Names and Types of Bonsai Trees

Picture of a Bonsai Tree
Bonsai Tree
Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica) Bonsai

Bonsai trees can be grown from many different species of trees, shrubs, herbs, succulents and vines. It should be understood that Bonsai trees are not a species of tree, rather a type of growth form and method applied to any species that can be grown in a miniaturized state. The word "Bonsai" ( 盆栽, "tray gardening", in Japanese ) describes a Japanese form of art, a practice of long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees growing in a container to mimic the shape and characteristics of its natural full size growth habit on a small scale.

Types of Bonsai Trees

There are names given to Bonsai trees for different growth styles, see Bonsai Style Types, lower down on this page.
Bonsai trees are also given Japanese names for different sizes of tree, see Names of Bonsai Size Types, on this page also.

Ultimately there are several growing location types of Bonsai trees; See list of Outdoor Bonsai Trees, or Indoor Bonsai Trees.

  • Outdoor Deciduous Bonsai Trees
  • Outdoor Evergreen Bonsai Trees
  • Indoor Deciduous Bonsai Trees
  • Indoor Evergreen Bonsai Trees
Pictures of deciduous Bonsai trees in summer and winter
Maple Bonsai Tree SummerMaple Bonsai Tree Winter
The same Trident Maple (Acer buergerianum) Bonsai in both pictures, in summer and winter, showing the visual differences of deciduous Bonsai trees according to the season.

We highly recommend buying a book describing the Bonsai art form and care BEFORE you purchase a Bonsai tree for the first time, or start one from seed or graft. The art of "Bonsai" can be described as a "hobby" and does require time and effort even just to maintain the tree, but that should be part of the reason you are interested in Bonsai in the first place! Here is a list of Bonsai Tree Books for sale.

Names of Bonsai Style Types

There are five basic Bonsai style types, and a number of other styles such as the number of trunks or trees, and styles that define the apparent visual health of the tree. Here is a list of the name of each style type and a example Bonsai tree picture;

Bonsai Style Type Name and DefinitionBonsai Tree Picture
Formal Upright Style (chokkan) Bonsai
The trunk should be perfectly straight, tapering naturally and evenly from base to apex. The branches should be symmetrically spaced so that they are balanced when viewed from any direction.
Bonsai Tree Formal Upright Style (chokkan) Bald Cypress
Informal Upright Style (moyogi) Bonsai
The trunk should slightly bend to the left or right, but never towards the front, or towards the viewer.
Bonsai Tree Informal Upright Style (moyogi) Maple
Slanting Style (shakan) Bonsai
The entire trunk leans at an angle in one direction, with its stronger roots growing out on the opposite side, giving the whole Bonsai tree an un-balanced look.
Bonsai Tree Slant Style (shakan) Juniper
Cascade Style (kengai) Bonsai
The growing tip projects over the rim of the container and reaches below its base in elevation.
Bonsai Tree Cascade Style (kengai) Conifer
Semi Cascade Style (han kengai) Bonsai
The growing tip projects over the rim of the container, but does not drop below its base in elevation.
Bonsai Tree Semi Cascade Style (han kengai) Elm
Multi Tree / Forest Group (yose ue) Bonsai
A single container or tray with multiple individual trees growing in it.
Bonsai Tree Forest Style (yose ue) Maple
Multi Trunk (ikadabuki) Bonsai
A single tree growing in one tray with multiple trunks emerging from one part of the root system.
Bonsai Tree Multi Trunk Style (ikadabuki) Cedar


Common Names for Bonsai Tree Size Types

Bonsai trees can be given a common name relating to the size of the tree, these names are Japanese in origin.

Common Names for Bonsai Tree Size Types
Bonsai size type common nameBonsai size typeBonsai size dimensions metric centimetersBonsai size dimensions U.S. inches
Large Bonsai
Imperial bonsaiEight-handed152 ↔ 203 60 ↔ 80
Hachi-uyeSix-handed102 ↔ 152 40 ↔ 60
DaiFour-handed76 ↔ 122 30 ↔ 48
OmonoFour-handed76 ↔ 122 30 ↔ 48
Medium size Bonsai
ChiuTwo-handed41 ↔ 91 16 ↔ 36
ChumonoTwo-handed41 ↔ 91 16 ↔ 36
Katade-mochiOne-handed25 ↔ 46 10 ↔ 18
Miniature Bonsai
KomonoOne-handed15 ↔ 25 6 ↔ 10
MameOne-handed13 ↔ 20 5 ↔ 8
ShohinPalm size5 ↔ 15 2 ↔ 6
ShitoFingertip size5 ↔ 10 2 ↔ 4
KeshitsuboPoppy-seed size3 ↔ 8 1 ↔ 3

Bonsai trees are traditionally temperate climate trees grown outdoors yearlong in containers or shallow pots. If you are new to this art, your first decision could be weather you are able to keep your Bonsai outdoors due to your local climate. Certain species of tree may survive outdoors yearlong were others may not. See what species of tree grow outside in your area, as these will likely overwinter just fine as a Bonsai tree with the proper overwintering protection and methods. Keep in mind that many temperate tree species if kept in the artificial environment of a home will weaken and die. If an indoor Bonsai tree is preferred, there are many tropical species that will survive an indoor life as a Bonsai tree with the proper care.

There are many Bonsai Gift Starter kits to buy online that make growing your first Bonsai Tree easy, and like any hobby, will be a good starting place.

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