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How Long do Bonsai Trees Take to Grow?

While it is widely debated about the time required to grow Bonsai trees, all of them can say with certainty that they take a long time to grow.

Generally, Bonsai trees take generations to grow and attain maturity. Depending on the type of Bonsai trees and the climate, it can take 15-20 years to grow from seed to a healthy tree, but they can live for over 100-1000 years in optimum conditions.

Gardeners argue that Bonsai trees require conscientious care and nurture to give them a proper, desired shape.

Read on to clear your doubts and know exactly how long Bonsai trees take to grow and the factors affecting the growth rate!

How Long Do Bonsai Trees Take to Grow?

Regardless of species, Bonsai trees grown from seeds can easily take 10-15 years to reach maturity.

Meanwhile, some Bonsai trees can take over 30 years to mature fully.

bonsai tree with big trunk
The healthier, thick trunk of the Bonsai tree means they will live longer.

However, after four years of growing from the seed, you can start pruning and wiring the Bonsai as needed.

These years are not a fraction of Bonsai trees’ life as they can live over 500 years if properly cared for.

Factors that Decide the Growth Rate of Bonsai Trees

The growth of Bonsai varies, especially according to the species.

While Bonsai trees take a lot of time to grow, they can be grown a little faster in a few ways.

A few factors are addressed below that considerably affect the tree’s growth.

1. Bonsai Species

Choosing the right tree is vital for growing a Bonsai. Choose a fast-growing tree.

Evergreen and tropical trees are usually considered best. However, there are a few specific trees that do have an accelerated growth rate.

Bonsai trees such as Maple, Chinese Junipers, Jade, and Japanese White or Black Pines grow faster than others.

But remember, even the fast-growing Bonsai trees will take at least four years before you can begin to shape them.

2. Sunlight & Location

Ensuring the Bonsai trees receive optimal sunlight is another way to boost and keep the growth rate optimal.

Generally, Bonsai trees grow flawlessly with 5-6 hours of sunlight daily. That said, aim to match up the sunlight needs of regular-sized trees.

Moreover, the answer to do Bonsai trees need full sun will also vary depending on the type of Bonsai.

As a general rule of thumb, keep your Bonsai trees outdoors in warmer months or incorporate them indoors in sunny east or south windows.

Use artificial grow lights in winter to keep Bonsai trees green and healthy.

3. Proper Watering

The watering needs of Bonsai trees vary depending on the size, species, pot size, and soil mix.

As improper watering affects the growth of the Bonsai trees, allow the 1/2 inch of topsoil to dry before fetching them water.

To do so, use a moisture meter or simply poke chopsticks into the soil and check whether the trees need immediate watering.

While watering Bonsai trees, pour water generously until it oozes out from drain holes.

4. Proper Soil Mix

An ideal soil mix for Bonsai trees must facilitate well-drainage, aeration, and medium water retention capacity.

You can prepare one for your Bonsai tree by blending akadama, pumice, lava rock, peat moss, perlite, and fine gravel.

Remember to keep the soil pH between 6.5 and 7.5, as most Bonsai trees grow and prefer neutral soil.

Furthermore, ensure the soil mix does not retain water for too long hours, as it can contribute to root rot.

5. Potting & Repotting

The main reason Bonsai trees are so small is that their roots have limited growing space.

However, the severe rootbound condition can cause immature death of the Bonsai trees.

Aim to repot them every two years to ensure healthy growth and enough room for roots of fast-growing Bonsai trees.

On the other hand, you can repot Bonsai trees with moderate growth every 3-5 years.

For optimal results with lower repot stress, aim to repot them in early spring before their active growing season kicks in.

But refrain from repotting Bonsai trees in summer or winter.

6. Adequate Fertilizer

With proper, prompt, and adequate fertilization, you can actually influence and quicken Bonsai trees’ growth.

Bonsai trees actively grow and unfurl new foliage from early spring to mid-fall, so feed them with all-purpose fertilizer throughout the active season.

You can use various fertilizers with varying NPK ratios depending on your needs.

  • Aim for a phosphoric bloom booster to encourage flowering in a Bonsai tree.
  • To facilitate better foliage growth, use nitrous fertilizers in early spring.
  • During summer, opt for balanced fertilizers and fertilizers with low nitrogen during autumn.

Remember, not all Bonsai trees require the same amount of fertilizer, and it highly depends on the type and maturity of the plant.

Mature Bonsai trees require relatively less fertilization, whereas younger ones should be fertilized more often.

7. Timely Pruning

Bonsai trees require regular pruning to sustain the desired Bonsai tree shape.

Aim to prune outdoor Bonsai trees from early spring to late fall from March to September to encourage better plant growth.

Meanwhile, you can prune indoor Bonsai trees throughout the year about 2-4 times a year.

Regular pruning of damaged, dying parts of trees will help Bonsai focus on new growth.

Besides maintenance pruning, Bonsai trees also require structural pruning to achieve the desired shape.

Thus, prune shoots and branches that have outgrown the intended canopy shape using regular cutters or twig shears.

Alternatively, aim to defoliate deciduous Bonsai by removing the leaves in summer to reduce the size of the tree leaves and increase ramification.

8. Aiming for Trunk Growth

Encouraging trunk growth is the best way to ensure a Bonsai’s healthy and speedy growth.

The trunk is responsible for keeping the Bonsai tree stand tall and facilitating the transportation of nutrients from roots to leaves and vice versa.

Thus, the health of the trunk decides how long the Bonsai lasts with optimal growth.

There are many different ways to encourage trunk growth, to name a few:

1. Potting the Tree on the Ground

By potting it on the ground, the roots will have plenty of room to grow, absorbing more minerals and boosting the growth of the trunk.

However, this is also very risky for several reasons:

  • Low soil quality wouldn’t have enough minerals to support the growth of the tree
  • Lack of drainage might cause the root to rot
  • The tree will also be vulnerable to pests and diseases.

2. Trunk Merging

This method might be too complicated for new Bonsai enthusiasts, but it is the fastest way to promote trunk growth. This, too, comes with its complications.

  • This method will not work for an existing Bonsai tree
  • It requires many saplings tightly bonded together with a light rope.
  • It might develop some problems that come with growing a hollow trunk Bonsai.

3. Growing a Sacrificial Branch

Growing a sacrificial branch is another way of promoting trunk growth.

As the name suggests, a branch is left to grow around the base of the trunk.

That branch will be much larger than others, feeding the trunk large amounts of nutrients. The branch is later cut off, which might pose some problems for the Bonsai.

When the sacrificial branch is cut off, it will leave an ugly scar on the side of the trunk, which might affect the aesthetic aspect of the Bonsai.

Outdoor and Indoor Bonsai Species

Many different types of Bonsai thrive in indoor or outdoor environments.

Some require fewer external factors, while others require more. Thus the settings are favorable depending on the species.

Here are a few outdoor and indoor Bonsai species.

Outdoor Bonsai SpeciesIndoor Bonsai Species
Olive Bonsai
Ficus Bonsai

Pomegranate Bonsai
Carmona Bonsai
Fuchsia Bonsai
Crassula (Jade) Bonsai
Mulberry  Bonsai
Schefflera Bonsai
Privet BonsaiSerissa Japonica (Snow Rose) Bonsai
Weeping Willow BonsaiJade Plant

How Long do Bonsai Trees live?

Bonsai trees are shrubs with a lifespan of over a hundred years, provided with good genetic characteristics and excellent care.

The quality of attention and overall wellness of the tree determines a Bonsai tree’s lifespan.

Thus, the key to extending the life of your Bonsai trees solely depends on you and your children, as they can survive beyond your lifetime.

Bonsai tree in pot
Bonsai Tree can have a lifespan ranging from 100-1000 or more years.

A frequent misconception is that Bonsai trees are tiny and have a short lifespan.

Bonsai trees can live much longer than the ordinary trees found in nature if we fulfill all the care requirements of Bonsai.

Fact: The average life expectancy of Bonsai trees is 25% more compared to the trees compared to other trees of similar species.

Which is World’s Oldest Bonsai?

There are a few examples of ancient Bonsai and arguably the most popular ones.

The Ficus Retusa Linn of Italy is the oldest Bonsai, over a thousand years old.

BonsaiLocationAge (years)
Fiscus Bonsai TreeParabiago, Italy1000+
Juniper BonsaiOmiya, Japan1000
Bonsai of Shukaken NurseryTokyo, Japan800
Red Pine BonsaiAtami japan600
Sandai Shogun no MatsuTokyo, Japan500
Yamaki Pine BonsaiWashington D.C., USA392
Chabo-Hiba CypressesCambridge, Massachusetts, USA10-275

From Editorial Team

Master the Art of Root Trimming

With efficient root trimming, you can control the size of Bonsai trees, encourage growth and prevent the root-bound condition.

Using sharp, sterilized shears, prune off the roots of Bonsai trees in late winter or early spring and ensure prep the plant via thorough watering.

All The Best!

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