Is Bonsai Cruel?

I was talking to my brother recently about bonsai are he said the reason he would never grow a bonsai tree is because it’s cruel. I found this baffling so decided to do some research and piece everything together to prove that growing bonsai is far from cruel.


Growing bonsai is not cruel at all. Besides the fact the tree has no feelings or emotion, the level of care it receives daily is so much greater than it would receive in nature. Bonsai trees are repotted whenever the roots need more room and on average they survive 25% longer as bonsai than if grown outdoors in nature.

Why Growing A Bonsai Tree Could Be Seen As Cruel

Growing bonsai is sometimes seen as cruel due to the fact that the tree is confined to a small container, as they all are. In addition to limiting their growth potential, they are often shaped with wire to be styled as the owner desires, which could also be classed as cruel, alongside the constant pruning. Stunting the natural growth of a bonsai tree is definitely the most popular argument for the art form being cruel or even being described as ‘torturing’ a tree, with all of the hard wiring and restrictions on the root growth.

Why Growing A Bonsai Tree Isn’t Cruel

Firstly, it’s important to understand that as advanced beings, most of us anyway, we are prone to giving emotions to things that simply don’t feel emotion. Trees, grow as bonsai in this case, don’t feel anything in terms of pain when being pruned, styled, wired or repotted, we just like to give them emotions they don’t have. All a tree knows how to do is survive, all its processing are just in place to help the tree live through good and bad periods. With this being said, bonsai cannot be cruel from the respect of hurting the tree.


Secondly, many plants and trees grown outdoors lack a huge amount of care, they will go months without being properly watered, checked for infection or attended to in any way. Bonsai trees are a pride and joy for most owners and they will receive daily attention. Pretty much on a daily basis a bonsai owner is going to check soil moisture, water, check foliage for any signs of infection and prune, all of which helping the tree stay healthy. In fact, bonsai trees will actually live on average 25% longer than the same species grown out in nature, due to the high levels of care and attention it gets.


Thirdly, bonsai trees are repotted every few years when the roots need more room and the soil quality is deteriorating. You never see a 4ft bonsai tree growing in a 6 inch pot and that’s simply because the tree is going to be repotted into the size of pot it needs. Bonsai is an ancient Chinese art that goes back many years, there is a huge amount of care and love taken by owners when caring for a tree. No practices are done that are likely to damage or kill the tree, in fact process are done to strength the tree, the vigor and ward off any possible infection!

Photo By

To emphasize the point, this Ficus is over 1000 years old. It is one of the 8 oldest bonsai trees in the world!┬áBonsai trees can live a very long life, potentially even longer than the species would do in nature. The tree has made it to 1000 years old and would have been repotted, wired and pruned hundreds of times along its life. Bonsai is only cruel if the owner doesn’t pay any attention to the health or requirements of the tree, letting it die. This is the same for any houseplant, I think not caring for a living thing is cruel, not caring for it greatly.

Final Thoughts

Bonsai is not cruel, a bonsai tree will receive constant watering, pruning, checks and repotting every few years as the roots grow. The same species grown outdoors naturally will run into a lot more problems, go months without proper care and live on average a 25% shorter life than it would as a bonsai. All of this aside, trees do not have emotion or feelings so by the actual definition of ‘cruel’, no pain is inflicted therefore it cannot be cruel to grow bonsai.

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