How Long Does It Take To Grow A Bonsai Tree?


If you want to grow a tree but don’t have the outdoor space then you might choose a bonsai. These are trees whose growth is stunted by being in a small container. They are just as healthy and have all the same features as their larger counterparts, just on a smaller scale. 

But if you’ve just planted a seed or brought a bonsai baby then you’re probably wondering how long it takes for a bonsai to grow. Unfortunately, this isn’t something you’ll want to undertake if you’re not very patient.

Bonsai trees can take around 15 years to fully grow. However, most species will be established enough to start shaping and pruning after around four years. 

However, you have to consider that there are a lot of things that can affect how quickly a bonsai tree will grow. This guide will tell you everything you can expect when caring for a bonsai in terms of time and growth. 

What Affects How Long It Takes A Bonsai Tree To Grow?

It is really important to make sure that your bonsai has the very best start to its life. That way, you can feel confident that your tree will thrive and be healthy. But it’s also worth considering that the conditions you provide will impact how quickly the tree grows. The better the tree is looked after, the more healthy it will be and the faster it will grow. Makes sense, right? Here are some things that might affect the growth speed of your bonsai. 

Water 

Everything needs water to grow and your bonsai won’t thrive unless it has this essential element. Watering your tree within its needs can make such a big difference in terms of how quickly it grows. 

It is easy to overwater or underwater your tree so make sure you find out exactly what its needs are. Overwatering can drown the roots and cause things like rot whereas underwatering can dry out the roots causing the bonsai to become dehydrated. At best, the tree will grow much more slowly, at worst, you’ll kill it!

Light

When you grow any plant, one of the first things that experts will tell you is that you need to provide it with the right amount of sunlight. Think about when you go to a garden centre and pick out the border plants in spring. There will be a ticket or label telling you where to place the plant, for example, in full sun or part shade. 

This is no different when caring for a bonsai. You’ll need to find out exactly what the species needs are in terms of light and make sure you provide this for it. This is one of the most important factors in determining how quickly or slowly a bonsai will grow. 

Pruning

One of the best things about having a bonsai is pruning. You can shape the tree and let those green fingers run free with creativity. However, you really do need to stay on top of this as this is one of the things that will encourage healthy growth in your bonsai. Moreover, when the tree is regularly pruned, you’ll be able to look for signs of pests or diseases and deal with these much more quickly so that your tree remains healthy. 

Nutrients

Just like us, plants need food and your bonsai is no exception. If the tree does not have all of the right nutrients then this will stunt its growth. One way to make sure that your tree always has everything it needs is by regularly fertilising the soil. 

While different trees may have varying needs, it’s generally accepted that using a fertiliser that is low in nitrogen is better over winter. 

Environment

As with all of the other aspects, it’s really important to find out the perfect growing conditions for your bonsai. This not only includes light level but also things like the type of soil and the best time of year to plant seeds. By doing this, you are giving your tree the very best start and this will mean a better chance of healthy growth. 

Remember That Bonsais Are The Same As Full Sized Trees

It’s easy to forget that a bonsai is just a small version of another type of tree. Bonsais can be made from pretty much any type of tree or shrub. The key is pruning which ensures that the tree remains dwarfed. You’ll keep it in a smaller container but everything else about it is the same as its larger equivalent. 

But owing to this, it means that a bonsai will take the same amount of time as a regular tree to grow to its ‘full size.’ I use the term very lightly as full size for a bonsai is vastly different to that of a regular tree. 

It really depends on the type of tree you are growing as to how long it will take. There are some tree species that are a little more fast growing and these will reach maturity when they are between ten and fifteen years of age. However, some species grow much slower and might take as long as thirty years to fully grow.

In a lot of cases, you may be able to encourage your bonsai to grow at a slightly faster rate than a normal tree. This is because of the high level of care and maintenance you’ll need to supply. When this is spot on, you may find that the tree thrives and doesn’t take quite as long to grow as if you were caring for the full sized version. 

Additionally, this intense care usually means that a bonsai tree could live a lot longer than its taller cousin. Generally speaking, a bonsai might last 25% longer than a larger tree. I hope you’re ready for a commitment!

Are There Any Species Of Bonsai That Grow More Quickly Than Others?

Even though there are ways to speed up the growth of your bonsai and there are some species that will grow more quickly than others, you are still going to have to play the waiting game. It’s no good going into this thinking that you’ll have a fully grown, beautiful tree this time next month, because that’s not going to happen.

That said, I can recommend some species of bonsai that may grow a little more quickly. The ficus religiosa is native to South East Asia and is known for growing at a slightly quicker rate. 

What’s also great about this tree is that it’s pretty hardy. That said, these trees do require higher humidity and warmer temperatures so if you’re going to grow one in a cooler climate, you’ll need to do it indoors. Not doing this will stunt the tree’s growth.

One important thing to remember is that the speed at which a bonsai grows shouldn’t be your deciding factor on growing that tree. Remember that there are so many species to choose from so it’s essential to pick one that actually appeals to you. Otherwise, you may lose interest very quickly. 

Moreover, you’ll need to make sure that you are able to provide the right conditions for the tree because if you don’t, then it’s never going to grow at the rate that you’d want it to. 

Bonsai Tree Growing For Those That Don’t Want To Wait

Once you realise that a bonsai can take decades to grow, this might put you off. After all, for a lot of us, it forces us to look ahead to a part of our life that we aren’t ready to face yet. But that’s a discussion for another day! 

Other people might be looking to sell the bonsais once they become established and slow growth isn’t conducive to a viable business. However, I do have some good news; you don’t have to grow your bonsai from seed. It is possible to grow them in other ways and cut the growing time by as much as a third!

Use Cuttings

As with many other types of plants, you can grow a bonsai from cuttings from another tree. This is a great way to save time and avoid having to wait decades for a fully grown tree. You might not save as much time as other methods but you’ll get a couple of years back which is anything but unwelcome. 

Buy From A Nursery

Why waste time planting seeds and waiting for them to grow when you could head to a local nursery and pick up a ready made bonsai? In this case, the tree will probably be around four years old and all you need to do is style it in a way that appeals to you, put it into a new pot and there you have it; your very own bonsai!

What’s also great about this method is how little it costs. You can probably do the whole thing for around £40.

It’s also worth pointing out that, if you want to keep the tree for yourself, nurseries will often have much older trees, perhaps around six or seven years.

Conclusion

The art of bonsai growing is something that appeals to a lot of people. But as well as being creative with a pair of pruners, you’ll need to have a lot of patience. That’s because bonsai trees can take several years to grow. This could be around 15 years for a fast growing species and double that for slow growing trees.

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