How long does it take for a bonsai tree to grow?


Bonsai trees and time – two factors that go hand in hand. If you want to get into bonsai trees you do need to consider how much time, or rather, how long you’ll be investing in this hobby and what to expect, and how quickly you can start seeing results and growth. Here is our research on how long does it take for a bonsai tree to grow, and other time-related questions related to bonsai trees and how long they can live for. 

How long does it take to grow a bonsai tree?

If you grow a bonsai tree from its seed, an average bonsai tree can take up to 5 years to start looking as a real tree. Most people get a bonsai tree that has been pre-grown (so around 5 years old) and take care of it for around 10-15 years more. If you leave it be, it’ll become even more amazing as they can live up to 300 years. 

In this article, we’ll cover everything related to bonsai growth and time, starting from the growth from seeds, to the average time they can last, so we can really understand how long does it take for an average bonsai tree to be fully grown. But for now, let’s start with the birth of bonsai trees and how to grow one from scratch. 

Time to Grow a Bonsai Tree

The hard to understand fact is that bonsais can challenge your patience, since they take time to grow. Generally, people who don’t do their proper research get excited about bonsai trees, but never expect how long this might actually take. So here are the three options you have when you are considering speeding up the time it takes for your bonsai tree to grow, which can be quickly sped up by the stage in which you want to buy your particular bonsai tree. Let’s get down to business.

How long does it take to grow a bonsai tree from seed?

Bonsai collection

The long route. Growing from a seed can take from 4-5 years up until you can wire, modify and prune your tree as you’d like. Through time, we’ve seen that this approach appeals either to purists in the bonsai trade or motivated individuals that don’t see the long term game. 

Growing from a seed is, in general, hard. Not only because it really is hard, as only a small percentage of seeds tend to flourish. 

But, if you do manage to do so, the results must be wonderful. You grew something from scratch, took the longest, hardest route, and you made it.

So, it must be truly great. 

We, and from what we’ve researched, avoid recommending growing from the seed to beginners or amateurs. This is for the long haul, so start with the fun and fall in love with this art. 

Pre-grown bonsai tree

Since growing from the seed might be a bit more than what people might be willing to wait, most amateurs tend to go with the pre-grown tree. These trees are 5-7 years for the most part, and this way, people can start right where the fun begins.

Pre-grown bonsai garden
Pre-grown bonsai garden at Casa del Bonsai

Some people might consider this cheating or something of sorts. We say don’t sweat it. In the end, bonsai trees are meant to last, and that’s what is really important. In the long run, when you’ve had a tree for 10-20 years, it won’t matter if you grew it from the seed or if you didn’t. The journey of the bonsai is what really you’ll learn to appreciate. So do whatever you think works best for you. 

Inheriting a bonsai tree

In essence, pretty similar to a pre-grown tree. You might even receive an older tree, who knows? However, the only distinction is that you won’t really know how healthy or in what condition your tree might be. 

So ask yourself: does the individual that gave you the tree take care of it in full? Does it look healthy? Does it look overwatered or underwatered? (if you’d like to know more about overwatering and underwatering check out our post on bonsai watering here). Does the soil look new? etc.

These questions might give you an idea of where to start, and how much you should care for your bonsai tree. But in most cases, proper care will do the trick. And you might be looking for a tree that’s going to live for as long as you are willing to take care of it. 

So how long is that?

Longevity – How long do bonsai trees live?

As a rule of thumb, bonsai trees tend to live for as long as the normal tree tends to grow out in nature. So, if your bonsai tree is a ficus for example, your bonsai can be expected to live for as long as a normal ficus would, out in the wild. So as with many responses from bonsai trees, the answer is: “it depends”. However, you can place your trees into two columns: slow growers or quick growers.

Slow growers can take from 20-30 years, and 10-15 years for the fast growers. However, this is for normal trees, which serve as a reference, as bonsais tend to grow a bit quicker due to the proper care that they constantly receive. 

Theoretically, your bonsai tree could live to 100, but to do this, you’ll need to reproduce the right conditions at home, either indoor or outdoor. If you don’t, most bonsai trees tend to die in approximately 2-3 months from most beginners. Here is where humidity, pruning, fertilizing, defoliation, change of soil and other factors come into play.

How long do bonsai trees last?

The question should be, how long are you willing to take care of it for? 

The good news is, that most bonsai trees actually tend to live a bit longer than normal trees out in the wild. The reason is that bonsai trees are generally more pampered or taken care of trees than normal trees, so they can live longer than what others might. 

Think about it. If you take proper care of your tree, this means that you check the soil constantly. With the right pruning, your tree will develop more branches than a regular tree. This will bring more leaves, and with it, more photosynthesis and finally,  a stronger bonsai tree all round.

Fertilization is also a hallmark to the growth and development of a healthy tree, as it can receive more frequent nutrients than it can in a natural setting. The same goes for other external factors such as wind, water, pests, and drought, which can affect your tree, but you can control. 

Which Species Of Bonsai Will Be The Fastest To Grow?

The most known, fast growing bonsai species include:

  • Ficus Religiosa
  • Maple
  • Chinese Junipers
  • Japanese Black Pine
  • Japanese White Pine
  • Jade

The Ficus Religiosa is considered the quickest bonsai to choose for fast growth, not only due to it being known to grow not only at a quick pace, but also strong enough for the long haul. So actually choosing one species that will be sturdy enough, should be part of the equation you make too.

But, as many bonsai experts will tell you, the truth of the matter is that growing a bonsai shouldn’t be a race to the finish, it’s an experience to enjoy every step of the way. 

What you can do is accept that this is a long term investment. And with it, come other unforeseen benefits, you can shape and shift and ultimately create how your bonsai will look like. So choose a bonsai tree species you’ll like to have in the future, and work up from there. 

How can I make my bonsai tree grow quicker? 5 tips to make your bonsai tree grow faster.

The truth of the matter is, you’ll be hit hard by the reality that trees won’t really shape their growing speed for anyone really, so there is little influence you actually have.

However, as with many natural things, the best rule of thumb to follow is to give your tree the proper care it needs. Brush up on your water knowledge, your sunlight knowledge, and pick the best tree for where you live. And then, take great care of it. 

There are however, some other things you can do to nudge your leafy friend in the right direction. These include: 

Choose a Fast Growing Bonsai Tree Specie

It might seem like a no-brainer, but since speed is too dependent on what type of tree you have, then the quickest route to fast growth in bonsai trees is to get a species that grows quickly.

Some of the most famous fast-growing tree types are evergreen, coniferous, and succulents. Now specifically talking about tree varieties, some of the most famous bonsai quick growers are the Japanese Black Pine, Maple Trees, Jade plants, and Chinese Junipers.

You can choose from many different tree varieties but you need to consider where they will be located. Some are sensitive to colder climates or require more care and attention compared with others so make sure that your decision is the best one for your needs!

Proper Maintenance Routine

Our top recommendation to how to make your bonsai tree grow quicker, is to give it proper care with a good maintenance routine. There is really no other shortcut you can take with bonsai tree care, this is how it is. In your routine, remember watering (over and underwatering), light, root health, and overall proper environment.

Watering Can and Ficus Bonsai

Aim for Trunk Growth

Bonsai trees need a strong core in order to sustain whatever is above, in this case its leaves or branches. This core will be essential to its overall health, as it provides nutrients and water up its system and takes carbon away from the foliage of the tree. There are some techniques to follow for trunk growth, but these are not considered for beginners. 

Splitting

For a quick and easy way to thicken the trunk of your bonsai, try splitting it. The tree will heal faster than using other methods that can take weeks or even years to do the same job!

The process is really simple: just split your bonsai down the middle with wires in place on either side so they don’t reconnect as you let them grow past each other again. This method not only provides instant results but also takes up less space when done correctly since there are now two smaller trees instead of one big one!

Merging

One way to make a bonsai tree’s trunk thicker is by using the merging technique. With this method, instead of using an existing bonsai tree you use several saplings that are tied together as they grow and eventually merge into one plant! This untraditional process can take only months when paired with fast-growing trees like pine or spruce.

The tedious process of thickening a bonsai tree trunk is an important step in making the tree grow faster. If you use either splitting or merging methods, it will give your time to shape the branches and leaves significantly sooner than if you were waiting for years on end.

Quick bonsai growth comes from thinner roots

Thinner roots? Well, bonsai trees require care to live a healthy life in their small containers. Because of the limited water and nutrients stored, roots will continue to grow in search for more. In shallow pots like these, one side of your bonsai’s root system may become much bigger than the other as it searches for resources that are not available on its own side.

This can cause problems with soil saturation when you need fresh dirt because there is nowhere else left but where all those thirsty roots have grown! That’s why trimming them regularly ensures they stay flexible enough for fast growth periods – If things start looking bad though then you risk slowing down or even stopping altogether if everything dries out too quickly so make sure to take good care before this happens.

The environment and the bonsai tree’s growth rate determine how often you need to prune a bonsai’s roots. The slower-growing trees may only require once yearly root trimming, but any fast-growth species will require more frequent attention in order to keep up.

Repot your Bonsai Tree to a larger pot

Repotting your bonsai tree is an important part of keeping it healthy. Routinely repotting a bonsai tree will provide more nutrients to your plant and ultimately result in a bonsai tree growing faster. As the plant grows, you may want to repot more often if you have a fast-growing species or less frequently as time goes on and your tree becomes older.

During the repotting process, you’ll be cutting off approximately ⅓ (one third) of the total mass root system of your bonsai tree to allow it to grow stronger than ever. This process helps your tree to regenerate its roots and with it, allowing it to grow back stronger and faster each time. 

Fertilize the Soil or a healthy diet

Out in the wild, with rain come nutrients that wash to the bottom of the soil, which will be gathered by the roots and “fed” to your leafy friend. However, in a pot, things are a bit different. This is why you need to consider fertilizing your soil to replenish those nutrients it’s missing out as anestwithayard.com suggests.

A bonsai tree can become too small for its own good, as it lacks the space to grow. This lack of growth leads to a decrease in nutrients and oxygen levels that are required by plants so they may thrive. One way you could combat this is through fertilizing your trees with water or feeding them during their off-season months when they don’t need much food due to less sunlight exposure.

How Long Does it Take for a Tree to Grow?

As we mentioned before, you have to consider that bonsais are just regular trees, except they have a special growing technique behind them. So, in order to understand how long does it take for a bonsai tree to grow, you need to know how long does it take for a regular tree to grow?

The answer is quite challenging because trees grow in different ways: vertically, wider or taller over time as you can see from above ground level. Additionally, how long does it take for the roots of a tree grow into the earth and establish themselves? All trees have their own growth rates though they are all on similar schedules which differ depending on age and type.

There’s no way for us to know exactly how long it takes for an individual tree’s lifespan; however we can estimate by taking into account certain things about their growth rates such as: where they grow, what type of environment they live in (elevation), and whether or not these particular environmental conditions affect them negatively (drought). However, we can make estimates with great accuracy based on factors like the type of soil and environment in which they grow as well as their location.

Which is the oldest bonsai tree?

The competition for the oldest bonsai tree is fierce. The oldest living bonsai tree, agreed upon by most bonsai enthusiasts is the Ficus Bonsai Tree from the Crespi Family in Italy. Here is a quick top 6 you can aspire to emulate:

Source: Reddit

Ficus Bonsai Tree – 1000 years old: This Ficus Bonsai tree can be found in Crespi, Italy and is on display in the Italian Bonsai museum from Crespi. As with many legendary bonsai, this one was originally taken care in Asia, specifically in China and was later taken by Japanese master and finally it’s Italian owner Luigi Crespo, who now displays it outside for everyone to see.

Old Juniper Bonsai Tree - 1000 years old
Source: BonsaiEmpire

Old Juniper Bonsai Tree – 1000 years old: This bonsai is pretty special, as it was collected in the wild. This bonsai tree has been tested and resulted in 1000 years old. This bonsai can be found in the Mansei-en Bonsai nursery in Omiya, Japan. One interesting note is this tree is still accommodating to its new lifestyle (since it was before out in the wild), hence, its kind of rough appearance.

Shunka-en Bonsai Tree – 800 years old: One or rather two wonderful species that are currently being held at the Shunkaen Bonsai Museum in Omiya, Japan. As you will be able to read online, this museum is owned and operated by Kunio Kobayashi, one of the most renowned bonsai masters in the world. He’s specially known for helping the Japanese culture expand as a whole, in the form of creating wonderful displays for his creations.

Japanese Red Pine Bonsai - 600 years old
Source: Pinterest

Japanese Red Pine Bonsai – 600 years old: Not the oldest, but many believe it to be the largest measuring up to 16 feet in height (5 meters) and 30 feet in width (10 meters). This beautiful tree can be found in the Akao Herb and Rose Garden in Atami, Japan and is estimated to be 600 years old.  How can it still be considered a Bonsai? That’s a great question you might be wondering, and the reason is it is sitting in a pot, so “not natural per se”. Arguable? Maybe. Beautiful? No doubt.

Sandai-Shogun-no-matsu - 500 years old
Source: Reddit

Sandai-Shogun-no-matsu – 500 years old: A long time favorite, standing at 500 years old, is the Sandai-Shogun-no-matsu in the Tokyo Palace in Tokyo, Japan. This five-need pline, is considered one of the National Treasures of Japan. Named after the Shogun (emperor) Tokugawa Iemitsu who first acquired it when the bonsai tree was approximately 200 years old, and since, has been passed from Shogun to Shogun with time.

Japanese White Pine – 400 years old: This Japanese White Pine is also known as the Yamaki Bonsai or Atomic Tree by bonsai enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Even though this beautiful tree has many aspects to it, arguably, its most impressive feat is the fact that it survived the Hiroshima bombing in World War II and lives on, to this day. Initially, it was taken care of by the Yamaki family, but later was donated to the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington DC, as a symbol of peace from the Japanese government to the US after WW2.

How old is my bonsai tree?

Even though these bonsai trees are pretty impressive, knowing the actual age of any tree is actually quite hard. In most of our heads, we consider old trees to be twisted and curved, but bonsais can be shaped and pruned to achieve this look with far less years than they would in the wild. But it is all, in reality, an illusion created by the bonsai tree maker.

However, it is not uncommon for bonsai trees to be passed from generation to generation, reason why most of the current title holders are as old as they are. But in reality, their age is estimated rather than known. 

So how long do bonsai trees take to grow?

In short, it depends on the type of bonsai you have around, and which tree type you picked out to decorate your home. This, in turn, is also affected by how well suited is your tree to your current climate, any bonsais growth speed.

However, on average, bonsai trees can take 2-3 years to grow in height with average bonsai tree growth of 12 to 18 inches per year.
Generally speaking, bonsai trees are very slow and only a few species that are suitable for indoors. However, with proper care, Bonsai trees can live up to hundreds of years as we’ve seen in the few examples above.

The experts like to say: the best way to know how old your bonsai tree is, is to plant it yourself. 

Sebastian Moncada

I’m also a plant enthusiast and researcher. I’ve been privileged to have lived my whole life around the wilderness of Colombia and I’m happy to share everything I learn along the way. “Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience” – Emerson.

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