how long does a bonsai tree take to grow

How Long Does A Bonsai Tree Take to Grow?

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Growing a bonsai tree from seed is a satisfying experience that allows you to control the project completely. But, how long does a Bonsai tree take to grow from scratch? It takes far longer than growing a starting tree.

You can grow a bonsai tree from seed within 10 to 15 years. But, at the very least, it will take at least four or five years for your bonsai tree to reach the size where you can perform anything bonsai-like such as pruning, wiring, or modifying your tree.

Growing bonsai from seed is challenging because seeds have a poor germination rate and are susceptible to changes in hydration, temperature, and other factors. As a result, many bonsai enthusiasts do not repot their plants for the first four or five years of their lives. However, it guarantees a stress-free and healthy tree.

A bonsai is considered fully mature when it resembles a miniature version of what it would have looked like if it had grown freely. If you’re growing the tree from seed, you may easily compare it to photographs or trees in your area to get an idea of how it should look.

How Long Does A Bonsai Tree Take to Grow?

1. Started Bonsai Tree

You can skip waiting five years to do anything with your bonsai tree, or if you’re a beginner grower, you might want to start with a started tree. Most bonsai trees are between the ages of five and seven. You may get right in and get started by purchasing an existing bonsai tree instead of waiting for your tree to develop.

Visit a bonsai nursery to get a sense of what species you wish to buy. Bonsai trees can be rather expensive, so don’t buy anything too expensive as a beginning because you will need to learn how to keep the tree alive. Instead, purchasing a younger, less expensive species, such as a 7-year-old Chinese Elm Bonsai, could be a wise decision!

2. Growing From Cuttings

Using cuttings instead of seeds is another great approach to shorten the time it takes to establish a bonsai tree. You can nurture the cuttings and save yourself a year or two if you have a parent tree from which to obtain samples. This procedure is really easy and has provided spectacular effects for ages.

What Is the Life Expectancy of Bonsai Trees?

The sort of bonsai tree species you plant, from Desert Rose to Jacaranda Mimosifolia, has a huge impact on how long it lives. So examine your bonsai carefully when you first acquire it. How well is it looked after? Has it been properly watered? Does it appear to be in good health? It will offer you a good idea of its longevity or how long it will take you to mature your bonsai.

The average bonsai tree growth is 10 to 15 years, but some trees can take up to 30 years to mature. If it sounds like a long time, it is, but keep in mind that a good bonsai can survive for hundreds of years.

Most trees die in months because of the difficulty in caring for them. That’s why learning how to prune, fertilize, water, and generally care for your delicate bonsai tree is crucial. Bonsai trees live for 50 to 80 years if properly cared for. Many well-known bonsai trees are over a hundred years old.

Some of the bonsai trees are over a thousand years old. Both outdoor and indoor bonsai trees are in this scenario. The bonsai tree’s leaves, branches, and roots are pruned to keep it alive for far longer than its normal lifespan. A bonsai tree may theoretically survive endlessly if maintained and provided with nutrition.

A normal Chinese Elm tree can live for 50 to 150 years, and a bonsai tree can live longer. Many indoor bonsai trees, such as ficus, boxwood, and sweet plum, can live for 50 years.

Many of the most prestigious bonsai trees are over a century old. A substantial percentage of them are for indoor use. You can also anticipate a long and beautiful life for your indoor bonsai tree. Bonsai is typically described as a journey rather than a race to a destination. So, please be patient.

Consider the following types if you wish to plant a tree that will be passed down through the generations:

  • Pine
  • Azalea
  • Cedar
  • Cypress
  • Maple
  • Cherry
  • Ficus

How to Determine the Age of Your Bonsai Tree

The simplest method to determine this is to grow it yourself! Otherwise, determining the age of your tree might be tricky, as bonsais frequently appear to be much older than they are. The whole objective of cultivating a bonsai is to shape and trim it to have a curled, twisted, and aged appearance.

Why are Bonsai Trees So Slow to Grow?

Because bonsai trees are kept in containers or pots, they grow slowly. All plants obtain nutrition from the soil through their roots to grow larger. However, bonsai roots are obstructed by the container, leaving the plant with insufficient area to expand.

It takes time and work to grow a plant in a container that can look like a full-sized tree. Bonsai trees are normal trees except that the container’s size restricts their growth, and they are pruned regularly. These strategies are used to arrange the tree pleasingly.

If given the opportunity, bonsai trees can develop into full-fledged trees. On the other hand, Bonsai techniques focus on training the tree to stay small and resemble the texture and shape of a full-sized tree. Keeping the tree in good form necessitates the application of specific strategies and an understanding of how the roots are manipulated.

When a bonsai reaches full maturity, it begins to grow much more slowly, with many owners having already planted the bonsai into its final container. A bonsai’s root system will develop to fill the pot it is in, and once that area is filled, it will almost probably stop growing.

This stunted development is a sign that the tree is maturing. If you keep cutting the appropriate leaves, the bonsai will grow so fast that it will no longer be considered a bonsai.

Once a bonsai reaches this size, many owners prefer to let it out in the open because it no longer demands as much attention. It will be adequate to prune the leaves to keep them developing appropriately.

On the other hand, a bonsai will immediately begin to grow again if relocated into a larger pot or planted in the proper soil. It grows larger and larger until it reaches the full height of the tree it should have been. Due to its new area and nutrient-rich soil, the tree may grow even faster during this stage.

How to Grow a Bonsai Tree Faster

The timeframe we’ve provided above may be disappointing if you’re trying to figure out how long it takes to grow a bonsai. However, you can expedite the process by starting with a faster-growing bonsai species.

Consider cultivating a maple, jade, Japanese white pine, or Chinese juniper as a bonsai tree. These all have rapid growth rates. It’s also crucial to look after your bonsai tree. Brush up on your watering and sunshine expertise, then pick a plant that fits the amount of light and other factors you have.

Rather than branch expansion, focus on trunk growth. To grow healthy and quickly, your tree requires a strong core. Repotting and fertilizing your tree regularly will help your tree’s trunk expand. Fertilizing regularly can also help to prevent the yellowing of the leaves!

1. Pot

The pot in which a bonsai is grown is one of the most limiting variables in terms of the tree’s size, as it usually prevents the tree’s branches from spreading out of control. As a result, owners will naturally shift the bonsai tree into newer pots as the tree grows older, which may appear finer but are not always larger.

Moving a bonsai tree into a larger container will result in a significant increase in its growth. This container will assist the trees to grow faster and have a stronger root system, resulting in more leaves and a longer bonsai tree trunk. The tree roots will also be able to absorb more nutrients, resulting in a brief growth spurt once the roots have settled into the larger container.

2. Water

Many bonsai tree owners choose to water their trees only once a day, either in the morning or evening, depending on how hot the day can get. However, if you’ve repotted a tree for growth or just a new pot, it’s a good idea to give it a little additional water.

Yes, too much water is a thing, but increasing the watering to twice a day, once in the morning and the evening, should help the bonsai grow quickly. More water means the tree can more readily feed itself and protect itself from the day’s heat.

When the tree is in a new pot or just trying to grow a little larger in its existing pot, this simple addition will ensure that it develops healthily and quickly.

3. Soil

The most crucial aspect of making your bonsai tree grow faster is to add more nutrient-rich soil, which provides more food for the roots to feed on. Regularly adding fresh soil to the tree should help it grow considerably faster, allowing it to attain the new size you desire.

Be careful not to overfeed the tree or add too much of one nutrient to the soil, as this might harm the root system by chemically burning it or overfeeding it. One of the key reasons owners who want their bonsai to grow faster will add more soil in the same manner as before.

4. Pruning

When caring for a bonsai, one of the most crucial aspects of keeping it tiny is to prune it regularly by taking off leaves or clipping the roots to avoid becoming too huge. It forces the tree to re-grow old limbs, causing them to grow larger and preventing the tree from expanding normally.

It is normally recommended not to prune a tree after repotting it, and the same can be said for allowing the tree to grow larger. The tree will be able to grow successfully without wasting energy on re-growing leaves or roots if it is not pruned. Not pruning the tree as it grows larger in a new pot will naturally use the energy in the best way possible.

Some of The World’s Oldest Bonsai Trees

1. The Crespi Ficus is the World’s Oldest Bonsai Tree

1000 year old Ficus Bonsai

It is over 1,000 years old and is the world’s oldest bonsai tree! This bonsai, known as Ficus Retusa Linn, is found in Milan’s Crespi Bonsai Museum. The 10-foot-tall specimen, which dazzles with a network of dense aerial roots and a flawlessly balanced form, is a monument to the dedication and loving daily care.

It’s not only the world’s oldest bonsai tree but it’s also housed in the world’s largest bonsai pot, which was handcrafted and burned in one piece. This Crespi ficus is a prized possession of a stunning bonsai collection with over 200 unique species.

2. Japanese White Pine Bonsai Tree

Bonsai tree that survived Hiroshima

The second bonsai on our list has become an international symbol of brotherhood and peace after surviving one of human history’s most traumatic experiences. This Japanese white pine is nearly 400 years old. It was planted just kilometers from Hiroshima, Japan, the site of the world’s first atomic bomb, dropped during World War II. Yet, the tree miraculously survived despite the blast and the ensuing chaos.

The tree was given to the United States as a 200th birthday gift in 1975 by bonsai master Masaru Yamaki. However, the United States was unaware of the tree’s link to Hiroshima until two of Yamaki’s grandchildren discovered it in 2001 as a gesture of cultural connection. The tree is now housed at the United States National Arboretum and serves as a symbol of strength and peace.

3. The Dwarf Giant Bonsai Tree

The Dwarf Giant Bonsai Tree

“Pine of the Phoenix” is a 600-year-old stunning, massive bonsai. This colossal specimen stands 16 feet tall and 30 feet wide and is housed at Japan’s exotic Akao Herb and Rose Garden. It’s one of the world’s oldest and tallest bonsai trees. The tree sprawls across its massive container, set in the middle of a beautiful, raked zen garden landscape. It’s one of the garden’s most popular attractions.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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