Beginner Bonsai Advice – 5 Tips

If you are new to bonsai, or are thinking about starting there can be a lot to take in and it can all become very overwhelming.

Its actually a very simple hobby when you work out what is going on, but here are my top tips that I would give to anyone who is a beginner in bonsai.

It is mostly things I wished I had been told when I stumbled into this hobby, so hopefully you find them helpful too.

1. Take Your Time, Bonsai Is Slow

When you first get started with bonsai you will want to do anything and everything …everyday, all day long.

You will want to prune, repot and wire your tree all at once, it’s just all so much fun.

But …just slow down. Take your time. There is no rush with bonsai.

They grow and react to things slowly, so you need to also slow down and get on their timescale. This can be hard as we usually live fast paced lives, but we must enter their world.

You can’t do it all in one day. You might find this annoying, but as soon as you accept it, you can relax and embrace the journey over the long run and you can just live in the moment.


Patience is the one thing I wish I could give to beginners. You need to have patience with this hobby, it’s the only way.

If you rush in and do work on a tree that is not ready for it, you can actually harm the health of the tree.

 If you just have a little patience and slow down and wait for the tree to be ready, you won’t have any problems, the work we do is actually pretty low risk if done at the right time.

Patience is a hard skill to master but just spend time with your trees everyday and take your time. You will soon learn to slow down and enter the trees timescale.

You will then start to see much better results and your trees will become healthier as you are not interfering with them constantly.

2. Ask ‘What’ and ‘Why’ Before Doing Any Work To Your Bonsai

As a beginner you will be unsure of what needs done and when to do it. If you listened to Tip 1 above you will have hopefully taken a step back and not rushed into a decision before doing anything.

As a beginner you need to always ask yourself What and Why before doing anything.

The first question when starting a bonsai tree is – What do you want to achieve?

Then as you work on your trees you can ask questions around -Why are you doing this?

You need to figure out what will happen after you do the work you are about to do, how is the tree going to respond to this work.

Basically you need to be satisfied in yourself that what you are doing is going to be the right decision to move your tree forward towards that final goal.

Developing a bonsai tree is a long journey. At the start it can seem confusing but when you realise the bigger picture, you’ll see it’s a simple journey. Bonsai is very much about taking lots of small steps over the years, which will slowly add up and result in your having an amazing tree.

So long as you ask What and Why, it will help you to keep on track and long the way and make sure you are always heading towards the final goal.

You could say “have a plan and act with a purpose” which is also true. However, I find that because trees are living, they can respond differently to what is expected. So reassessing and asking What you should do next will keep you more on track.

Also asking Why and telling yourself the reasons for not doing something is as equally as important.

So, always just ask yourself What you are doing and Why. Every time you do anything. No matter how small.

You can’t go wrong if you are always asking yourself these two simple questions.

3. Learn As Much As Possible About Bonsai

This may seem obvious but some people don’t seem to bother … learn as much as you can.

If you own a Japanese Maple. Find every website, YouTube video, book and magazine on Japanese Maples. Find out as much information on that species of bonsai tree as possible.

Some resources might not be as reliable and a lot of them might just repeat what the other has said. But that’s fine. At the end of the day you should have found enough information to form your own understanding on how to care for and develop this type of tree.

Study Your Own Trees

The “textbooks” are only half the learning. The other half takes place in your garden. You need to study your own trees. Watch how they reacts to things. Notice when they starts a to push buds in spring or work out how quickly they needs water at certain times of the year.

Maybe one will react differently to another tree, or maybe they will all react exactly as predicted in the textbooks.  …Maybe it will bud out 3 weeks earlier than that guy on a YouTube video showed his tree doing.

Studying your own trees can allow you to ask …What and Why. Why is this happening? What has caused this? What is different in my garden or the difference between one tree and another?

What you learn in your garden is the real knowledge. Every garden has a slightly different environment and each individual bonsai tree is slightly different. So long as you can learn to care for and develop your own individual trees, that is all that matters.

So take the time everyday to sit with your trees. Study them. Look at them. Notice the stubble changes in textures and colours. This is both relaxing and educational.

If you have done this and it still doesn’t make sense or seem right. Reach out. Ask someone. Ask a friend. Join a club. Take a course with a professional.

Just ask someone. Ask me! My Facebook and Instagram are always open to questions. I obviously don’t know everything but I can at least point you in the right direction if I can’t help.

It’s totally fine to ask someone else why you have a problem and what you can do about it.

Knowledge is power and you really need knowledge to look after and develop your bonsai.

(You can start your study by learning about the most Common Bonsai Terminology For Beginners)

4. Don’t Be Scared To Work On A Tree. Trust What You’ve Learned

Following on from Tip 3, some beginners are scared to take action with their bonsai.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen a situation where someone has bought a bonsai tree and then become over whelmed by it and not done any work to it for 10 years.

That blows my mind. Why own a tree if you are not willing to look after it properly. I’m sure this is a classic case of buying an expensive bonsai tree and the fear of killing it (losing all that money) becomes crippling.

If you follow Tips 2 and 3 you should have sought the knowledge and you should be able to ask yourself What and Why when you go to do any work.

Bonsai trees need different work done at different times of the year and at stages of their development. For example, knowing about building fine ramification is good knowledge to have …but if your tree isn’t at that stage it’s pretty pointless information to have.

Being able to ask yourself What and Why should determine if that technique is the right thing at the right time for your tree, at that this exact point in its development.

If you are happy it is, trust the teaching. Follow it.

Hopefully you’ve read every article and watched every video you can. Between them all you should get an understanding of how to execute the technique. Maybe you’ve even reached out and asked someone to double check.

Trust what they have told you and take action.

Don’t be scared to make decisions about your bonsai tree. If you use the tips above you should be fine or at the very least have drastically reduced the risk of doings something very wrong.

5. Get More Bonsai Trees

I would always tell a beginner to get more trees. If you only have one, well you might find you have long periods in between doing any work.

Having more than one tree means you can always be doing little things here and there. One of them is always going to ready for work. Hopefully you’ve got into this hobby as it looks fun and well, more trees means more fun.

Let me be clear, you don’t need to go out and buy bonsai trees to have more trees. Start by taking cutting or doing air layers, grow seeds or even dig up little trees from the garden. You could even buy, buy really cheap trees from a nursery.

Yes, a lot of people will tell you this is a waste of time or it will take years to become anything good or worthwhile, but that’s fine. You’re having fun and most importantly learning and building confidence.

You will be a thousand times more confident pruning the roots of 6 little apple seedling you grew one day after eating an apple, than you would be pruning the roots of your 1 expensive bonsai that you bought.

Who cares if you kill 1 seedling? You’ve 5 more and an endless supply of apples in the kitchen to get more seedlings from if you need to.

Dabbling in simple horticulture techniques like this will increase your confidence for bonsai like nothing else. So get more trees and have fun and don’t worry about what they look like or what people say.

(You can read more about – Ways To Get New Bonsai Trees)

You Will Kill Trees

This isn’t really a tip, as more of a warning.  You will kill trees and that’s okay.

You can read as much information as you want, but you will still kill trees. Hopefully you kill a lot less because you have read a lot of information, but some will die.

This might be because of a mistake, or it might just happen because of something outside of your control. It happens to everyone it all part of the learning process. It just happens to be quite a painful learning curve.

This will also happen all the way through your bonsai life, the goal is just to try and stop it happening less often.

Usually the more experience you get, the rarer it becomes, but it still happens to everyone.

6. Appreciate Your Trees

Okay, so this is an extra tip …Sit and look at your trees, every day.

As I’ve already touched on, you can go and learn as much as possible from books, but you will learn so much more by appreciating your tree and studying how they grow and change over time.

However, while a lot of the time spent looking at your trees should be for study, such as watching how the buds open so you should spend some of that time just enjoying them.

Just looking at how a bud starts to form and then explodes out over the course of a few days is just fascinating. Learn to enjoy these little changes; these for me this is true joy of bonsai.

There is something really special about watching a tree grow over time and also just enjoying all the little details.

While we have a lot of control over bonsai, they are still a part of nature and they should be enjoyed for that.    

Take Pictures Of Your Bonsai

Here is a little bonus tip and is maybe the best advice I can give someone starting in bonsai who really wants to appreciate their trees.

Take pictures or videos of your trees. I wish I had done this more at the start. Although looking at your trees everyday is amazing. You don’t realise some of the changes over time.

Trees grow slowly and you don’t really notice some things. However, regularly taking pictures or videos will really blow your mind when you look back at them and see how much they have changed.

I know not many of you will do it monthly like I do in my videos, but even if you did this once a year, you will thank me in a few years time. You don’t even need to show anyone, but one day you will be really happy you took all those pictures or videos of the early stages of your trees.


Bonsai is a lot of fun and if slow down and enjoy the journey you will find it extremely rewarding.

Just take your time and learn as much as you can and the rest will fall into place. Very soon a few years will have passed and you will be in the rhythm of the trees and you will be enjoying their progress.  

It is also common for beginners to make mistakes; so you can read about –  The Top 6 Most Common Bonsai Mistakes And How to Avoid Them