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Is Bonsai Cruel? (4 Main Reasons)

No, it isn’t. 

Bonsai trees often receive more care and attention than nearly any other plant in someone’s house. 

Moreover, there are many reasons why they live long, healthy lives, including the limits of their habitat.

Bonsai is an art form that involves intentionally keeping trees a specific size and shape. 

Many people view this as intentionally stopping a plant from growing naturally and thus interpret it as cruel. 

But is the art of bonsai an act of cruelty?

There’s a lot of talk about bonsais and cruelty, so I’m going to cover everything you need to know about why the art of bonsai is not cruel to trees at all.

4 Reasons Bonsai Is Not Cruel

1. Plants Always Grow Within Their Limits

A popular argument as to why bonsai could be cruel is “you’re stopping the tree from growing to its natural size.” 

This argument may seem true on the surface, but it ignores a fundamental truth about plants: they grow within the limits of their habitat. 

Thus, they are not suffering great pain by being in a pot.

The size a tree grows depends on many environmental factors, including how much space it has. 

So, if the tree roots only have a certain amount of space to expand, the tree itself will only grow to that size. 

It’s not that the pot is forcing the tree to be tiny, as trees always comfortably mature to whatever size is ideal for their situation.

Thus, bonsai trees can grow to many sizes naturally. 

And there is no “natural” size that a tree must grow to be. 

Therefore, whatever size is best for the tree’s living situation is its natural size. 

A tree knows how large it should and shouldn’t be a lot better than humans do. 

So, bonsai trees growing to smaller sizes due to being indoors is not cruel to the tree itself. 

Actually, the health of the tree is not affected in any way.

2. Bonsai Trees Get Everything They Need

A bonsai tree is a lot like a pet: someone may argue that it’s cruel to take an animal out of its ‘natural’ environment. 

But is it? 

Pets often receive all of the food, water, love, and care they could possibly need. 

The same is true for bonsai trees. 

Nearly everyone who engages in bonsai cares a lot about the health of their tree.

And because the art of bonsai is so involved, the person doing it has to pay a lot of attention to what their tree needs. 

They have to ensure it gets the right amount of water, change its soil from time to time, and prune away damaged or diseased parts of the tree.

Considering all of that, you can see that bonsai trees are actually quite pampered, even compared to the other types of plants one might grow in their home. 

So, few plants get as much attention and care as bonsai trees. 

Thus, it’s hard to say that the art is cruel.

3. Wiring Bonsai Trees Does Not Cause Damage

People often wire bonsai trees in the early stages of its life. 

They do this to give the branches and the tree overall a particular shape, which the tree will keep for the rest of its life. 

Some people view this as an act of cruelty to the trees, but that’s not true either.

First of all, the wires people use do not cut into the tree’s bark at all, so no permanent damage of any sort happens. 

Moreover, controlling the way the branches grow is not dissimilar from how limbs react to their environment in nature.

Have you ever seen a tree that had an oddly shaped branch? 

Well, that’s because branches tend to change shape based on their environment. 

Sometimes, they change shape to search for sunlight. 

Other times, an obstacle in their path forces them to change their shape.

Basically, trees already change the shape of their branches in nature. 

Therefore, there’s nothing unnatural or cruel about shaping them in a particular way. 

It’s just that people shape them with intent rather than letting chance dictate the tree’s growth. 

4. Growing Plants in Pots Is Common

Some people believe that growing a bonsai in a pot is cruel, but do humans not grow all sorts of plants in pots? 

Unless you were to condemn all potted plants, there would not be a problem with bonsai, would there?

As mentioned previously, plants, trees included, grow within the limits of their habitats. 

Thus, even if growing in a pot, nothing actually stunts their growth. 

It is just that they have a new limit on their natural growth. 

And since plants do not grow beyond their means, they are not suffering because they only grow to a level fitting for their situation.

So, if you don’t think growing any other type of plant in a pot is cruel, you can’t use that logic to condemn bonsai either. 


It may seem cruel to engage in the art of bonsai. 

But, if you really think about how plants work, as well as the fact that bonsai is an art form that inherently requires intense and proper care of a tree, these misconceptions lose their ground. 

Overall, bonsai trees get a lot of care and affection from their owners. 

Furthermore, they are more than willing to grow within the limitations of their pots. 

It is perfectly normal in nature for trees to grow to certain sizes or have their branches grow in particular ways, based on their environment.

So, all in all, bonsai is not cruel to trees. 

In fact, bonsais tend to live long, healthy lives.

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