Apple tree bonsai care

Care Styling Pruning (Example)

Apple tree bonsai care

The apple tree (Malus) is perfect for bonsai styling. The advantages of this bonsai species, especially of the ornamental apple, as bonsai are: Strong growth, great flowering, petite fruits. The apple tree as a very good bonsai tree for beginners. Specially for bonsai suitable apple tree types are: Wild apple (Malus sylvestris) and different ornamental apple species (for example Malus toringo, Malus halliana, Malus cerasifera).

Apple tree bonsai care in a nutshell:

  • Fertilisation: Abundant from march to september
  • Irrigation: Do not keep too dry
  • Overwintering: Tolerates the lowest temperatures in a plastic tent
  • Repotting: At the beginning of march in a well-drained bonsai soil with strong root-cut

Fertilize | Watering | Location | Overwintering | Repot | Diseases, Pests | Propagation


In the growing phase, we fertilize the apple prebonsai with a nitrogenous fertilizer. As a result, they grow up to 1m per year in the plant pots and neatly grow in thickness.

As bonsai, especially if it is supposed to have flowers and fruit, good fertilization is also important. Here we recommend a more balanced bonsai fertilizer. The commercially available liquid bonsai fertilizer are well suited. In the summer we recommend to administer twice as much as indicated on the bottle. Pellet fertilizers from Japan like Biogold and Hanagokoro are also very suitable. If you press a few pellets into the soil every 4-6 weeks (on 5x5cm 1 pellet) a balanced fertilization of an apple bonsai is guaranteed.


Apple tree bonsai need a lot of water in summer. Especially when they bear fruit. Apple trees tolerates accidental drying out fine but they do not like it. In flowering apple bonsai should not be poured over the flower. The flowers spoil otherwise quickly and the fruiting is affected by the poorer pollination.


The best location is full sun. Apples need a lot of light as bonsai, especially if they are to produce fruits. They tolerate the heat in summer as well as deep frost in winter. Even wind does not bother them.


The apple tree as bonsai is extremely hardy. In the unheated foil tent there are no problems. Even at temperatures of -20°C we could never detect frost damage. Alternatively, an apple tree bonsai can be sunk in the garden soil in the fall. Choose a shady, sheltered place.

Please note: Sometimes mice nibble on the bark in winter quarters. It is best to check regularly.


An apple tree bonsai should be repotted in early March, just before the shoot. We are potting the apple tree prebonsai every year in a well-drained bonsai soil like Akadama mixed with other, loose substrates. The root growth is strong and only with regularly repotting a good root-fine branching can be achieved. Older apple bonsai are usually repotted after 3 years. When repotting a root pruning should takes place. Often a third to half of the roots are removed (as needed). Healthy apple tree bonsai endure this without complaint.

Diseases, Pests

More often one sees in apple tree bonsai mildew infestation. It can be easily combated by spraying with commercial available sulfur or copper fungicides. When nitrogen-rich fertilization, aphids are often seen in the growing season. It can be fought with a commercial spray against aphids. Usually one treatment in a year is enough.


Propagation over seeds is easy. Apple seeds should not dry out. Then they lose their germination capacity. After 2-3 months of stratification in damp sand in the refrigerator at 4-6°C is usually a large percentage of seeds germinate. But: apple trees of different species and varieties are genetically very variable. Alone the number of chromosomes varies greatly. For example, Malus halliana, a popular bonsai tree, has between 34 and 49 chromosomes. As a result, apple trees are very variable in their properties. That if one takes the seed from a rich flowering ornamental apple which is not attacked by mildew, a seedling may emerge which regularly has mildew and barely flowers. It is better to buy a suitable young plant with appropriate properties from a specialized company. These plants are usually vegetatively propagated, that means they have all the characteristics of the mother plant.

Also, the propagation of cuttings works quite well. Advantage here is: The young plants correspond in their properties of the mother plant. Often, certain apple species or varieties are also grafted. As a base is then usually Malus sylvestris, the Wild apple.

Apple tree bonsai styling

Apple tree bonsai styling in a nutshell:

  • Wiring: Branches are easy to wire and bend
  • Pruning: Do not remove too much the short shoots with flower buds

Wiring | Pruning | Styles | Bonsai pots | Flowers, Fruits | Bark, Roots | General | Varieties


The branches of an apple bonsai are relatively soft. After removal of the bonsai wire, the branches tend to return to their original shape. Therefore, the wire should stay on the tree for as long as possible.

For this reason it is advisable to wire an apple tree only in early summer (end of May - end of June). The advantage here is that as the growth in thickness then slowly weakens, the wire can stay on the tree for a long time. In summer the shaped shoot can lignify and harden. If the wire does not push in the branch it can stay on the tree at least until autumn. Disadvantage is: In summer, the leaves interfere with the analysis of the branch structure and the wiring itself. Since healthy apple bonsai are very vigorous you can defoliate these by a leaf cut. It wiring works much better afterwards. The tree sprouts out quickly in summer and usually gets even smaller leaves and finer branches.

Due to the smooth bark, we recommend using aluminum wire to wire an apple bonsai. It is not so stiff and does not push as strong as copper wire due to the larger diameter. If you pours the tree only a little bit the few days before wiring the bonsai the branches are more flexible and can be formed so better.


Apple tree bonsai grow very fast. Especially as young plants. The resulting shoots can be cut both in summer and in the resting phase.

The flowers grow in apple trees especially on the short shoots. The flower buds form from June to July. That if you want to have plenty of flowers next year, do not cut too many short shoots too late. So - it is best to grow 1 or more sacrificial branches which are removed in the fall. The short shoots leaves you largely untrimmed.

To cut apple bonsai you need a sharp bonsai concave cutter or even a knob cutter. Pruning with a bonsai scissor is not optimal because the shoots are usually very thick and strong.


Nearly all bonsai styles are possible. Apple bonsai are usually designed informal upright or slightly inclined. Also cascades, semi-cascades or double trunks and twin trunks are well possible and fit the apple tree. Even a broom shape is possible.

Apple tree bonsai with fruits (Malus)
Apple tree bonsai with fruits

Through vigorous root growth, a -root over the rock- style is feasible. But in small bonsai with a small rock, this would be quickly overgrown by the roots.

Matching bonsai pots

Glazed bonsai pots are ideally suited for apple bonsai with its splendour of blossoms and the fruits that hang long on the tree. Since they belong to the winter-hardy outdoor bonsai, a frost-proof, handmade bonsai pot should be selected if possible. In our experience, the inexpensive bonsai pots (made for indoor bonsai) are also almost 100% frost-resistant. However, we do not guarantee frost resistance for these pots.

Unglazed bonsai pots are usually less suitable, but not excluded. If unglazed then the colour should not be too dark. Grey unglazed pots would also fit quite well. For larger japanese bonsai you can find suitable pots under large bonsai pots.

Apple bonsai with its roundish crown fit quite well into an oval pot. Rectangular pots are also suitable. For rectangular pots, we would choose a pot that has slightly rounded corners or possibly playful pot feet. Higher, round pots are particularly suitable for apple bonsai in semi-cascade or cascade style. Flat, round pots for the literary style. Drip trays are not needed because apple tree bonsai should not be maintained in the apartment.

Flowers, Fruits

Most apple species have white to slightly pink flowers. The flowers of some varieties of ornamental apples are even red. The ornamental apples we offer often bloom so abundantly in April that the bonsai is barely visible. The flowers also smell quite pleasant.

Mostly apple tree bonsai, also the ornamental apple varieties, bear plenty of fruits. Most bonsai are ornamental apples with very small fruits of 1cm, max. 2cm size. Very suitable for small bonsai. The apples are still hanging on the tree long after the autumn fall. Often until spring of the following year. Even small bonsai often have 50 or more fruits. Since it costs the tree a lot of strength, it is advisable not to leave too many fruits on the tree. 20-30 apples are a good compromise. The fruiting of bonsai from seedlings starts only from 10-12 years.

Bark, Roots

The bark is usually very smooth. So you have to be careful that the wire does not damage the branches too much during wiring. But injuries are normally no longer visible after 1-2 years.

The roots of an apple bonsai are meaty thick. Root growth is strong and repotting should be done with a stronger root cut otherwise the bonsai pot is quickly full of roots. A root cut is well tolerated by apple trees.

The surface roots near trunk basis (Nebari) of apple tree bonsai can easily improved by air layering or tourniquet method. The new roots are formed quickly, often after 2 months. Unfortunately a certain percentage of bulbous thickenings form on the new roots. These can be removed by hands or cut off. The higher the soil temperature during rooting the less complicated is the root building process.

Species and varieties

The genus Malus has about 50 species and many hundreds, if not a thousand varieties. A number of these species and varieties are very suitable for bonsai through their flowers and small fruits. For example:

Apple Tree species:

  • Malus baccata: Cherry apple, Siberian wild apple. Not often seen as bonsai but great for the small, yellow fruits
  • Malus halliana: Hall's apple. To see even more frequently in the bonsai trade some years ago. Comes from China and Japan
  • Malus floribunda: Coral apple, Japanese apple. As the name implies comes from Japan. Variety: Hillieri - Half-filled, red flowers and red fruits
  • Malus toringo: Japanese mountain apple, yellow, small fruits, white to pink flowers
  • Malus sylvestris: Crab apple, wild apple. One of the species from which the culture apple emerged. Somewhat larger fruits. To acquire in forest tree nurseries as young plants

Apple tree varieties:

  • Malus Eleyi: Red flowers, fruits and leaves
  • Malus Crimson Brilliant: Red flowers and fruits
  • Malus Nicoline: Red flowers, fruits and leaves
  • Malus Liset: Red flowers and fruits. Foliage first red, later dark green


The genus Malus (apple trees) includes about 50 species. They are deciduous and occur in northern Europe, Asia and America. The well-known cultivated apple probably originated from several species of wild apples.