What means bonsai ?
Bonsai (Japanese 盆栽, meaning "planting in a pot") are trees in a pot designed using certain techniques. Bonsai consists of the two word parts Bon = pot and Sai = plant.
Bonsai tree is synonymous with the term bonsai in this context. More strictly speaking, bonsai tree is "repeated unnecessarily" because a bonsai is always a tree. Thats why most bonsai friends simply use the term bonsai for a bonsai tree.
At the same time, bonsai means an Asian garden art to design and maintain such trees. It is mainly practiced in Japan, Korea and China.
You can find more information about bonsai at: Bonsai - Frequently Asked Questions
On this page, bonsai species, you will find all the important information about bonsai care of the most common types of bonsai. Just klick on the tree you are interested in.
Indoor bonsai species
Outdoor bonsai species
Frequently Asked Questions
Are bonsai dwarf trees and always small ?
The German Duden explains bonsai by saying that it is a "Japanese dwarf tree" or "the art of pulling dwarf trees practiced in Japan". The view that bonsai are small is so widespread that the word bonsai is often used as a synonym for "small". The same you can find in the Oxford dictionary: Bonsai is "the art of growing ornamental, artificially dwarfed varieties of trees and shrubs in pots."
The opinion that bonsai are small or even dwarfish is wrong and is based on the ignorance of the writers. Bonsai is above all an artistically designed tree in a pot. It has nothing to do with size - as you can see on the next pictures.
Are bonsai certain tree species or special varieties ?
Bonsai are not special tree species or varieties. Bonsai are normal trees with their specific needs. They are cultivated in bonsai pots and influenced by various techniques in shape and size. The aim is to develop a harmonious and venerable tree in a pot.
But there are tree species particularly suitable for bonsai. These usually tolerate the pruning of bonsai particularly well (e.g. Ligustrum bonsai, Azalea bonsai). There are also varieties (= cultivars) of trees which, for example, have particularly small leaves or needles (e.g. White pine varieties Zuisho and Kokonoe) and are therefore particularly suitable for bonsai design.
Bonsai, Bonsais, Bonzai or Bonsei - What is right ?
In the Internet is often searched for Bonzai and Bonsei. With Google the people in germany search alone 2000 times for Bonsei per month and for Bonzai about 5000 times. But what's correct now ?
At least as often is searched for bonsais. Even in respected online journals bonsais are mostly reported. Is bonsais the majority of bonsai ?
We once looked in the german Duden (a dictionary) and found that only the term bonsai is correct. Both the singular and the plural. Neither Bonsei nor Bonzai can be found in the Duden. For this reason we only use the word bonsai on the pages of our offer. Most long-time bonsai friends think the same.
Both in the shop and in the advices for bonsai care, botanical (= Latin) names are often used for the bonsai trees.
Why did we use the nomenclature (= naming), which is rather incomprehensible for a botanical layperson ?
The decisive reason lies in the uniqueness of these names.
Worldwide there is only 1 Latin species name for a certain plant species (as well as for every animal species). What usually confuses a layperson and demands a lot of learning from apprentices in horticulture is an important means for the initiated to clearly distinguish and classify plants and animals. It is also extremely important for understanding at an international level across language barriers.
Here is an example: You have bought an elm bonsai and ask a friend how this bonsai should be overwintered. The friend will advise you with a clear conscience, with a field elm (Ulmus carpinifolia) in mind, to overwinter the tree outdoor. In spring you go back to the bonsai dealer with an extremely bad-looking elm. The dealer than will tell you that your Chinese elm bonsai (Ulmus parvifolia) should not be overwintered outdoors at -20°C but in a cold house at 0-10°C. Due to the blurring of the common name, you have lost a beautiful bonsai. If you had asked about Ulmus parvifolia, your friend would most likely have given you a different tip.
Even a Japanese bonsai friend would have difficulties with the term elm. Ulmus parvifolia, on the other hand, does tell him something immediately.
The scientific (Latin) term Ulmus parvifolia is assigned according to the rules of binary (= double) naming. Introduced by the Swedish scientist Carl von Linné around 1750, this nomenclature classifies all plants and animals into families, genera and species according to certain criteria.
Families: grouping of genera with similar characteristics. It is mostly named after a typical genus (e.g. Ulmaceáe - elm family - genera e.g. Ulmus and Zelkova).
Genus: Group of related species (e.g. Ulmus - genus of the elm - species e.g. Ulmus caprinifolia, Ulmus parvifolia, Ulmus americana etc.).
Species: living things that normally cannot produce fertile offspring with other species.
Species names consist of at least 2 parts, the genus and the species name. The generic name often indicates characteristic features of the genus. The genus Acer was named for its often pointed leaves (Latin acer = pointed), the genus name Hippocastanum indicates that these chestnuts (horse chestnuts) are not suitable for human consumption (hippo = horse, castanum = chestnut).
The species name as the 2nd part of a full species name often provides information about the occurrence of a species (e.g. Ulmus americana - the elm that grows in America) or its appearance (e.g. Betula pendula - the birch with hanging (= pendula) branches).
When assigning names, Latin or Greek terms are used almost exclusively. The reason for this is the international fame of both languages and the fact that they are no longer subject to change.
Species can split up naturally or as a result of breeding into subspecies, varieties and sorts. This fact is done justice by adding further parts of the name to the species name. A very good example is the species Acer palmatum - Japanese maple. If the finely pinnate leaves of the species are slit, this variety of the species is called Acer palmatum dissectum. Red-leaved varieties with slit leaves are called Acer palmatum dissectum atropurpureum, green-leaved Acer palmatum dissectum viridis.
These examples show that it is important to agree on a common language. Since this website wants to offer extensive detailed information about the hobby bonsai, the scientific name is primarily used for links or cross-references. As far as possible, well-known German or English names are listed in the species descriptions of the arboretum.