

Some small Bonsai trees for newbie gardeners would be the jade plant, the Chinese elm, and the ficus retusa, these are the types that will grow with a lower maintenance level. 

It would help if you initiated the regular pruning only during the growing season. On the contrary, apply structural pruning during the dormant season. You have to cut off the structural branches of the tree. 

It often needs professional skills, also, wiring helps in giving the bonsai its perfect shape. It is best if you choose maintenance pruning routinely, because it triggers the growth of the bonsai. You need to perform the structural pruning on the branches, the leaves, and the buds of the tree.

– Jade Plant

Jade bonsai is a popular houseplant, and this is one that you can quickly grow this succulent tree into bonsai. These are the successor of the dwarf tree and are easy to maintain.

Maintaining the Jade Bonsai Plant

As you decide the right place to put the jade tree, you must ensure that it would receive proper light and air. Carefully select the position of your bonsai pot as It should avoid direct sunlight but receive proper lighting.

– Chinese Elm

It is a popular bonsai in China and the entire south-east Asia, thanks to its fantastic foliage. You can apply a guy and regular pruning mechanism to give it your desired shape.

– Ficus Retusa

One of the most commonly seen bonsai is the Ficus Retusa. It grows in abundance both indoors and outdoors, moreover, remember that, it thrives in different conditions. So, newbie bonsai growers will find it incredibly easy to grow.

As you choose the right species to grow bonsai, it’s time to see its care and maintenance guidelines.


Bonsai are so fantastic that none can ignore their aesthetics. However, their secret to growing smaller is even more surprising.

  • Root trapping in a tiny pot, continuous pruning, and cutting of the leaves are responsible for the smaller sizes of bonsai plants.
  • In nutrient-rich soil, you can repot them to help return to their natural size. Planting them in an open space and fertilizing them properly helps them regain their growing ability.
  • Bonsai trees are challenging to grow because they need extreme patience and care. You need to be fully committed to growing bonsai into their beautiful appearance.

Did you find this article on bonsai helpful? For more exciting and valuable content on gardening, stay tuned.


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