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How To Grow A Bonsai Forest? (8 Must Haves)

A bonsai forest is when several bonsai trees live together in one pot so that they look like a miniature forest. 

These forests are fun to grow and can present a unique challenge for any bonsai enthusiast. 

 To grow a bonsai forest, you will need to: 

  1. Select a shallow container that will fit all of your trees. 
  2. Pick out your saplings. 
  3. Place an anchor wire or a wooden frame into your container.
  4. Add one main, central tree. 
  5. Fill in and trim other trees according to your design. 
  6. Add soil to fill the planter.
  7. Add moss and decorative details. 
  8. Water your forest and watch it grow. 

This article will discuss the process of growing a bonsai forest in detail and give you some helpful tips to grow your forest. 

What Kind of Container Do I Use for a Bonsai Forest?

When choosing a planter for a bonsai forest, the key thing to consider is whether it will fit the number of trees you want to use. 

Many experts recommend using seven or more trees to create the look of a real forest. 

And remember that you will be grouping these trees together, so don’t choose a pot that is too large for your number of trees. 

The container you choose should also be shallow enough that the roots of the trees will fuse over time but not so shallow that it doesn’t support your forest. 

Overall, you should choose an easy-to-work-with container. 

Furthermore, consider that drainage is essential in shallow pots. 

Thus, choose a planter with adequate drainage holes, but cover large holes with mesh if needed. 

You can start the bonsai forest in a seed pot and move it to another pot or decorative surface after around one year. 

What Kind of Trees Do I Use for a Bonsai Forest?

As with single bonsai, you can make a forest using any type of tree. 

However, people typically make sure that all of the trees in their forest are of the same species.

Now, a single species may sound boring, but most people choose a variety of saplings with slightly different characteristics to spice up their forest. 

Using this technique, you can easily care for your forest while creating an artful display. 

You can even pull saplings from a forest near your home to get started. 

Just make sure that if you pull saplings, you keep the fine roots intact. 

And remember that these saplings should be 1-4 years old. 

Also, if possible, choose trees with straight trunks so the end result will look more like a natural forest.

If you are a beginner to bonsai, you may want to consider using a hearty species well-suited to bonsai, like a ficus, Chinese elm, or jade. 

But, when picking a species, you mostly want to consider how you want your forest to look. 

Do you want a deciduous forest with lots of autumn colors? 

Then Japanese elm might be the right choice. 

If you want an evergreen forest, juniper or larch are common picks. 

Or, you can group trees that would not be suitable for single bonsai to make a beautiful forest. 

Other common species used in bonsai forests are cedar, beech, privet, and spruce.

What Kind of Soil Do I Use for a Bonsai Forest?

You should use whatever soil is best for your species of tree. 

Additionally, since you will be using saplings, make sure the soil is appropriate for young tree growth. 

But, generally, the soil you use for your forest should be loose and peaty. 

For most trees, a standard bonsai mixture should be adequate.

How Do I Anchor the Trees in a Bonsai Forest?

It may be helpful to wire your saplings’ trunks in place so that the trees grow together in the design you want. 

To do this, you can use gardening wire and then thread it through the drainage holes in the bottom of your planter. 

This technique will anchor the trees together and protect them from birds and weather. 

Additionally, wire may be helpful when you are planting your seedlings so that you can work with one tree at a time. 

It is also possible to make a frame out of non-treated wood and wire and place it in the bottom of your planter. 

Then, you can wire the saplings to the frame as you go. 

And after the roots have fused together in about one year’s time, you can remove the frame. 

You can also cut the taproot of each sapling to make room in the planter, but try to leave some of the fine roots so the tree can get enough water and nutrients.

When Is the Best Time of Year to Make a Bonsai Forest?

You should typically make your bonsai forest in spring before the trees leaf out. 

Yet, you can also begin a forest in the fall. 

Furthermore, remember that, for deciduous trees, you should not start a bonsai forest in the summer months when the trees are in full leaf. 

Or, if you want a species you can start no matter the season, go with evergreen. 

How Do I Make a Good Bonsai Forest Design?

Some bonsai enthusiasts recommend using an odd number of trees for asymmetry, but of course, it’s up to you. 

You can pick the number of trees as well. 

However, you should be aware that the most common design is to place the largest tree in the middle and arrange the shorter trees around it. 

This style will create a triangle shape for the overall forest. 

Another popular method is to place trees behind the central tree to give the forest depth. 

But, no matter what design you choose, the most important thing at the beginning is to get the trees growing in the proper spacing. 

You can always trim them later on for height and fullness. 

Then, after you plant the trees, you can add moss on top of the soil to keep it moist. 

You may also want to add rocks or figurines to design your forest floor. 

Really it’s all about finding the look you want, so go ahead and experiment. 

How Long Does a Bonsai Forest Take to Grow?

After you plant your forest, water it and let it rest. 

It will take around a year after planting for the roots of the trees to fuse together. 

During this time, make sure your forest is getting adequate water and light. 

Generally, most forests will look finished in 4-5 years. 


With a bit of patience and equipment, you will be surprised at how delightful growing a bonsai forest can be. 

You just first need to focus on getting the spacing right and letting the roots fuse. 

Then, you can get creative and design your forest however you want.

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