Thuja Bonsai Progression (2016 – Now)

This is my Thuja Plicata is tree (Western Red Cedar) that I started from an air layer. I am trying to it grow as bonsai and I will be going through its progression below.

It is still has a lot of development, but I still think it’s coming along nicely.

If you want to watch it in video format, you can watch the YouTube playlist below. The videos show the progression every month throughout the year, sort of like a time lapse.

Just be aware some of my earlier videos are not the best quality, but just like my trees, the quality slowly improves over time, so stick with them and they both get a little better towards the end.

Thujas are a large evergreen tree that are not that common in bonsai, but you can read more about their suitability in Is Thuja A Good Tree For Bonsai?

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I clearing was clearing the communal garden and found this tree growing under some brambles. It had been planted in the ground and still had the tag on. It had probably been there for years, but didn’t grow much as it was shaded out.

It was the middle of summer, so I couldn’t really do anything, so I just left it until following spring.


I have no footage from this, but I air layered the tree at the yellow line in spring, basically removing the top. Once it rooted I removed it and potted it up. (You can find more information about Air layering in –What Is Air Layering For Bonsai?)


I have no footage again, but basically I left the tree alone all year and just allowed it to grow.


I moved house in spring 2019, so I had to reduce the size of the tree to make it easy to transport.

Spring 2019

I cut it back hard and I kind of wrecked it. It was either do this, or leave it behind. It will take a long time to correct this

Spring 2019

At the end of spring I pruned it again, to tidy it up a bit, and then I left it to grow for the rest of the year.

Summer 2019


in the spring of 2020 I repotted the tree into a training pot. The roots were actually pretty decent. Since it’s an air layer they are radial and flat.

Spring 2020

I actually air layered another bit off this tree, but ignore that. I just wanted to plant that in the garden.

Summer 2020

The main tree was left to grow wild until end of year.


In 2021 I repotted the tree in spring and I also removed the air layer.

Early 2021

I also removed some branches as well, so the tree is now starting to look like it has a direction. You can almost start to see what I am aiming for.

Spring 2021

The tree just left for the rest of the year and allowed to grow freely.

Late 2021


At the start of 2022 I added some wire to get some more movement and shape to the tree. It was nothing drastic, but will help in the long run.

Early 2022

I then repotted in spring and after this I left it alone to grow.

Spring 2022

And that is where we are with this tree. The plan going forward is to prune it in summer and then we will see what happens after that

If you also have a thuja and are wondering how I look after it, you can read my Thuja Bonsai Care Guide.