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The Difference Between Bonsai and Normal Trees

Since bonsais are so small and can look quite different from other trees, many may wonder what the distinctions are between a bonsai and its larger counterpart.

What makes an oak bonsai different from the oak tree in your yard?

Well, the difference between a bonsai tree and a regular tree is simply that a person grows a bonsai in very restricted conditions so that it will never get beyond a specific size.

A bonsai will then stay small because its grower does not allow its roots to get too big.  

Conversely, an ordinary tree grows freely, pushing its roots down into the soil, and usually reaches a height of several meters.

In this article, we’ll look at how bonsais differ from larger trees and whether you can grow a bonsai into a normal tree. 

Is a Bonsai Different Than a Normal Tree?

The only difference between a bonsai and a regular tree is the bonsai is much smaller.

The two trees are genetically identical, so there is no difference between them except for their size.

The only reason a bonsai tree does not grow to the same size as a standard tree is that the grower keeps the bonsai in a small pot, where its roots can not spread out.

Thus, the tree cannot absorb enough water and nutrients to support much growth. 

A bonsai also cannot create a root network that will anchor a huge tree, so the plant can’t grow too big.

By contrast, a tree growing in normal conditions makes every effort to put down as many roots as possible and spread them as wide as it can.

However, this is the only difference between the two kinds of trees. 

So, a bonsai only looks different from an average tree because it is so much smaller. 

For that reason, if you compare the two closely, you should see that they have the same leaves, bark, fruits, flowers, and growth patterns.

Most people even grow bonsais to mimic the shape and style of the full-size tree as closely as possible. 

Therefore, bonsais should look as much like a scaled-down version of the actual tree as they can.

Can a Bonsai Grow Into a Normal Tree?

You might be wondering what happens if you dig a bonsai tree out of its container and transplant it into the soil so that its roots can fan out.

Often, the bonsai will take advantage of the new conditions, spread its roots, and start to grow into a full-sized tree.

Many people have experimented with this, and although it may not always work, it often will.

Yet, an older bonsai is less likely to develop an extensive root system, so it will probably never be as large as others of the same species.

But, if you plant a young bonsai outside, it will often be indistinguishable from others of its kind by the time it reaches maturity.


A bonsai is no different from a typical tree, except that a grower has restricted its roots, limiting the tree’s growth. 

Generally, a bonsai should look much the same as a standard tree, and the two will likely be identical, except for the size.

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