So you want to get into Bonsai, but how much does a bonsai tree cost? How much can you expect to add to your monthly bills if you want to get into this often deemed costly hobby? These are some extremely valid questions, that we both as Business and Accounting majors, had too. Now, let’s get into everything you can expect cost/price related to bonsai trees.
On average, you can expect a bonsai tree to cost you around $100. This price includes the bonsai tree itself, as well as the kit which come with trimmers, wire, fertilizer, pot, and soil. Keep in mind these are averages, which will go up or down depending on the quality of the bonsai tree (and its elements) you want to have.
This is, again, an average. A one-size-fits-all approach to costs related to bonsai trees. Let’s dig deeper into the nitty gritty.
How Much Does a Bonsai Tree cost?
During our research we found the following quote which I think makes a great point.
“This question could be compared to: how much does an average painting cost?”
This analogy is not only great because it explains the dangers of an overgeneralization, but it also reminds us that bonsai tree care is ultimately an art form.
What this means is that you will be able to find a bonsai tree for as little as $10 dollars in some nurseries or up to $500 at some others, not including world-famous bonsai trees. It all depends on several elements that you should take into consideration when deciding which tree to choose.
Some aspects you should consider regarding the tree itself are a) age, b) size, c) shape d) health e) foliage and f) rarity of species.
Regarding the pot, consider a) the style of the pot, b) the soil and drainage quality and c) the decorations it has (some have functioning fountains).
As a rule of thumb, the more the better. This means, the older, the bigger, the rarer shaped, the healthier, the more foliage, the rarer species, the more beautiful the pot, the better soil and drainage quality and the more decorations, the more expensive.
The good news is that this artform allows you to decide how much you want to spend, and upgrade (if you wish) as you go. Now let’s take a look at an average Joe or Jane.
How Much Does an Average Bonsai Cost?
Let’s say you are a bonsai beginner, or merely a bonsai amateur. You are looking to dab into this lifestyle, but aren’t ready to splurge $1000 dollars right away. That’s perfectly fine.
The good news is that bonsai trees can cost as much as you want to invest in them, there is something for everyone around. You will be able to find a tree from $10 dollars, up to $500 dollars in any given nursery. So many factors play a part here, but let’s make a couple of assumptions in order to be able to give you a straight-up price.
Let’s say you are starting out. In order to do it, you’ll want a good, healthy tree, from an average species in terms of rarity, an average pot, an average size (around 5 inches tall or 15 cm) and approximately 5-6 years old. This tree should cost you around $40-$70 dollars.
If you add the bonsai tree kit (trimmers, wire, watering can, fertilizer) all in average quality, then you can ramp up the price by around $30-$40 dollars to a total of $70-$110 dollars for a quality bonsai tree to start with.
However, this is an average, there are many factors that will affect it, so be on the lookout for the following things to determine the right price to pay.
Factors to Consider That Affect the Price
The rarer the species, the more expensive the tree will be. “Rare” is a bit subjective, but it can be brought down to either a) difficulty in growth b) rare in terms of history & age c) rare in regards to the location or d) rare in terms of design.
Difficulty of Growth
Some species are notoriously difficult to grow (for instance Pines or Tamarinds), which means that more effort was put into helping it grow, which in turn, increases the price.
This is especially true for a pre-grown bonsai tree, especially if you live in a place where the tree doesn’t naturally grow there. As you can imagine, the fact that the tree is alive must’ve taken a considerable amount of effort and patience to grow, so this will definitely rack up the price.
Age and Provenance (History) of the Bonsai
As we touched on our “How Long Does it take to Grow a Bonsai Tree Guide”, some trees are literally hundreds of years old and have been passed along generations – this will certainly drive up the price. Some other trees, like the previously mentioned Atomic Tree, have rich history like having survived the Hiroshima bombing, which definitely make it near invaluable.
This rule applies to more “normal” trees too. The older the pre-grown tree is, the more work someone has invested in it before you, the more expensive it will be.
Design of the Bonsai
As a rule of thumb, the more intricate the design, the more expensive it can be. There are a handful of designs that bonsai masters can apply to their leafy friend, but some of the most complex are the Kengai, Han-Kengai, and Ikadabuki.
For example this Kengai (Cascading):
These designs require a good amount of work both from the bonsai master to follow and pursue his vision, as well as a good amount of work put in by the bonsai tree too in order to stay healthy during a somewhat unnatural process.
Bonsais are meant to mimic trees in their natural habitat, which generally, due to many years of growth, have a pretty thick trunk in order to keep its balance and distribute the minerals to every part of the system.
However, in a bonsai, achieving a thick trunk is much harder to produce, but is of course, highly desired. There are several tips and trick you can follow in order to try to get a thick trunk, but if you aim to do it quickly and carelessly, it will generally scar the tree forever.
As with bonsais, you can have your fair distribution of styles of bonsai pots. If you want to lowball it, you can find bonsai pots for as low as $10 that are mass-produced anywhere.
If you want to go mid-range but personalized, then you can expect to pay from $50-$150 dollars for a hand-made pot. If you want to go all in, then invest in a beautiful antique and handmade pot brought from Japan that’s one of a kind, those will certainly cost a couple hundred dollars.
If you include decorations as well, there are intricate bonsai pots that include functioning water fountains and mini-buddhas you can take for your own.
How Much Does a Bonsai Tree Kit Cost?
Bonsai Maintenance Kit
A typical beginners maintenance bonsai tree kit can cost you around $30 dollars. This bonsai kit should include trimmers, wire, and pot.
A more advanced maintenance bonsai kit will be around $50-$60 dollars, which will include several trimmers (around 7), wires, rake (for the soil), and broom.
Bonsai Tree Kit
There are some beginners bonsai kits which include the bonsai tree too! These will cost around $35 which include a pre-grown 4-5 year old tree, inside a pot, some trimmers and a fertilizer.
There are other bonsai kits that include the same as the pre-grown tree, but instead of the tree, some 3-4 types of seeds too. These will cost you around $25 dollars.
How Much Can a Bonsai Tree cost?
Let’s talk about money. In short, bonsai trees can be worth a whole lot. The most expensive ever sold bonsai tree is an Old Pine that was sold in the International Bonsai Convention in Japan for an incredible 1.3 million dollars.
There are other bonsai trees like the one below that was sold for 90,000 dollars, the primary reasons being the very special shape of its tree trunk. This brings back the point that it is difficult to apply a generalization on how much a bonsai tree can be worth, since it is really a case by case basis. Every tree is it’s own world and has its own story which can make it incredibly valuable.
For instance, remember the Atomic Tree? (the tree that survived the Hiroshima bombing and was gifted to the US from Japan?). This tree’s price is most likely invaluable. There will never be a specific price to pay for it, unless someone decides it’s worth the amount of money.
Why are Bonsai Trees so Expensive
The main reason why bonsai trees are so expensive is time. Each individual tree not only requires a large amount of time to grow, but also, bonsai experts take decades to shape their tree into their ideal form. Also, bonsai is a traditional artform that is taught through generations and trees are often passed along through generations too. Consider the oldest bonsai trees are over 800 years old.
How many activities that you’re learning take years, or even decades to properly show the results of what you’re doing?
To illustrate what we mean, let’s use guitar learning as an example. Let’s use guitar for example. When you first start off, you’ll be less than good. But when hours go by, and days go by, you’ll start noticing the impact of your practice right then and there. With this positive feedback loop, you want to keep going.
Now let’s go back to bonsai. The changes you make today might have an impact in months or even years if you’re talking about major changes to your friend. This means that bonsais take time, and they require patience. And this costs money.
Here is a nice video from Tech Insider explaining the same concept:
This is why it’s always important to remember that bonsai trees are better off being seen as artform, or sculpture. So to pile on to this question consider: how many “sculptures” are done on a living being that can react in unexpected ways? This takes dedication, perseverance and talent.