How Long Does It Take To Grow A Bonsai Tree?

You may have decided to grow a bonsai tree from seed right from the beginning or you may have bought one that has already been growing. Either way, it’s useful to know exactly how long it takes to grow a bonsai tree. So how long before it’s fully grown?

It takes around 10-15 years to grow a bonsai tree. This can vary depending on different conditions and variables, such as the type of bonsai tree or where it’s being grown. It takes around 4 years from seed until you have a bonsai tree that can be wired and you can start to style.

Photo From BonsaiEmpire

Bonsai Trees Grow as Fast as Normal Trees

Contrary to popular belief, bonsai trees are genetically the exact same as their full size counterparts. It is of course their size that differentiates them from ‘normal’ size trees. Because of this, bonsai trees will take around the same period of time to grow as a full size tree would. Trees that take longer to get to full size usually take around 20-30 years whereas faster growing species might take between 10-15 years; this would apply to bonsai trees too. A Chinese elm, for example, might take about 15 years to reach full size.

With that being said, bonsai trees are usually subject to more constant care that the majority normal trees wouldn’t receive. Owning a bonsai tree usually involves the perfect growing conditions, such as regular pruning. This can actually lead to a bonsai tree growing slightly faster than a a full size tree because of the greater level of care and attention that they receive. One study claims that bonsai typically live 25% longer than their larger counterparts for this very reason.

There are techniques you can use to decrease the time it takes to cultivate a bonsai tree, as detailed in my article How To Make A Bonsai Tree Grow Faster, but of course you should still be prepared to be in for the long haul!

5 Growing Conditions that Affect Bonsai Tree Growth

Growing your bonsai tree in the perfect conditions will not only ensure that your tree is healthy, but could potentially shave years of the time it takes to grow to it’s full size. Optimum growing conditions can make sure that your bonsai is thriving and therefore growing faster, so paying close attention to this is extremely important. Below are some of the conditions that can be perfected in order to make sure your tree is at it’s healthiest, whether you’re looking to increase it’s growth time or not.

1. Sunlight: Getting the right light intensity is crucial to the growth of a bonsai tree, as with all plants. Sunlight is of course one of the key factors that can make or break plant growth and is essential to the survival and health of a bonsai tree.

2. Water: As well as sunlight, water is another one of the essentials! Keeping your tree watered at the right level can make miles of difference to it’s growth. Under- and over-watering are very common in new bonsai enthusiasts and can affect it’s health significantly as well as risking killing the tree. Feel free to read my bonsai watering guide to learn how to provide the perfect watering to the tree.

3. 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. 

4. 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. 

5. 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 Grow the Fastest?

The problem with this question is that in reality, growing a bonsai tree will always take a while- regardless of species. If you’re looking to get into bonsai growing as a hobby with the assumption that it’ll happen overnight, you’d be wrong! As I said earlier, they may be much smaller, but bonsai trees grow much in the same way that full size trees do.

However, if you did want to choose a particular species based on it’s faster growing time, looking into purchasing Ficus Religiosa may be the option for you. The species is known to grow fairly fast (for a tree, that is) and is pretty robust. The Ficus originates in South East Asia, which means that naturally it’s used to growing in a hot, humid climate. If you’re looking to grow one in the UK, for example, where it’s colder weather for most of the year it would be worth considering a growing environment for it indoors. A Ficus placed outside, in the rain, is probably not going to grow very fast. If you’re interested in learning more about how to care for this species of bonsai tree 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. 

You may be interested in my article: How To Make A Bonsai Tree Grow Faster.

Bonsai Trees Take Too Long To Grow, So What Options Do I Have?

You might end up wishing to go down a different route after learning that bonsai take around 10-15 years to grow. Growing from seed is certainly a lengthy process, particularly if you’re looking to make a business from bonsai trees. If you are looking in this sort of direction then definitely check out my article on making a business from bonsai trees.
However, below I’ve listed a few different alternatives to growing a bonsai tree from scratch…

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!

In Summary? 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 but they can live for hundreds of years!

A 1000 Year Old Bonsai Tree, Photo From Morten Albek.

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!


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