How Long Do Bonsai Trees Live? (Why Do They Live So Long?)
Anyone who has fallen in love with their bonsai wants it to live forever, even though we know they can’t.
But how long exactly will your tree stick around?
Well, bonsai trees vary when it comes to lifespan.
Yet, many will outlive their natural counterparts because they grow in controlled environments where a person can tailor the plant’s conditions to meet their exact needs.
In fact, some bonsai trees live for up to a thousand years, while many of them reach 100 years old or older.
In this article, we’ll look at how long different species can live, why bonsais live so long, and how you can ensure your tree sticks around for a long time.
How Long Do Most Bonsai Trees Live?
Many bonsai trees live to see 100 years old.
And they can live up to this age even if their wild counterparts do not usually make it that long.
This fact is an incredible feat of nature, and, for centuries, people have been amazed by the bonsai’s ability to keep existing year after year.
Indeed, some families even have trees that they pass between generations because these plants outlive the family members who planted them.
But, as a rule of thumb, a healthy bonsai will only live about 25 percent longer than its wild, full-size counterpart.
However, this feature of bonsais is amazing, considering this sometimes translates to centuries of life.
Yet, it can be hard to know exactly how long most bonsai trees live because many people have these trees for so long they don’t know exactly when they got them.
Thus, dates often get blurred when trees pass down through families.
Though, it’s clear that a bonsai tree can live for a long time.
So, if you are taking a bonsai on, you should be aware that you are likely committing to it for life.
And bonsais can need quite a bit of care.
Therefore, you should choose your tree well and be prepared to put in the time and energy needed for it to thrive.
Why Do Bonsai Trees Live So Long?
Bonsai trees are long-lived because their carers perfectly tailor their growing conditions to suit their needs.
Unlike trees growing in nature, which often have to face adverse conditions such as droughts, floods, extreme temperatures, lack of nutrients, pests, diseases, and strong winds, people protect their bonsais from these factors.
This care is why bonsais often live so long.
It is also possible that bonsais live longer because they grow more slowly, and in general, long life seems to be a trait associated with slow-growing trees.
What Is the Oldest Bonsai in the World?
The oldest bonsai tree in the world is probably over 1,000 years old.
And this ficus in Crespi, Italy, stands at more than 10 feet (3 meters) tall.
It has extremely beautiful, twisting growth and aerial roots, multiple stems, and a crown of green, healthy leaves that show no signs of aging.
But, while the Crespi ficus may be the oldest, many other bonsai specimens are several hundred years old, including a juniper that is also over 1,000.
You can see this bonsai at Japan’s Mansei-en Bonsai Kato family nursery.
However, unfortunately, it isn’t likely that your bonsai will outstrip these specimens unless you and your descendants are masters of the art.
Yet, with good care, a bonsai can live for an extraordinary length of time.
Which Bonsai Species Live the Longest?
Overall, trees that live longer in the wild will often survive better than short-lived trees when put into containers.
Also, fast-growing trees usually don’t last as well as slow-growers, as they tend to get brittle once they are more established.
So, if you want a long-term companion, choose a slow-growing tree.
Some of the trees that last the longest include:
- Ficus bonsais
- Juniper bonsais
- Azalea bonsais
- White oak bonsais
- Pecan bonsais
- Cedar bonsais
- Pine bonsais
- Maple bonsais
- Cypress bonsais
However, there is no guarantee that these trees will outlive others.
Conditions and care can make as much a difference to a tree’s life expectancy as the species.
Therefore, if you look after your bonsai tree well and provide it with good conditions, even a short-lived bonsai will last for decades or even a century.
Which Bonsai Trees Are Short-Lived?
Most short-lived bonsai trees are fruit trees, although willows and birches may also have relatively short lifespans.
In general, faster-growing trees will not live as long, and although you will get a satisfying bonsai tree much more quickly, it will die much sooner too.
A few short-lived bonsais include:
- Weeping willows
- Pear trees
- Apple trees
- Peach trees
All of these bonsais can live for a long time if looked after well.
Yet, many will eventually become brittle and start succumbing to diseases as they reach the end of their natural lives, no matter what you do to preserve them.
How Can I Make Sure My Bonsai Tree Lives for a Long Time?
There are two factors to consider when it comes to bonsai longevity: the kind of tree and the care it receives.
You will need to think about both if you want a bonsai tree that lives for many years.
So, make sure you research the kind of tree you are thinking of buying and check that you can provide a suitable environment for it.
Most bonsai trees need daily attention, with pruning and inspections for diseases and pests.
You’ll also have to water and fertilize them often.
If you cannot provide this level of commitment to your plant, it is unlikely to thrive.
Additionally, bonsais tend to need an outdoor spot, as they like a lot of good light, although some varieties will tolerate being entirely grown indoors.
You will also need to protect your bonsai from freezing temperatures since plants in pots are more vulnerable to this than plants in the ground.
Therefore, you’ll need to bring your bonsai inside if the weather is getting cold enough to be dangerous.
So, overall, if you provide your bonsai with everything it needs, it should survive year after year, slowly putting out new growth and gaining size.
Bonsai trees can live for an amazingly long time, with some passing the 1,000-year-old mark.
Thus, if you are thinking of getting a bonsai, remember that it is something you might be passing along to your grandchildren one day.
Or, it could even end up in a museum a millennium from now.
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