How much does a bonsai cost? The answer here depends on several factors. During the time of this research, the average price range of bonsai trees was between $20 and $100. But, don’t be surprised if you come across a bonsai tree costing several thousands, especially if it's imported from Japan.
The first price determinant is the popularity of the species. As we mentioned earlier, bonsai art has its history back in ancient Chinese Buddhist monks. Then, there were specific trees that they preferred, which some people refer as the “parent bonsais.” These species are usually costlier.
Price therefore also depends on the species. Today, there are more than a hundred species, each with a different price range. Apart from these two, their price is also largely determined by the age of the tree and the provider. Older trees are more expensive, as they take years to mature. The best thing with bonsais is that there is little cost after the acquisition.
In our review, we didn't include cheap bonsai trees, which are either the least popular species or ones which are vulnerable to diseases. We picked the species from the leading brands that’ll give you the real experience of a bonsai tree. Therefore, pick any of them, without a second thought, as long as they can survive where you intend to place them.
Construction and Design
The best starting point for your bonsai art journey will be answering these two questions: Where do you want to start? and Do you want to buy seeds and grow the tree yourself, or first buy a mature bonsai tree to get a better experience?
If you’re a starter, we highly recommend going for the latter option. Purchase a mature bonsai tree and learn the basics using it. Here you can either choose a specimen tree stage, which has reached the refinement level, or the bonsai stage, which has undergone various training processes, but still requires some more training. With this one, you’ll learn the basic maintenance, with the tree having high survival chances. The specimen type is the best for those who are already trained in the art.
If you’ve already taken care of a mature bonsai tree, you can then proceed and acquire a pre-bonsai, which has only undergone the preliminary training. This one offers you a better challenge and a good “playground” to play with it. Finally, if you’ve successfully gone through these stages, you can plant seeds or buy small seedlings and grow them. However, this can take up to one decade.
If you don’t like the reverse training and you decide to go vice versa, you’ll likely burn your fingers. There’s also another alternative: buy an artificial bonsai tree. While not the most natural choice, this is for those who want the feel and look of a real bonsai tree, but cannot manage to take care of a live one.
After identifying where to start, decide whether you want an indoor or outdoor type and pick the best species for you. Some good examples for indoor bonsai trees include Ficus Bonsai, Jade, Carmona, and Chinese Elm. For outdoor bonsais, examples include Juniper Bonsai, Ligustrum, and Japanese Maple.
Bonsais can either be tropical plants, shrubs or trees. Some of them have leaves, for example the privet, money tree, and ficus species. Others are coniferous, and still others are needled. Overall, the two most popular species are Ficus Bonsai (fig tree) and Juniperus (Juniper Bonsai).
If your preference is deciduous species, you have numerous options including Trident Maple, Japanese Maple, Dwarf Pomegranate, Chinese Elm, Hornbeam and Beech, Zelkova, Wisteria, Magnolia Stellata, Oak Bonsai, Crabapple, and Celtis bonsai. For broadleaf evergreen, examples include Privet, Boxwood, Snow Rose, Olive Bonsai, Jade, Fuchsia, Fig tree, Fukien tea, Azalea, Bird plum, Cotoneaster, and Money tree. If you'd like the arid areas feeling, there’s the conifers and pines. Examples of these include Spruce, Juniper Bonsai, Yew, Pine and Buddhist Pine, Cedar, and Larch Bonsai.
The final consideration here is size. Do you have enough space for the tree and how easy will it be if you want to relocate it? If you live in a condo, without a spacious balcony, a large tree will be more of an inconvenience.
Performance and Ease of Use
The performance of a bonsai depends on two things: the health of the tree and how you take care of the tree. Before purchasing the tree confirm that the tree is healthy and strong. For a healthy tree, the branches will be strong, evenly distributed, and angled properly. The nebari, which refers to the surface roots, add some elegance to the tree. If you see dead branches and scars, that’s a sign of age.
The proportion of flowers, leaves, and fruits must be proportionate. For a small tree, the leaves should be small and vice versa. For branches, the more there are the better, especially if the tree is fairly young. They offer you a good space to shape and train them, as opposed to just a few branches.
The trunk of a bonsai is another great yardstick when you’re assessing a bonsai tree. Go for trees with a strong and big trunk. A strong trunk is an indication that the tree had a good start and that is was grown from a seedling, as opposed to cuttings, which have no future. A good trunk should have a wide bottom and narrow top.
Apart from health, the performance of the tree will also depend on whether you’re taking care of the tree. Luckily, it’s easy to take care of these special trees. In case you try and fail on your first tree, don't lose hope; give it another shot and identify what went wrong.
There are five main considerations here: lighting, watering, temperature, feeding and pruning.
The amount of light depends on the tree you have. If you have a shrub bonsai type, place it in a well-lit area. For tropical species, they perform well in an area with indirect lighting. Because of these specific lighting, the greatest mistake you can do is to purchase a tree when you have no idea what species it belongs to.
When it comes to watering, obviously don’t overwater them! Only water your tree when it’s necessary, which will largely depend on its species. The Japanese say that it rains twice for bonsai.
The beauty of the bonsai tree depends on you. Trim, train, and shape in your preferred way. Don't forget to clip off yellow and dead leaves. In this guide, we have only highlighted care and maintenance to give you a picture of what you should expect.
Okay, now that you’ve taken a look at all the different things to consider when buying a bonsai tree, it’s time to take a look at our selection of five great bonsai tree brands.