If you’re trying to make your Bonsai look a certain way, I’m sure the thought, ‘will my bonsai tree get bigger?’, has crossed your mind once or twice.
Bonsai trees, like normal trees, are capable of growing bigger. By keeping a bonsai in a small pot and regularly pruning the tree, you can limit the trees growth to where it seems your bonsai never gets bigger. Let’s look at this in more detail…
The Bonsai Pot
When you see bonsai trees they are usually in tiny pots, for a few reasons. Obviously there is the aesthetic of having the tree in the pot, which is seen in all bonsais. The literal translation of bonsai tree is ‘planted in a container’. Having the bonsai in a pot restricts the root growth, meaning there’s a limit to how much the tree can actually grow. If you repot the bonsai at any point you’ll notice that the roots are normally very tight and twisted due to being compact in the pot.
Having a large pot for your bonsai will allow the roots to grow a lot more and in turn, grow the bonsai larger over a period of time. There isn’t technically a reason why you have to use a special bonsai pot for this, I used just a standard pot when looking to grow my first bonsai out. The only thing I would say is that if you plan on bringing your bonsai tree back to a bonsai pot at some point, you’ll have a lot of root pruning to do if you use a random sized pot, which can put additional stress on the tree for a few weeks.
Whether you decide to use a larger pot for your bonsai or not is really up to you but make sure you have drainage holes in whatever you end up using. Without drainage holes, no matter how resilient of a species you have, it will most likely die as the roots start to rot. Having a few drainage holes covered by mesh sheets is like having a safety net, ensuring that you can never really over water your tree and drown it.
Bonsai trees do grow, just like a normal tree, In terms of the growth, compared to the size of the tree, they can grow extreremly fast in the right conditions. So why does it seem like they never grow?
When you’re pruning your bonsai tree, every few weeks in the summer months, you’re removing any growth that has occurred, in order to achieve the desired shape of your bonsai. It’s not that bonsais don’t grow, it’s that if they aren’t pruned the tree will just look like a nursery plant after a few months – hence why people like to regularly prune.
It’s worth noting that aggressively pruning the tree will put a lot of stress on the bonsai and could make the tree start dropping leaves. If this happens, keep the tree watered and with a lot of light over the following weeks – try to avoid stressing the bonsai anymore with wiring and pruning until the new buds are growing healthy.
How To Make My Bonsai Tree Get Bigger
It’s pretty simple, just let it grow! Given light, water and the right temperature, a bonsai tree will naturally grow in season. If you’re looking to grow the size of the trunk and branches, I would recommend a few things that worked for me..
Firstly, repotting the bonsai.
When a tree is in a bonsai pot, you’re restricting the potential root growth, which in turn will reduce the potential growth of your tree. If you are looking to increase the size of your bonsai tree, you need to pot it in a large pot.
When I was growing my Chinese Elms’ size, I used a standard planting pot instead of a bonsai pot. This allowed the roots of the tree to grow out and over the growing seasons the bonsai did get bigger, to my relief.
Repotting a bonsai can put a lot of stress on the tree, especially if you cut away some of the root mass to stimulate new root growth. For the following weeks after, definitely keep a check on the health of the tree and give it whatever it needs to stay healthy.
Soil is super important to a bonsai, I would recommend using specialist bonsai soil.
Secondly, stop pruning.
I would recommend you stop pruning the bonsai for months. When trying to grow out my Chinese Elm bonsai to get bigger, I stopped pruning all together for a few months during the growth period. This made the bonsai look more like a shrub than a bonsai but I did notice a nice size increase in the tree.
After the growing seasons I pruned the tree back down, ready for the dormant period. Some people choose to leave all of the excess growth for years, to really get a nice big tree – but of course that’s down to you and the goal of your tree.
Personally, I would lean towards buying a larger nursery plant and cutting it back to a bonsai, rather than trying to completely change the tree you already own. Bonsai isn’t a 5 minute hobby, if you’re serious about making your bonsai tree bigger it will take years and years to actually do – pruning a nursery plant could make this a lot faster process.
Here’s a YouTube video about how to use a nursery stock plant to create a bonsai – if that’s a more appealing idea than trying to make your bonsai bigger.
In short, yes, your bonsai tree will get bigger just like a normal tree but you have to allow it to grow uninterrupted for a very long time. I would definitely consider buying a bigger bonsai or using a larger nursery stock plant to create the desired size tree.