This instructable shows my first real project in bonsai. The techniques used were learned through research in various book sources and with a visit to the Wichita Bonsai Club's monthly meeting. I open myself up to any criticism from people with more experience.

This project takes a landscaping bush purchased at Lowes for $16.98 and starts its training as a bonsai specimen in what's known as a "training box" to start to make the roots the right shape for a more shallow pot. It involves building the box itself, pruning (with root pruning), and potting the tree.

This bonsai will be kept outside year round unless there is some extreme in weather. According to many I've spoken to about bonsai the most common mistake is to try to get a plant which is meant for outdoors to live inside. There are some tropical species which can tolerate this, but most evergreen and deciduous trees need humidity, lots of light, and seasonal weather changes which are nearly impossible to replicate indoors.

I wanted to plug a couple of sites which have helped me out considerably:

The Helpful Gardener - Bonsai Forum:

- Very good (free) forum which has always given me quick, well informed responses from cool people.

Wichita Bonsai Club

"The Rules of Bonsai" - A set of rules that everyone interested in bonsai should read.

Step 1: Materials

I went to Lowes which is just starting to get in some of it's shrubbery for the early spring. Out of about 30 plants I chose this one as it had a pretty thick trunk, good cold tolerance (reportedly to -40 to -50 degrees F when planted in the ground), and wasn't too expensive. As for species the tree is a Prunus x Cistena or Purpleleaf Sand Cherry. It looks like it's a flowering bush with relatively small purple leaves. It is currently just starting to bud and was in a 2.5 gallon pot when purchased.

I plan to be relatively brief on the construction of the box itself, but I'll elaborate on the drainage and wiring aspects.

The materials used for the box were (mostly improvised):

A piece of poplar I had sitting around which was 9.5 inches wide by 5/8th's inches thick.
- this thickness was not necessary but only used as I had it lying around.
A long piece of pine which was 1 inch by 6 inches (which is actually 3/4ths inches x 5.5 inches)
A good belt sander (always important to try to cover my mistakes with)
A miter saw deep enough to cut a 5.5 inch width board.
A hand saw for the long cut at the base.
A drill press with a 3/4th inch hole boring bit.
An electric drill/screw driver with about ten 2.5 inch deck screws
A good pair of hand hedge clippers.
A little sand paper for hand sanding

For the potting itself:

Pea gravel purchased at Lowes for about $4.00
One gallon of all-purpose (open to debate) Bonsai soil purchased at a local nursery which specializes in bonsai for $6.50. It looks like it is mostly composted of akadama and peat.
Some of the mulchy soil removed from around the roots.
A piece of aluminum gutter guard mesh
18 gauge copper wire
<p>Loved your instructable, but could you notify me if and when you post more up to date pictures please? I started my own bonsai this way. Of course, I don't keep it indoors...</p>
You deserve no criticism and have done a fine job.
nice red maple!!,,, i cant wait for spring to go collect a beech and a larch !!!!!<br> schefflera is a nice indoor bonsai too!
Do evergreen trees make good bonsia??
I heard they do. I will try.
Tell me how it works
It is pretty much the same concept as with this cherry, but with a juniper or pine tree. I would recommended the variety &quot;Juniper Procumbens Nana&quot;. It is fairly common at garden centers.
Thank you for posting this. I have visited many a <a href="http://balleksgardencenter.com">garden center</a> searching for bonsai tools and supplies, but I have been unsuccessful so far. Do you know where I can find these products? Thanks again!
Sorry for the slow response. There are a number of bonsai tool/soil merchants online. Also, most larger cities have a greenhouse with more of an Asian theme. If I were you I'd check Google Maps. Really, you can get by with just normal tools like a good pair of pruning sheers/fertilizer (commonly used at half the recommended strength). The only thing I usually order online is soil.
I'm totally doing this with an oak seedling.<br>
&nbsp;Oh, how beautiful!!! *o*<br /> <br /> Congratulations! I'll try to do it later! ;)<br />
Thank you for the help! I went to lowes and started a bonsai about a week ago.&nbsp;I am not sure however whether I am supposed to cut of all of the foliage like shown above. Please reply.<br />
nice posting, bonsai is my other hobby,and here are a few tips... bonsai soil actually works better if the ingredients are mixed-up, not layered; by layering the ingredients the waterlogged area caused by heavy rain (or overwatering) actually just happens further up the pot killing off more of the roots... making the roots spread out instead of down is the biggest problem when using nursery trees,as they are grown crammed together to take up less space in the greenhouses; this makes their main roots grow straight down . in Japanese Bonsai nurseries, they even trim the tap roots off the seedlings! which explains how a 200yr old tree can live in a 2" deep pot... mmm i feel a Bonsai 'how to' about to be posted.....;)
Please do! I started a juniper in the fashion shown above, but most of the online bonsai literature has been mostly words and I am not sure some of the stuff they are talking about. We also don't have a bonsai club nearby. Any help especially with pictures would be greatly appreciated.<br />
This is the way I've started training/developing my bonsai as well. I build the boxes from cedar boards, as cedar is fairly rot-resistant. When I mix bonsai soil, I use a clay product called Oil-Dri, sifted to remove particles that are too large, or too small...this is actually a substitute for akadama, a volcanic clay used in Japan. I find Oil-Dri more readily available where I live, and much, much cheaper. To this I add sifted fine fir bark as an organic component. The ratio of clay to fir bark varies depending on the tree species I'm using. The particle size for the mix I use is uniform - i.e. I don't use a drainage layer, as I've found some references in my bonsai literature that this will actually impede drainage. Oh - and I agree with some of the other posts about bonsai not being a type of tree. It's an artform, that happens to use trees (of a many different species) as the raw material. Great instructable! Thanks for sharing this.
Well, I see I have my chance to step in and save the day! Bonsai (Bone-sigh), beyond it's obviously sexual connotation in English, means Tray Plant. First developed by the Chinese to alleviate an Emperor's homesickness for his mountain childhood, we associate it with the Japanese whose Emperor had to pass laws against digging any of the naturally occurring dwarfs in the countryside to keep the wilderness from being destroyed. Plant growth hormone is found in the terminal buds, so severe pruning, rather than starvation as commonly believed, is what will dwarf a plant. Almost any plant can be dwarfed, I've seen masters grow marigolds in walnut shells. Here's a photo of my, now bursting, Red Maple (Acer Rubrum var. Rubrum) which is around 25 years old. I thickened the trunk by allowing 2 branches to grow out expanding the trunk and then chopping them off, with the unfortunate result of the bark dying, the heartwood rotting, and in general leaving an unsightly mess. The white twisty thing is a wire which is wrapped in strips of shopping "A shirt" plastic bag to keep from scarring the bark. Holding the branches in place for several weeks keeps them in the shape you want.
This is cool. I've been wanting to do this.

About This Instructable


170 favorites


More by wiggins8472: Homemade Bronze and/or Copper Metal Clay Steam Powered Potato Pistol Zippo(tm) Mod Starting a Bonsai
Add instructable to: