Whether you’re looking to start a new bonsai tree from the seed, or start growing bonsai trees as a business, you’ll want to know exactly how long it takes to grow a bonsai tree.
It takes around 10-15 years to grow a bonsai tree, depending on a huge amount of different conditions and variables. After growing for about 4 years from seed, you’ll have a bonsai that can be styled and wired. Let’s find out more…
Bonsai Trees Grow As Fast As Normal Trees
Regardless of popular belief, bonsai trees are exactly the same genetically as the full size species. It’s due to this, that the time taken to grow a bonsai tree will be more or less the same as the full size tree. A ballpark figure for growing trees is 20-30 years for the slower growers, with 10-15 years for faster growing species, so bonsai trees will grow in around this time too.
With this being said, bonsai trees are actually known to grow faster (relatively), to the full size trees, mainly due to the constant care, pruning and perfect growing conditions that the majority of normal trees won’t be receiving. Bonsai trees typically get a much greater level of care and attention than trees out in nature, leading to potentially faster growth. There is actually a study floating around saying that bonsai typically live 25% longer than their same species in nature for this very reason.
There are of course techniques used to decrease the time in which it takes to cultivate a tree, as detailed in my article: How To Make A Bonsai Tree Grow Faster, but you’ve still got to be in for the long haul!
How Growing Conditions Affect The Time Taken To Grow A Bonsai Tree
Having the perfect growing conditions will not only ensure the bonsai tree is healthy, but also potentially shave time off the amount of years needed to grow a bonsai tree. Providing the optimum growing conditions and constantly caring for the tree is extremely important, whether you’re looking for it to grow faster or not.
-Sunlight. This is of course needed for the growth, survival and health of the bonsai tree. Getting the right light intensity is key to the growth of a tree.
-Water. Again, water is extremely important for the growth and health of any tree. Feel free to have a read of my bonsai watering guide, to learn how to provide the perfect watering to the tree. Under-watering and over-watering are both extremely common in new bonsai enthusiasts and it can greatly slow down the growth of a bonsai, or even more seriously, kill the tree.
-Nutrients. Having access to high quality nutrients can decrease the time it takes for the bonsai tree to grow. This can be achieved by fertilizing consistently through the growing season with balanced bonsai feed. Using a lower nitrogen feed in winter is advised.
-Pruning/Disease Control. This is one of the main reasons in which a bonsai tree can grow faster than a full size tree. Bonsai trees are constantly pruned and checked for diseases, pests and root rot, which means the tree can stay in really good health, encouraging growth.
-Being In The Right Environment. Accidentally growing a bonsai tree in the wrong conditions is going to either dramatically slow down growth or even kill the tree. The best way to know where to grow your bonsai is to match the conditions the species thrives in, in nature. This is going to give the tree the best chance of strong growth.
Which Species Of Bonsai Will Be The Fastest To Grow?
The problem with this question is that the reality is, bonsai isn’t meant to be a race and none of the trees you could grow will be quick, at all. If I was going to start some trees from seeds, I would definitely look at growing Ficus Religiosa, as the species is known to grow pretty fast and robust. The Ficus is definitely a great option, to learn more about this species have a read of my comprehensive Ficus Bonsai Care Guide to see if this tree would suit you.
With that being said, I wouldn’t bother growing a species just because it may be faster to grow, I would advise picking a species of bonsai you really like, as either way it’s going to take a long time to grow. Without a doubt the fastest growing bonsai tree is going to be the tree you can provide the best care and environment for. If you’re trying to grow a tropical bonsai outdoors in a cold climate, it’s either going to die or not grow fast at all as its basic needs are not being met.
The rule I use is to look at where the species of tree grows in nature. For instance, the Ficus originates from South East Asia, a hot, humid climate. I live in the U.K, a place renowned for it’s cold, wet and dark weather for about 50 weeks every year. If I was trying to grow a Ficus outdoors in the rain, it’s certainly not going to be growing fast, if at all, simply because I cannot provide the right growing conditions for it to thrive.
You may be interested in my article: How To Make A Bonsai Tree Grow Faster.
Bonsai Trees Take Too Long To Grow, What Options Do I Have?
Due to bonsai trees taking an average of 20-30 years to grow, you may wish to go down a different path when it comes to obtaining new bonsai trees. This is even more important if you’re looking to make a business out of bonsai trees, growing from seed can take way too long! Interestingly enough, I have an article here about making a business from bonsai trees, should you be interested.
Creating Your Own Bonsai Tree –
The most underrated way to grow bonsai trees a lot faster is to actually create your own bonsai using nursery stock trees! You take a very cheap nursery tree that is around 4 years old, prune it, style it, repot it and it is a bonsai tree! The whole process is extremely fun to do, costs no more than $50 and you’ll save yourself about 4 years to get to that stage.
I have put together a full step by step guide here to creating your own bonsai tree in minutes!
Growing From Cuttings –
Another great way to speed up the time needed to grow a bonsai tree is to use cuttings, instead of seed. Providing you have a parent tree to take samples from, you can cultivate the cuttings and save yourself a year or two! This method is extremely simple and has been used for centuries to get amazing results.
Here I have pieced together a step by step guide on How To Grow Bonsai Trees From Cuttings.
Buying A Bonsai Tree –
If you don’t fancy cultivating your own, you can easily buy bonsai trees online or at local nurseries. I would advise going to a bonsai nursery first for a look around to see what kind of species you want to own. Maybe checking out my article on How To Choose A Bonsai Tree, could help you here. Although bonsai can get very pricey, I would advise against purchasing anything expensive, especially as a beginner as you will need to learn the skills to keep the tree alive.
Buying a cheaper, younger species such as a 7 year old Chinese Elm Bonsai could make a great choice!
The Art Of Patience
There are methods and techniques used to try and make bonsai trees grow faster, as detailed in my article but the reality is none of them are going to be fast. Bonsai, if nothing else is about patience. These trees take a very long time to grow, as any tree does, but they can live for hundreds of years!
For example, this absolutely stunning bonsai is over 1000 years old! In this art, beauty and perfection takes time so expecting it to take 5 years to grow a stunning cascade styled tree is only going to frustrate you. Fall in love with the art, get a collection of a few bonsai and really just enjoy the process, that’s my advise. To learn about the 8 Oldest Bonsai Trees In The World, have a quick read of my blog post!