Dwarf Bonsai: Is it possible to Grow a Smaller Tree?

  • By: Josh Koop
  • Date: February 8, 2023
  • Time to read: 6 min.
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Bonsai first originated in ancient Japan. Today, this art has become popular all over the world. Bonsai is a technique used to create miniature versions of large trees for decorative and aesthetic purposes. But what about dwarf trees and shrubs? Can you bonsai a dwarf tree? 

You can make bonsai from smaller trees and shrubs. In fact, you can grow bonsai from any tree . Any tree with a sturdy trunk and smaller leaves is easy to grow as a bonsai. The process is the same as usual. You just have to plant them in a small container and prune them to the desired size. 

In this article, I will talk about why dwarf trees and shrubs are great choices for making bonsai. You will also learn about some popular dwarf trees that are perfect as bonsai for indoor and outdoor decorations. So, keep reading!

Why Dwarf Trees Is Great For Bonsai

Bonsai is an art . It allows you to have a miniature of your favorite tree in your outdoor or indoor garden. Thus, you can enjoy seeing your favorite flowers and fruits growing at your arm’s reach. 

As you know, both large and small-sized trees and shrubs that have sturdy trunks or stems are perfect for bonsai. These trees typically grow branches that give attractive shapes to the bonsai. 

So, dwarf trees are also great for making bonsai. Many trees are designed to be dwarf right from their seeds, and many are naturally dwarf. The small size of these trees makes them quite convenient for turning into bonsai. 

Bonsai trees can be as small as 2 inches or as tall as 6 feet. It requires systematic pruning and wiring to limit the size of a bonsai. The larger the natural species of the tree is, the harder it gets to control its growth.

In the case of dwarf-sized trees, the process is less stressful since the trees comparatively grow small. Most dwarf trees and shrubs usually grow only 2 to 12 feet in height. 

Besides, many dwarf trees and shrubs have needle-like or scale-like foliage that makes them a superb choice as bonsai. Trees with smaller leaves look much more attractive as bonsai compared to trees with large-leaved trees. 

What Are Some Popular Dwarf Trees For Making Bonsai?

Like any other large tree, dwarf trees can be categorized into different categories, such as deciduous, broadleaf evergreen, and conifers. Broadleaf species, like the Dwarf Jade and Ficus trees, are evergreens that never shed all their foliage at once. The leaves gradually fall off.  

Then there are deciduous dwarf trees and shrubs like species. Japanese maples and redbuds are excellent choices for making colorful bonsai trees. You can also find dwarf trees and shrubs under pine and conifer species.

The weeping birch and snow rose trees have small needles or scale-like foliage that look amazing as bonsai. 

Here is a list of dwarf trees and shrubs that are commonly used for making bonsai:

  • Japanese Dwarf Maple 
  • Dwarf Jade
  • Redbud Tree
  • Sargent Crabapple Tree
  • Snow rose 
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Hinoki Cypress
  • Variegated Willow Bonsai Tree
  • Weeping Birch 
  • Camellia 

Choose any dwarf-sized tree or shrub to make your mini bonsai. They belong to different species. Some have beautiful flowers, while others have nice foliage. Whatever you choose, learn details about its species to take better care of it. 

How To Make A Dwarf Tree Bonsai?

You can turn a dwarf tree into a bonsai just like any other tree. All you need to do is to re-pot it on time, prune the roots and branches, and wire the tree according to the shape and size you want. 

Follow these steps to make a dwarf bonsai:

Choose A Tree Or Shrub For Bonsai

First, decide which species of dwarf tree you want for bonsai. Is it going to be a deciduous tree or an evergreen? Also, consider the climate of the area where you plan to grow your bonsai.

Different trees need different temperatures and weather to survive. Some trees thrive in warm temperatures, while others require a cool environment. 

Then, think if you want to grow the bonsai indoors or outdoors . For beginners, Japanese dwarf maples are a good choice to grow outdoors. On the other hand, non-woody shrubs like dwarf jade and snow roses are indoors. 

Get A Bonsai Starter

There are a few ways to get a dwarf tree for making bonsai. If you are a beginner, you can get a bonsai or pre-bonsai from a bonsai expert or a nursery .

You can also grow your own tree from seed or cutting, but it will take about three to four years before the tree gets ready to be turned into a bonsai

Prepare The Tree

Let’s imagine you got a dwarf bonsai from a nursery. You will obviously want to transfer the bonsai from the current plastic pot or bag to a suitable bonsai pot. 

Most bonsai trees are recommended to be re-potted during spring. In this season, most of the plants tend to grow. So, when you prune the roots and branches, they will recover and grow fast. 

To transfer the bonsai without harming the stem, you have to gently remove it using a pot shovel from the current pot. Avoid watering the bonsai before repotting. It will be easier to clean the roots. 

If you do not have a root rake, use a chopstick to remove the soil from the root. Yes, you are going to cut most of the roots, but you should know which ones to keep and which ones to get rid of.

Prune the dead roots, large, thick roots, and the roots that are moving upwards. Cutting the roots lets you control the growth and size of the bonsai. 

Transferring To A New Pot

The pot you choose for your bonsai should have drainage and wiring holes. Before placing your bonsai, fill up the bonsai pot with appropriate soil. Coarse-grain soil allows water to reach the roots and drain the excess water. 

Now, place your bonsai in the pot . Then put another layer of bonsai soil over the roots and completely cover them. Wire the tree with the bonsai pot to keep it stable.  

Pruning And Wiring

If you want to maintain the size and shape of your dwarf bonsai, you need to prune it regularly . Wiring the tree is also necessary to give the bonsai your desired shape.

The best time for pruning unwanted branches and foliage for outdoor trees is generally from March to September. Most indoor bonsai trees can be pruned all year round. 

Based on the species of your dwarf tree, you have to wire your bonsai from time to time. For example, wire deciduous trees in early spring and coniferous trees at the end of the year. If you want to keep the size small, wire your bonsai while it is young

Tips On Taking Care Of Dwarf Tree Bonsai

All bonsai need care and attention. Some bonsai require minimal care, while others need your full attention. Here are some tips to take care of your bonsai :


Can you bonsai a dwarf tree? Yes, you can bonsai a dwarf tree. There are many dwarf trees that are perfect for bonsai making. Dwarf trees are regular trees that are smaller in size. Their size makes them even more perfect for bonsai

So, get an adorable dwarf tree for your home garden to make your first dwarf bonsai.