Where Do Bonsai Trees Grow in the Wild?

Since the word Bonsai translates to “a contained plant,” it is hard and almost impossible to find Bonsai trees in nature. The Bonsai tree originated in China and was adopted by many eastern cultures as a symbol of beauty. Bonsais are coniferous trees that originated from a few different species of tree.

The art of Bonsai trees is an age-old tradition that has been adopted by many cultures across the world. It is not simply a plant but a work of art that has a science to it. Many people gravitate towards Bonsai trees for their complexity and small size. Growing a Bonsai tree becomes a truly personal experience.

Today, it is technically impossible to find Bonsai trees in the wild as they are cultivated to be house plants. You can find their species of tree, but you will not find the intricate designs associated with the Bonsai. This article will look at the history and origination of the Bonsai tree and how it became a cultural phenomenon.

Bonsai Trees in the Wild

Bonsai Trees in the Wild

A Bonsai tree in the wild is not even a Bonsai; it could be a variety of different species of trees, including Juniper, Elm, Ficus, or Olive. These trees were cultivated by the Japanese to become the small house plant Bonsai trees are today. It became an art form early on when it was realized how flexible these tree’s branches could be.

In the wild, you can find the specific trees that create the Bonsai tree; you will notice their limbs move in an intricate fashion, and they are more malleable and flexible than thicker, more firm trees.

Bonsai trees do not have flowers, and their trunks are very thick. Bonsai trees originated in Asia, mainly China and Japan, and still grow but do not resemble their house plant counterparts. 

The Japanese prune coniferous trees are used to form them into beautiful and intricate patterns; this became what we know today as the Bonsai tree.

Nowadays, across the world, many people carve these same trees in their backyard to get the Bonsai tree look. It has become a phenomenon around the world to be able to cultivate these small trees and make them into the design you want.

History of the Bonsai Tree

History of the Bonsai Tree

In the 6th Century, the Chinese started a practice called “penjing,” which means that you create a landscape but on a miniature scale.

The Chinese would create these small trees by putting Junipers and similarly flexible trees in a bucket of rocks to stunt root growth. The Bonsai evolved into its tiny root system, which now creates a sort of mini tree. Though it was initiated in China, the Japanese really turned the Bonsai into what it is today.

The Japanese members of the Buddhist practice would visit China and were infatuated with these small plants, taking them home in a contained bin. Not only did the Bonsai tree become a norm in eastern homes, but it also became a spiritual omen of the Buddhist movement.

The Japanese still have intentional meaning around the Bonsai tree and feel only the worthy should bring one into their home. 

The word Bonsai means a contained plant, but it has derived a variety of definitions over time. Here are some of the various connotations of the word Bonsai:

  • A sense of naturalness created by human manipulation
  • Smallness, compared with a normal tree
  • Something that is so valued it receives care every day
  • An oasis that is portable and can be transported for meditation
  • A representation of its creator
  • A general tree-like shape or style

Bonsais popularized in the western culture around the 1940s, many books, and how-to guides were released on keeping Bonsai trees in homes. This inspired not only inside the home plants but the adoption of Japanese and Chinese landscaping techniques in western gardens. 

Why Bonsai Trees Are Hard to Find in the Wild

Weeping Willow

The idea of controlling something that should be so large yet it is in a tiny form and can be manipulated like a piece of art is a fun hobby for many people. Making art out of nature is a peaceful experience that has lasted for centuries in the form of Bonsai trees.

Bonsai trees are hard to find because it is impossible for nature to create the manipulations that humans have in these tiny trees. You will see many variations in trees when they are in nature, but the Bonsai in itself is a man-made creation.

The art forms in Bonsai trees have created styles that are taught in courses and books. It takes work and understanding to be able to manipulate the Bonsai tree. There are five typical styles of Bonsai trees that include:

  • Formal Upright or Chokan
  • Informal Upright or Moyogi
  • Slanting or Shakan
  • Semi Cascade or Han-Kengai
  • Full Cascade or Kengai

Since bonsai plants are mini replicas of larger trees, they can take many different forms depending on the species of tree. The five different styles of Bonsai trees add another level of intricacy to bonsai tree caretaking. 

In nature, trees are formed by the pressure put on them and the environment they live in. The same thing occurs when Bonsai gardeners shape the Bonsai tree by utilizing their perspective of beauty. This is why the Bonsai is not simply just a houseplant; dedicated owners of the Bonsai tree will create a true piece of artwork that represents their commitment to their plant.

The Modern Bonsai Tree

How Long Do Bonsai Trees Live

Though many people think Bonsai trees are hard to care for, that is not true. When you buy a Bonsai tree today,  it will come with detailed instructions on care. It is important to give it the correct amount of water and have good lighting placement to ensure the tree will thrive, but they can be an easy addition to your inside plant collection.

Bonsai trees are a reflection of the artist that created and designed the small tree. There is an artistic flare to various artist’s styles, just like you would see in a painting or sculpture. There are many famous Bonsai artists who hail from Bonsai’s original home, Japan. Some famous Bonsai artists include:

  • Kunio Koboyashi
  • Wolfgang Putz
  • Masashi Hiraio
  • Mokoto Azuma

There are truly ancient secrets to be held when curating Bonsai trees; it is a gift to be able to manipulate these beautiful trees into a variety of styles.

Many of these famous artists have gardens that people can visit to understand the variety of styles that can be made in these trees.

Modern Bonsai trees are sold in mass quantities as there have been many modern advancements in the ability to create beautiful trees that have the classic Bonsai shape.

Though Bonsai trees typically come from a Bonsai developer who has manipulated the plant to look as it does, it is not impossible to create your own Bonsai tree. 

How To Shape a Jade Plant Into a Bonsai Shape might be an interesting article for you.


Bonsai trees are a beautiful and small piece of work that originated from coniferous trees that had flexible roots. Though they do not truly exist as Bonsai trees in the wild, they are native to the Chinese forests and are a branch of the coniferous species of trees. They have been adopted around the world as house plants that bring good energy and peace to a home.

Having a Bonsai tree in your home is an enlightening and peaceful experience; they allow gardeners to become true artists by manipulating their branches. The style of the Bonsai tree dates back to the Japanese style made by the Buddhist culture; these trees have defied the test of time with their beauty.  

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