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How to Grow a Bonsai Tree from Seed (in 3 Steps)

Bonsai trees are more than just decorative plants. 

They are an art that displays the beauty of a living tree.

Thus, growing a bonsai tree from seed takes time, patience, and a lot of attention to detail.

Normally, you will need to stratify or scarify bonsai seeds before planting them. 

Then, you’ll have to water the seeds well and care for them to the best of your ability. 

When the seedling begins to grow, you should transplant them into their own individual containers.

And finally, about three years after planting, you’ll be able to begin to shape your tree. 

In this article, we will detail the steps you need to follow to grow your bonsai tree from seed.

We will also talk about how to obtain bonsai tree seeds and how to care for your bonsai trees once they have sprouted.

Lastly, we will review the advantages and challenges of growing a bonsai tree from seed.

How Do I Obtain Seeds for a Bonsai Tree?

There are two ways to get seeds for your bonsai tree – buy them or collect them.

Yet, your first thought should be deciding what tree species you want to bonsai. 

You can bonsai virtually any tree, although some are more difficult than others.

So, you should think about your skill level and preferences before choosing a species. 

You can jump to “What Type of Bonsai Tree Should I Grow From Seed” below to help you make this decision. 

Then, once you have a tree in mind, go to your local nursery or home improvement store’s garden department to obtain seeds.

Alternatively, you can buy seeds online from websites like Amazon or specialized plant stores.

To help ease your journey into bonsai, you can also find stores and websites that will sell bonsai kits with everything you need, including seeds.

Or, if you don’t want to spend the money on seeds, go outside and collect them from nature.

Just make sure you research what time of year is suitable for collecting tree seeds for your bonsai, so you can gather them before the squirrels do. 

What Steps Should I Take to Grow a Bonsai Tree From Seed?

1) Prepare Your Seeds

First off, you will need to properly prepare your bonsai seeds for planting before you can bury them in the soil.

For seeds with tough hard shells, you may need to scarify the seed before planting.

Scarifying helps weaken the shell so that the plant can more easily germinate.

There are a few different ways to achieve scarification.

You can use a nail file or sandpaper to thin the outer layer around the seed or put a small nick in the hard outer shell with a knife or nail clippers.

If you’re uncomfortable with these physically abrasive methods, another way to scarify the seeds is by soaking them in hot water for twelve to twenty-four hours.

Some bonsai seeds also require stratification, or exposure to cold temperatures, to begin germination.

To perform stratification, simply soak the seeds in water and then place them in a sealed Ziploc bag with some moist soil in the refrigerator until they begin to sprout.

2) Prepare Your Pot and Soil

After you’ve prepped your seeds, fill the bottom of a pot with a material that will provide good drainage.

Then, pour in your bonsai soil. 

3) Plant and Care for Your Seeds

Next, spread out your seeds across the top of the pot and cover them with about 1 inch (2-3 cm) of bonsai soil.

Water the seeds immediately, and make sure you always keep the soil moist.

However, never let your dirt get too wet, or you could damage the seeds. 

Finally, once the seedlings sprout, you can transplant them into their own pots.

How Do I Care for My Bonsai Tree Seedling?

Once your bonsai tree has sprouted into a seedling, it will need its own pot.

And be careful when transplanting your bonsai seedling as it is fragile and can easily break.

To transplant, use a pencil or chopsticks to dig the root system out of the first pot. 

Then, place the roots in a pre-dug hole about the width of your finger in the new pot.

Once you’ve re-planted your seedling, make sure to water it enough so that the soil stays moist but not soggy.

In addition to watering, you’ll also have to ensure you give your tree the right amount of sunlight. 

Some bonsai trees need full sunlight, while others prefer partial shade.

Therefore, be sure to research the needs of your specific species of bonsai so that you can properly care for it.

Furthermore, bonsai trees usually need weekly to monthly fertilizing after they have successfully re-rooted in their new pots.

You should do the first fertilizer treatment about a month and a half after you have transplanted the seedling. 

Then, keep caring for your bonsai on a regular basis.

And finally, once your bonsai tree is about three years old, it will be big enough to begin training for the style and shape you desire.

What Type of Bonsai Tree Should I Grow From Seed?

Since bonsai is the art of cultivating trees in a particular fashion, the choice of species for bonsai is virtually endless.

You can turn any tree into a bonsai, but some are easier to grow than others.

Pine, cedar, maple, birch, and fir trees are great for those just starting out.

These species are easy to grow from seed and are simple to train.

In fact, some of the most highly recommended species that are easy to obtain and very common among bonsai artists include Scotch pine, larch, black pine, beech, and maple.

Conversely, if you are looking for a tree that may be more challenging, try your hand at white pine, needle juniper, or hornbeam.

These species can be tricky to germinate, but once they sprout, their beauty is stunning.

What Are the Advantages of Growing a Bonsai Tree From Seed?

There are many advantages to growing your bonsai tree from seed.

One of the biggest benefits is being able to train your tree from the beginning.

Trying to re-train a bonsai tree that someone has already trained can prove challenging.

But, if you start your bonsai from seed, it is more pliable than an older tree and will grow according to your designs.

It is also a lot cheaper to start a bonsai tree from seed.

Generally, obtaining a bonsai tree that someone has already trained can be expensive.

On the low end, fully grown bonsai trees can cost a couple of hundred dollars.

On the high end, they can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

However, if you grow from seed, you will probably spend less than a hundred dollars on supplies, including the seeds, which you could get for free from nature.

Another benefit of growing your bonsai tree from seed is that you can ensure it is free from disease and pests.

Since you are aware of everything that goes into your bonsai tree’s care right from the beginning, you will know if it gets exposed to anything that can harm it. 

Thus, you can more or less prevent anything negatively affecting your tree. 

Yet, perhaps one of the best advantages to growing your bonsai tree from seed is the satisfaction of seeing your work of art come to its full fruitfulness.

You will know that you nurtured this beautiful tree from seed to a full-grown plant.

What Are the Challenges of Growing a Bonsai Tree From Seed?

Patience is the biggest challenge when growing a bonsai tree from seed. 

It takes about three years until you can really begin to train and shape your bonsai the way you want.

And sometimes, the seeds just don’t germinate, and you have to start all over again.

Also, if you are working with a tougher seed, especially one that requires stratification or scarification, it takes extra work to make sure your seed will germinate.

Even then, there is no guarantee that the seedling will sprout.

Bonsai trees can also be extremely fragile when they are young seedlings and may not survive the transplant process.

Additionally, like most plants, you need to ensure you don’t overwater or underwater your bonsai tree.

Plus, you need to protect your tree from too much sunlight, especially when it is young.

Some plants are tolerant of their environmental conditions, but bonsai trees can be very picky.

Overall, since you are training your trees to stay small and delicate, their disposition will remain fragile, so you need to take extra care of them to ensure they live.


Bonsai trees provide a beautiful decoration for your home and a sensational way to create art with nature.

And you can grow a bonsai tree from seed quite easily if you take proper care of your plant.

In summary, to grow your bonsai, you first need to obtain seeds for your bonsai tree from a local nursery, a reputable online source, or by walking outside and collecting them yourself.

Then, you can plant your bonsai seeds and wait for them to germinate. 

You’ll later have to re-plant your bonsai, and within time (three years), you’ll be able to start shaping your tree into the shape you want.

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