Bonsai (Japanese ‘tray planting’, is a Japanese version of the original traditional Chinese art penjing or penzai. The Japanese “bonsai” only attempts to produce small trees that mimic the shape of real life trees. Similar versions of the art exist in other cultures.
The loanword “bonsai” (a Japanese pronunciation of the original Chinese term penzai) has become an umbrella term in English, attached to many forms of potted or other plants. In the most restrictive sense, “bonsai” refers to miniaturized, container-grown trees adhering to Japanese tradition and principles.
Purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation for the viewer, and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity for the grower.] By contrast with other plant cultivation practices, bonsai is not intended for production of food or for medicine. Instead, bonsai practice focuses on long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees growing in a container.
Bonsai can be created from nearly any perennial woody-stemmed tree or shrub species that produces true branches and can be cultivated to remain small through pot confinement with crown and root pruning. Some species are popular as bonsai material because they have characteristics, such as small leaves or needles, that make them appropriate for the compact visual scope of bonsai.
The source specimen is shaped to be relatively small and to meet the aesthetic standards of bonsai, which emphasizes not the entirety of grand sceneries but rather only the tree itself. When the candidate bonsai nears its planned final size, it is planted in a display pot, usually one designed for bonsai display in one of a few accepted shapes and proportions. From that point forward, its growth is restricted by the pot environment. Throughout the year, the bonsai is shaped to limit growth, redistribute foliar vigor to areas requiring further development, and meet the artist’s detailed design.
The practice of bonsai is sometimes confused with dwarfing, but dwarfing generally refers to research, discovery, or creation of plants that are permanent, genetic miniatures of existing species. Plant dwarfing often uses selective breeding or genetic engineering to create dwarf cultivars. Bonsai does not require genetically dwarfed trees but rather depends on growing small trees from regular stock and seeds. Bonsai uses cultivation techniques like pruning, root reduction, potting, defoliation, and grafting to produce small trees that mimic the shape and style of mature, full-size trees.