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How Long Does It Take for a Bonsai Tree to Grow? (2024 Guide)

bonsai tree

Bonsai trees are some of the most rewarding plants to grow, but they are also notoriously slow-growing. The average bonsai tree takes 10–15 years to grow to maturity when planted from seed, although it may vary based on the species.

You may be thinking, “No big deal, they don’t get very big anyway.” However, it can take 5 years or more for the trees to even grow large enough for you to begin trimming and training them. Even then, it may take several years of stunting the tree’s growth before you can get to the fun part of shaping it.

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Commitment to Bonsai Trees

growing bonsai tree
Image Credit: tayphuong388, Pixabay

With such a long growth time, bonsai trees are a long-term commitment on par with an average tree, if not more so. They require regular care and meticulous trimming, pruning, and more to remain healthy and flourish. If you aim to shape your bonsai into a creative design, the task gets even more difficult.

If you want the bonsai experience without the long wait, you can always go with the most tried-and-true method: buy a tree from a nursery. Young trees can cost as little as $25, though they’ll still take a while to mature before shaping. It’s certainly faster than waiting for a bonsai to grow from seed, though, so it’s worth considering.

What Bonsai Species Grows the Fastest?

Certain types of bonsai trees grow faster than others, although the difference may be negligible. For an impatient bonsai novice, though, it could be the difference between a 5-year wait and, say, a 3-year wait.

It can help to choose a fast-growing bonsai species, but you’ll still have to exercise a lot of patience. Regardless, let’s check out some of the fastest-growing bonsai species below so you know what to look for.

Fast-Growing Bonsai Species:
  • Japanese Pine
  • Chinese Elm
  • Weeping Willow
  • River Birch
  • Quaking Aspen
  • Leyland Cypress

How Long Do Bonsai Trees Live?

bonsai tree
Image Credit: TieuBaoTruong, Pixabay

You probably already know that some regular trees can live a very long time, but what about bonsai trees? It might seem reasonable to think they have shorter lifespans because of their diminutive size, but that’s actually not the case.

With proper care, many bonsai trees have the ability to outlive their human owners. This kickstarted the tradition in some families to hand down prized bonsai trees to their children.

The oldest known bonsai in the world is the Ficus retusa linn, which is thought to be over 1,000 years old. It’s on display in Milan, Italy at the Crespi Bonsai Museum. Many other bonsai trees have lived for centuries. Just like domesticated animals living longer than their wild brethren, bonsai trees likely enjoy such long lives because they’re constantly doted on.

How Large Can Bonsai Trees Get?

Like regular trees, bonsai trees widely vary in size. The smallest bonsai trees are around 6 inches in height, while larger trees can grow as large as 3 feet tall.

The largest known bonsai trees can grow up to 5 feet or more, but those are typically classified as imperial-sized bonsai trees. In general, smaller bonsai trees require more water and nutrients than larger ones because of their smaller root system.

When Is a Bonsai Tree Ready to Shape?

bonsai tree
Image Credit: DuyCuong1080, Pixabay

Shaping a bonsai tree is the main reason why people grow them, so you might wonder when you can start. Generally, you want to wait until the tree is mature and has a full growing season to acclimate to the environment and container. You can cut dead branches off before that, but you shouldn’t do any heavy pruning or root thinning before then.

Tips for How to Make Your Bonsai Tree Grow Faster

Unfortunately, there are no quick methods of accelerating your bonsai tree’s growth. Trees are like humans—each one is different. The good news is that there are some ways to give your bonsai the best chance of thriving. Let’s check out how to help your bonsai tree grow strong and healthy.

How to Help Bonsai Trees Grow Faster:
  • Buy a young bonsai tree instead of growing from seed
  • Use well-balanced fertilizer—high nitrogen is a plus but not mandatory
  • Repot the tree to encourage root and trunk growth
  • Keep the tree’s soil moist at all times without flooding the roots
  • Thin out the tree’s roots periodically

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Bonsai trees are the perfect way to channel your creativity into a beautiful living heirloom. They take up to 5 years to reach maturity, so we’d suggest buying a young plant at a nursery to skip the long wait. For an easier time, you may wish to choose a fast-growing bonsai, which can help you get to the fun part of shaping the tree sooner.

See also: Is My Bonsai Tree Dead (6 Signs to Look For)

Featured Image Credit: CynLam, Pixabay


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