Despite popular belief, bonsai are not genetically dwarfed trees. Instead, they are housed in small containers to limit their size and nutrient intake. There are many factors that can keep the tree small, but there are also some ways to make the tree bigger than an average bonsai. How big a bonsai can get depends on the species, size classification, the grower’s pruning techniques, and more. Many bonsai are famous for being very large or very small. We will be talking about some of these famous bonsai, as well as how to get your bonsai to be very big or very small.
Bonsai Size Classifications
Originally, bonsai classifications were derived from how many men were needed in order to lift the tree. While the purpose of bonsai is to grow a tree that resembles nature as closely as possible, the smaller the bonsai gets, the less it depicts nature. Smaller bonsai are considered more abstract.
Keshitsubo – Between one and three inches in length, Keshitsubo is the smallest classification of bonsai. These trees rarely grow more than a few inches tall. They are referred to as being poppy seed sized.
Shito – The second smallest bonsai classification is not much bigger than the smallest. These trees are between two and four inches tall. Their nickname, thimble bonsai, stems from the fact that the containers they are housed in are no bigger than a thimble.
Mame – Mame, meaning ‘bean’ in Japanese, refers to the small size of these bonsai. These trees are also commonly called the palm bonsai. While these trees are generally between four and eight inches, Mame can also be put into this category if it can fit into the palm of your hand.
Shohin – Shohin bonsai are five to eight inches tall. These trees can also be identified as Shohin if they can fit in your hand, not just the palm of your hand. They are often confused with the Mame classification.
Komono – These trees grow between six and ten inches tall. They are some of the largest trees you can pick up with one hand.
Katade-mochi – At ten to eighteen inches tall, these trees are the largest bonsai that can be carried with one hand. Many of the most common bonsai are in this group because they aren’t too big and they aren’t too small.
Chumono / Chiu – These two types of bonsai are technically different, but virtually the same in size. They grow between sixteen and thirty six inches tall.
Omono / Dai – Both of these bonsai are in the four hand category. Growing anywhere from thirty to forty-eight inches tall, they are both very similar bonsai.
Hachi-uye – As one of the biggest bonsai out there, they require six hands to carry them. They can grow from forty to sixty inches in length.
Imperial – The biggest bonsai classification of all is the Imperial bonsai. At sixty to eighty inches tall, they are considered eight handed bonsai because four people are needed to move them.
How Pruning Affects Size
Pruning is one of the biggest aspects of bonsai growing. This involves pinching or cutting away leaves and branches. Usually, leaves and needles can be pinched off, while branches should be cut off very carefully.
When leaves are pruned consistently, their size decreases. Additionally, if all of the leaves are pruned off a branch, leaves will not grow on that branch the following year. The lack of leaves can make the tree look smaller, while luscious growth will make the tree look larger.
Cutting off branches is another way to make the bonsai smaller. This should be done with great consideration to the tree’s style. Additionally, if you would like your bonsai to stay a bit larger, you should leave some branches longer.
How Container Size Affects Bonsai Size
As a general rule, the bigger the container, the larger your tree will be able to grow. So, if you would like your tree to grow bigger than average, repot the bonsai in a bigger container. Or, if you would like your tree to be smaller, plant it in a slightly smaller container. When your bonsai is housed in a smaller container, be sure that your tree’s roots will still be able to stretch.
Each and every bonsai tree is different, but they can be categorized by size. Some bonsai can be very large, while others can be the size of your finger! They can grow anywhere from one to eighty inches tall. There are also ways you can make the tree larger, by letting the leaves and branches grow out. Bonsai come in every size and shape, so it is up to you to choose which one you would like to grow!