Introduction: Cardboard Bonsai Tree

Picture of Cardboard Bonsai Tree

Searching for a nice looking gift ?
Never managed to keep your Bonsai trees alive?
I will show you how to make your very own corrugated cardboard Bonsai Tree.
All you need is a big cardboard box, a paper cutting knife and the strength to wield it, some dried flowers and finally some paper glue.

Step 1: Getting Started

Picture of Getting Started

Once you have gathered all the stuff you need to craft your tree you should try to think of a shape you might like
and make a sketch of it.
If you are having a hard time thinking of a nice shape , try to google images of Bonsai trees for inspiration ;) .

Step 2: Draw, Cut, Glue.

Picture of Draw, Cut, Glue.

Now comes the hard part.
I suggest you to construct your tree from bottom to top, drawing and then cutting out cardboard pieces of the desired shape.
The cutting can be VERY hard, if you use strong cardboard.
A trick is to stabilize the cardboard plate on the edge of a table and then "saw" the pieces out.
After finishing a piece, glue it on to the one before and see how your tree grows.
Don´t be upset if your tree isn´t looking glorious right away, the flowers (leaves) will dramatically improve the way it looks.

Step 3: Leaves for Your Cardboard Trunk

Picture of Leaves for Your Cardboard Trunk

Your tree should now look similar to my one in the picture above.
As you see it still doesn´t look very pretty and to change that we will attach some dried flowers!
I used the common hydrangea as leaves since they are durable once dried and easy to attach.
It´s up to you how and where to do so, the cardboard has many holes so it should be easy to glue them onto your trunk.

Step 4: And Done!

Picture of And Done!

You made it!
Now you are the proud owner of a cardboard Bonsai and despite your lack of green thumb it will never wither and die.

The Bonsai tree I made during the guide was not my best work, two other trees I made for my grandparents turned out better.
As you see I placed the trees in a stone basin but feel free to use any kind of sand or earth environment for your tree.

I am German and therefore not a native English speaker, so please help me correcting my faults.

And always remember to KCCO

Keep Calm and Craft On ;)

Step 5: Alternative Decoration: Zen Garden

Picture of Alternative Decoration: Zen Garden

A miniature Zen gardens is a cool place to put your Bonsai, if you like them.
There is no need to buy one , as making your own is very easy and a lot cheaper.
You will only need a black picture frame, some bird sand and a couple of nice stones!


afnunez (author)2013-01-16

Thank you for this amazing project!
I'm trying to made my own. I'm doing two styles. One of them based on your model. They aren't done yet, just have the body. But i'll do a Zen Garden. It will be perfect with my japanese fish aquarium.
I'll post the photos when I finish it.

Gratz for the project! ;]

afnunez (author)afnunez2013-01-16

The thickness of my cardboard is different, so I need more layers. It makes harder to do but the final visual effect is a softer bonsai trunk.
Here's another tip. ;)

s4loking (author)afnunez2013-01-16

actually the one you took for inpiration is made out of thick and thin layers ;)

s4loking (author)afnunez2013-01-16

nice!! what are you going to attach for the leaves?

Alaskan Bev (author)2013-01-03

What a beautiful idea for a one-of-a-kind project! Thanks for sharing this. My husband is a biologist and I thought he would love a (real) bonsai tree, but even the award-winners at the State Fair did not excite him a bit. However, I'm going to have my students make them, and will post pictures in a month or two. Happy New Year!

s4loking (author)Alaskan Bev2013-01-03

nice , i am exited to see these pictures

HelenaTroy (author)2012-12-31

I love the idea of this, thank you!

I've never been fond of real bonsai - doesn't feel right to me to force something to be other than what it's meant to be by nature. I can admire what it looks like, but now how it was made to look that way.

This is a perfect "kind" way to get the same effect, which I'll be trying as soon as I've gathered materials and worked out a design or six!

Muhaiminah Faiz (author)2012-12-26

This is brilliant. :) Voted, favorited and following!

jawasan (author)2012-12-25

Got my vote! Love father manages to kill bonsai....this will be perfect with the sand garden! Thanks for putting this up.

ChristopherS2 made it! (author)2017-12-02

Love this idea. I want to find a pot for it now, maybe add some greenery like you did. Thanks for the inspiration!

voigts5 made it! (author)2016-04-04

Made for a high school musical song cal production.

Mas Adam (author)2016-01-08

Awesome! Favorited it.

BuriedPhoenix made it! (author)2015-11-17

I finished mine today too and I think it looks good. Thanks for the idea! :D

jkudlej made it! (author)2015-09-26

Thanks dude, now I got gift for mom ?

mtheofanous made it! (author)2015-09-10

fun project

apapercraft made it! (author)2015-05-05

After 2 years I finally found the will and courage to make this cardboard bonsai myself. lol. And here's the result:

There are more images from my blog if you're interested to see more.

mmarchani (author)2015-03-07

That was awesome, and your English was excellent!

Christian Reese (author)2015-02-26

Really cool idea. A fine way to use your imagination and your old cardboard boxes for something other than storing. My little cousin love playing with cardboard. I guess I"ll show him this article the next time I go to visit. He'll definitely like the idea and if not my aunt will surely do. She loves doing paper crafts in her free time.

Mysterious_Gal (author)2014-11-21

Love this I will have to do this.

Colonel Hogan (author)2014-10-04

diese sind großartig!

Colonel Hogan (author)2014-10-04

these are great!

DUO0037 (author)2013-09-15

It's sooo pretty!

CreativeGeek (author)2013-08-13

That's cool.

kirnex (author)2013-06-20

THIS IS SO COOL. Sorry to yell. I seriously love this, though. Although I've read up on caring for Bonsai, do to either being too busy with travel or just inattention, I always end up with either a dead bonsai, or one that turns into a larger plant. THIS, however, it seriously inventive.

I love the look of the corrugation on the cardboard. And the shapes you used for the tree are just brilliantly placed. Thanks so much for sharing this. I'm going to have to make one of these ASAP.

sheryle (author)2013-04-18

did the person who was going to add the paper mache post so I know if it works? My cardboard tree looks like a cardboard tree, I don't know what I am doing wrong, But I think would look better covered with mache to look like an actual tree. I think the problem is that I am having problems with the shapes. Great idea!!!!

sheryle (author)2013-04-15

Great tutorial. I was wondering if you paper mache around the cardboard to look more like actual tree bark if it would talk away from your idea. Great Idea Love it.

sabu.dawdy (author)2013-03-14


linrodann (author)2013-01-19

Oh, I love it!

Thrasym (author)2013-01-04

Cool project. I think I'll try it with paper leaves or vertical pieces for the trunk...hrm...the ideas are flowing.

redscorpio (author)2013-01-04

very nice!

Eriko11MG (author)2013-01-03

this is so cool but do you have any ideas on how you could cover up the extra holes

s4loking (author)Eriko11MG2013-01-04

take a look at ClayOgre´s comment

Miscelinious (author)2013-01-01

I managed to forget my plants in my dorm over winter break. I'm expecting them to be very dead when i get back to them (a month later.) I'm going to make this instead of maintaining live plants now. xD Thanks~

Klappstuhl (author)2012-12-31

So going to do that, but I'll use wood instead of cardboard. Finally a decorative plant my cat can't destroy!

s4loking (author)Klappstuhl2013-01-01

let me see your results!

ORP66 (author)2013-01-01

Awesome !!!!

ClayOgre (author)2012-12-27

Hmmm, I wonder if one could combine the technique from your instructable, with that of this one  to perhaps make the trees look more realistic.

s4loking (author)ClayOgre2012-12-28

Should work,
are you going to try it?

ClayOgre (author)s4loking2012-12-28

It's a thought, but I have something like 600+ other instructables that I'm interested in.

HelenaTroy (author)ClayOgre2012-12-31

lol you and me both! I keep a folder in my "favourites" for Instructables that I want to follow up - already got several hundred in. But got to make space for this one, too

chris2259 (author)2012-12-30

My daughter makes tree designs on walls. I think she will love this tree so I make it for her.

banzaikiziah (author)2012-12-30

Dang this is absolutely awesome!!! I'll definitely be making one in the New Year. Thanks for the sweet idea man!

Carlos Marmo (author)2012-12-30

I loved it!
Obtained Very, with very little!

bajablue (author)2012-12-30

This is fabulous! Alternative: scrap wood and a jig saw would produce waterproof results.

salabim (author)2012-12-29

This wonderful present (from the creators of this idea and model) has already got a place for to be seen and admired every day. Many, many thanks!

dsoul (author)2012-12-26


gingersnapxtz (author)2012-12-25

Very nice, creative way to reuse or re purpose items that you may have around the house.

emilyvanleemput (author)2012-12-25

looks great!

ChrysN (author)2012-12-24

That looks amazing. great job!

raiderdk (author)2012-12-24

Nice, definitelly i'll try it, i'll use software to trace slices, but idea is brilliant.

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