Trees collected from the wild, which have been shaped by nature alone and
have been collected to be developed into bonsai.
A traditional Japanese bonsai style; also called a group or forest. Where
the trees are arranged in a container to resemble a group or forest of
“Having a working familiarity with bonsai terminology will enable you to
effectively express all facets of your bonsai activities to others, both more
and less skilled than yourself, in the bonsai community. The following list of
words and definitions will help you on your way to becoming fluent in the
unique language of bonsai:
A small plant that is put on view in conjunction with a bonsai; usually when
a bonsai is being formally displayed at a show or exhibition; also called a
A method for propagating trees through the removal of a large branch or
section of trunk from an existing tree, or bonsai, to create a new tree.
A traditional Japanese bonsai soil that is comprised of the red volcanic
matter of Japan; used for thousands of years by bonsai artists on most
types of deciduous bonsai trees.
The very top or highest point of a bonsai tree.
A process of encouraging new growth on a branch where growth is
Trees, mainly deciduous, with broad, flat leaves; non-conifer trees.
A traditional Japanese bonsai style; also called literati. This is a tree that
has a tall, slender trunk with foliage growing only near the top; illustrating
maturity and the casting off of material things.
The area of a tree trunk where the roots meet the soil surface; usually
styled to convey strength.
The scar tissue that forms over a wound where a branch has been pruned
off of a tree; it is part of the tree's healing process.
The thin layer of green colored cell tissue growing between the bark and
the wood of a living tree.
All of the upper-most branches that form the top of a tree.
A traditional Japanese bonsai style; also called a formal upright. This is a
tree that has a very straight trunk with symmetrical branching; illustrating
strength and order.
Finding and taking a tree from its natural habitat; a tree that has been
shaped by the forces of nature alone.
A tree that bears cones; mainly evergreen trees such as: pines, cedars,
spruces and junipers.
A hybrid resulting from cross-fertilization between species or varieties.
The upper section of a bonsai where the branches spread out from the
Cultivars are plants that have features desirable to the person "cultivating"
them. These desirable characteristics have been deliberately selected and
can be reliably reproduced in plants under controlled cultivation.
A bonsai that has leaves which are shaped in very distinct segments.
A tree that has a seasonal growth cycle where new foliage is produced in
the spring, then grows throughout the summer, turns colors in autumn,
and drops in the winter, leaving buds on the branches for next spring's
The practice of removing all leaves to encourage new shoots and potentially
The death of the tips of branches, or whole branches, due to extreme
weather or possibly one of several diseases.
A leaf formed of separate sections that emerge from a common base.
A method of propagating shrubs by carefully dividing the root ball and
replanting the separated sections.
The period of the year when little or no growth occurs; usually late autumn
and throughout the winter months.
A variety or cultivar that is smaller than the species tree, but retains all of
the characteristics of a full size species tree.
‘Food’ for trees, shrubs and plants; usually comprised of NPK: Nitrogen for
the foliage, Phosphorous for the roots, and Potassium for the flowers.
A mass of foliage on a branch; sometimes referred to as a cloud.
The part of a plant that carries the seeds; usually berries or fleshy or pod
A traditional Japanese bonsai style; also called windswept. This is a tree
that has its trunk and branches swept back in one direction; illustrating a
tree exposed to very forceful winds.
A unit of classification for a group of closely related plants.
The moment a seed starts into growth, developing roots and shoots.
The circumference of the trunk of a tree, measured at just above the root
A commonly used method for propagating trees, when propagation by
seeds or cuttings is impractical or impossible.
A traditional Japanese bonsai style; also called semi-cascade. Where the
branches and trunk of a tree are swept down to one side, but not below
the top lip of the container; illustrating a tree subject to violent winds and
A term used to describe trees capable a withstanding winter frost.
A traditional Japanese bonsai style; also called broom. Where the trunk is
semi-circular dome or broom shape.
straight with symmetrical branches and has its foliage arranged in a
The amount or degree of moisture in the air.
The length of stem between two nodes or leaf joints.
A traditional Japanese bonsai style; also called raft. Where the tree is laid
on its side and its branches are trained vertically and arranged in a group
A traditional Japanese bonsai style; also called root over rock. Where the
tree has its roots arranged so they have grown over and in the crevices of
A branch, which has been stripped of its bark and cambium to represent a
dead branch; illustrating great age or harsh conditions.
The young leaves of a tree that produces two distinct shapes of leaves; the
second type being mature foliage.
A traditional Japanese bonsai style; also called clump. Where the trees'
trunks all grow from the same point on the root mass and are more
crowded in appearance than a regular group planting.
A traditional Japanese bonsai style; also called cascade. Where the
branches and trunk of the tree are swept to one side and hang below the
container; illustrating a tree on the edge of a mountain cliff subjected to
The main shoot at the top of a tree, usually indicating the uppermost
continuation of the trunk.
A chemical used to whiten or bleach a section of stripped branch or trunk in
order to preserve a jin or shari.
A soil mixture comprised of clay, sand and organic matter.
A term used in size classification of bonsai trees; this being a small bonsai.
A traditional Japanese bonsai style; also called informal upright. Where the
trunk curves through its taper up to the apex.
The exposed surface roots of a bonsai.
A type of leaf that is narrow and usually of a stiff texture, like those found
on a black pine tree.
A stem or twig on a bonsai that originated during the current season's
An essential element of plant nutrition; identified by the chemical symbol N;
aids in growth of stems and leaves.
The point on a trunk or branch where the leaf buds emerge.
A stem or twig on a bonsai that originated during the previous season's
growth or at an earlier time.
Partly decomposed organic matter; when it is used as an ingredient of
potting soil it assists in moisture retention.
A form of volcanic rock that is heat treated to develop a lightweight, coarse
granule that when used as a component of potting soil has advantageous
ventilation and water retention properties.
Another essential element of plant nutrition; identified by the chemical
symbol P; aids in development of roots, ripening of fruits and seeds.
A technique used in bonsai cultivation of controlling and shaping the
growth of foliage by pulling off soft new shoots with the finger and thumb
in a pinching motion.
The third essential element of plant nutrition; identified by the chemical
symbol K; it encourages strong new growth, development of flower buds
and fruit formation.
The adverse state of a container grown plant where the root growth has
filled the container to the extent of eliminating all vital air spaces.
The characteristic growth habit of a plant that naturally tends to grow
along the ground instead of upright.
The process of controlling the shape and growth rate of a tree by cutting
back the shoots, stems and branches.
A type of elongated flower that is composed of individual stalks all growing
from a central stem; ex. Flower type found on wisteria trees.
The dense branching structure of a bonsai that only develops after years of
repeated pruning of the branches.
The practice of replanting a bonsai tree at regular intervals to perform
health maintaining tasks such as: root washing, inspecting, pruning, soil
refreshing, and potting in a different or larger pot; all imperative to the
health of a bonsai.
The large mass of roots and soil visible when a tree is taken out of its pot
or pulled from the ground.
The practice of cutting back the roots of bonsai in order to make room in
the container for fresh soil and to encourage new root growth.
The root system and main stem to be used as the base of a new tree
when propagating through grafting.
A small section of a tree, which contains all of the desirable characteristics
of the parent tree that will be propagated into a new tree through grafting
on top of the rootstock.
A traditional Japanese bonsai style; also called slanting. Where the trees'
trunk, appears similar to the formal upright style, but the trunk is slanting
to one side.
An area where the bark and cambium have been removed from the trunk to
suggest the struggle against fierce weather such as: wind, lightning, snow
The unit of classification for a plant with identifiable characteristics.
Stones that appear to look like large boulders or mountains and represent
the spirit or essence of each; sometime used in a formal bonsai display.
The large root of a tree that grows vertically downward, anchoring it into
the ground; it is usually referred to in bonsai, because of its need to be
pruned shorter or removed for container cultivation.
A Japanese tradition of creating a specific area in the home where bonsai,
accessory plants, Suiseki, and scrolls are displayed together in harmony.
SECRET OF SHAPING
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A number of compounds formulated to seal cuts made on branches or the
trunk of bonsai to prevent the loss of moisture and promote heeling.
|A Guide to Bonsai Basics
A tree or shrub that retains its leaves throughout the year.