[2023] How to Start a Bonsai Tree from Cutting: A Comprehensive Guide

Table of Contents

Quick Answer

Starting a bonsai tree from a cutting is an exciting and rewarding process. To begin, select a suitable cutting from a healthy parent tree. Prepare the cutting by removing any excess leaves and applying rooting hormone. Plant the cutting in a well-draining rooting medium and provide the necessary care to promote root development. With time and proper care, your bonsai tree will thrive and grow into a beautiful miniature version of its parent tree.

Key Answer: Yes, you can start a bonsai tree from a cutting. It’s a popular method of propagation that allows you to create a bonsai tree with specific characteristics.

Quick Tips and Facts

Before we dive into the details of starting a bonsai tree from a cutting, here are some quick tips and interesting facts to keep in mind:

  • Bonsai cuttings should be taken during the tree’s dormant season, typically in late winter or early spring.
  • Hardwood cuttings are generally more successful than softwood cuttings for bonsai propagation.
  • Rooting hormone helps stimulate root growth and increases the chances of successful rooting.
  • Patience is key when growing bonsai from cuttings. It can take several months or even years for the cutting to develop into a mature bonsai tree.
  • Bonsai trees can be created from a wide variety of tree species, including deciduous, evergreen, and coniferous trees.

Now, let’s explore the process of starting a bonsai tree from a cutting in more detail.

Growing Bonsai from Cuttings

Growing bonsai from cuttings is a popular technique among bonsai enthusiasts. It allows you to create a bonsai tree with desirable characteristics, such as the shape, size, and foliage of the parent tree. While it requires patience and dedication, the process is rewarding and allows you to have a more personal connection with your bonsai tree.

To successfully grow a bonsai tree from a cutting, you need to follow a few key steps. These include selecting the right cutting, preparing it for rooting, choosing the appropriate rooting medium, and providing proper care throughout the rooting process.

Now, let’s dive into each step in detail.

Choosing the Right Cutting

Starting with a healthy and suitable cutting is crucial for successful bonsai propagation. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a cutting:

  1. Parent Tree: Select a cutting from a healthy, mature bonsai tree or a tree species known for its bonsai potential. The parent tree should have desirable characteristics that you want to replicate in your bonsai.

  2. Dormant Season: Take the cutting during the tree’s dormant season, which is typically in late winter or early spring. During this time, the tree is more tolerant of pruning and has higher chances of successful rooting.

  3. Hardwood vs. Softwood: Hardwood cuttings, taken from older, mature branches, generally have a higher success rate than softwood cuttings. Hardwood is more resilient and less prone to rotting.

  4. Size and Shape: Choose a cutting that matches the desired size and shape of your future bonsai tree. Look for a cutting with a straight trunk and well-distributed branches.

  5. Healthy Growth: Ensure that the cutting is free from pests, diseases, and any signs of stress or damage. It should have vibrant foliage and healthy growth.

By carefully selecting a suitable cutting, you increase the chances of successfully propagating a bonsai tree.

Preparing the Cutting

Once you have selected the right cutting, it’s time to prepare it for rooting. Follow these steps:

  1. Trimming: Remove any excess leaves from the cutting, leaving only a few at the top. This reduces water loss and directs the plant’s energy towards root development.

  2. Wound the Cutting: Make a small, shallow wound on the bottom end of the cutting. This encourages the growth of new roots.

  3. Rooting Hormone: Apply a rooting hormone to the wounded area of the cutting. Rooting hormones contain growth-promoting substances that stimulate root development.

  4. Allow to Callus: Place the cutting in a dry, shaded area and allow it to callus for a few days. This helps prevent rotting and promotes the formation of roots.

Properly preparing the cutting sets the stage for successful rooting and the development of a healthy bonsai tree.

Rooting Mediums for Bonsai Cuttings

Choosing the right rooting medium is essential for successful root development in bonsai cuttings. A well-draining medium provides the necessary oxygen and moisture balance for root growth. Here are some commonly used rooting mediums for bonsai cuttings:

  1. Perlite and Vermiculite Mix: A mixture of perlite and vermiculite creates a light and airy rooting medium that retains moisture while allowing excess water to drain.

  2. Akadama Soil: Akadama soil is a popular choice among bonsai enthusiasts. It is a clay-like soil that provides good drainage and moisture retention.

  3. Peat Moss and Perlite Mix: A combination of peat moss and perlite creates a well-draining rooting medium that retains moisture.

  4. Sphagnum Moss: Sphagnum moss is often used as a rooting medium for delicate or hard-to-root cuttings. It provides moisture and helps prevent the cutting from drying out.

When choosing a rooting medium, consider the specific needs of the tree species you are propagating. Different tree species have different preferences for soil moisture and drainage.

Rooting Hormones

Rooting hormones are a valuable tool for increasing the success rate of bonsai cuttings. They contain growth-promoting substances, such as auxins, that stimulate root development. Here are some benefits of using rooting hormones for bonsai propagation:

  • Increased Rooting Success: Rooting hormones significantly increase the chances of successful rooting, especially for more challenging tree species.
  • Faster Root Development: Rooting hormones help accelerate root growth, allowing the cutting to establish itself more quickly.
  • Stronger Root System: The application of rooting hormones promotes the growth of a robust and healthy root system, which is essential for the long-term health of the bonsai tree.

Rooting hormones are available in different forms, such as powders, gels, and liquids. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and dosage.

Planting the Cutting

After preparing the cutting and selecting the rooting medium, it’s time to plant the cutting. Follow these steps:

  1. Container Selection: Choose a small, shallow container with drainage holes to plant the cutting. Bonsai pots or nursery containers work well for this purpose.

  2. Fill with Rooting Medium: Fill the container with the chosen rooting medium, leaving enough space for the cutting.

  3. Plant the Cutting: Make a small hole in the rooting medium and gently insert the cutting, ensuring that the wounded area is in contact with the medium.

  4. Stabilize the Cutting: Use wire or small stakes to stabilize the cutting in an upright position. This helps prevent the cutting from moving or falling over during rooting.

  5. Watering: Water the cutting thoroughly, ensuring that the rooting medium is evenly moist. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to rotting.

  6. Cover with Plastic: Place a clear plastic bag or a propagation dome over the container to create a humid environment. This helps retain moisture and promotes root development.

Place the container in a warm, well-lit area, but away from direct sunlight. Monitor the moisture levels and mist the cutting if necessary to maintain humidity.

Caring for Bonsai Cuttings

Caring for bonsai cuttings requires attention to detail and the right conditions. Here are some essential care tips:

  1. Watering: Water the cutting regularly, ensuring that the rooting medium remains evenly moist. Avoid overwatering or allowing the medium to dry out completely.

  2. Lighting: Provide the cutting with bright, indirect light. Avoid placing it in direct sunlight, as it can cause leaf burn or overheating.

  3. Temperature and Humidity: Maintain a consistent temperature and humidity level. Bonsai cuttings generally prefer temperatures between 60-75°F (15-24°C) and moderate humidity.

  4. Fertilization: Once the cutting has established roots, begin fertilizing with a balanced bonsai fertilizer. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for dosage and frequency.

  5. Pruning and Shaping: As the cutting grows, regularly prune and shape it to maintain the desired bonsai form. This helps develop a compact and aesthetically pleasing tree.

  6. Transplanting: After the cutting has developed a strong root system, it may be necessary to transplant it into a larger bonsai pot. This provides more space for root growth and allows the tree to continue developing.

With proper care and attention, your bonsai cutting will gradually develop into a beautiful bonsai tree.


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Can you root bonsai cuttings in water?

Yes, it is possible to root bonsai cuttings in water. Water propagation is a popular method for rooting cuttings as it allows you to closely monitor root development. To root a bonsai cutting in water, follow these steps:

  1. Select a Cutting: Choose a suitable cutting and remove excess leaves.

  2. Place in Water: Place the cutting in a glass or jar filled with water, ensuring that the bottom end is submerged.

  3. Change Water Regularly: Change the water every few days to ensure it remains fresh and oxygenated.

  4. Monitor Root Growth: After a few weeks, you should start seeing roots develop from the bottom of the cutting. Once the roots are well-established, you can transfer the cutting to a rooting medium or directly into a bonsai pot.

While water propagation can be successful, it’s important to note that not all tree species root well in water. Some tree species may have better success rates with traditional soil-based propagation.

Can you root bonsai cuttings?

Yes, you can root bonsai cuttings. Rooting cuttings is a common and effective method of propagation for bonsai trees. By carefully selecting a suitable cutting and providing the right conditions, you can encourage root development and establish a new bonsai tree.

Can you make a bonsai out of any tree?

In theory, you can make a bonsai out of any tree. However, not all tree species are suitable for bonsai cultivation. Some tree species are more resilient and adaptable to the bonsai training techniques, while others may be more challenging to work with. It’s important to choose tree species that have characteristics suitable for bonsai, such as small leaves, interesting trunk shapes, and good branch structure.

When selecting a tree for bonsai, consider factors such as the tree’s growth habits, leaf size, and overall aesthetic appeal. Research the specific care requirements of the tree species to ensure you can provide the necessary conditions for its growth.

How do you create a new branch on a bonsai tree?

Creating new branches on a bonsai tree is a process known as branch development or branch creation. Here are some techniques commonly used to create new branches:

  1. Pinching: Pinching involves removing the terminal bud of a branch, which stimulates the growth of lateral buds and encourages branching.

  2. Wiring: Wiring allows you to shape and position branches in the desired direction. By carefully bending and securing the branches with wire, you can create new branch structures.

  3. Grafting: Grafting is a more advanced technique that involves joining a branch or scion from one tree onto another tree’s trunk or branch. This allows you to introduce new branches and combine desirable characteristics from different tree species.

  4. Bud Selection: Selecting and promoting the growth of specific buds can help create new branches. By removing unwanted buds and allowing desired buds to grow, you can shape the tree’s branching structure.

It’s important to note that branch development takes time and careful planning. Regular pruning and training are necessary to guide the growth of new branches and create a balanced and aesthetically pleasing bonsai tree.


Starting a bonsai tree from a cutting is a rewarding and fulfilling process. By carefully selecting a suitable cutting, preparing it for rooting, choosing the right rooting medium, and providing proper care, you can successfully propagate a bonsai tree with specific characteristics.

Remember to be patient and attentive throughout the process. Bonsai cultivation is a journey that requires time, dedication, and a deep appreciation for the art of growing miniature trees.

If you’re ready to embark on your bonsai journey, gather the necessary supplies and start experimenting with different tree species and cutting techniques. With practice and experience, you’ll develop the skills to create stunning bonsai trees that reflect your personal style and creativity.

  • “Bonsai Basics: A Comprehensive Guide to Care and Cultivation” by Christian Pessey
  • “The Bonsai Workshop: 101 Essential Tips” by Herb Gustafson
  • Bonsai Empire – Bonsai information and resources
  • American Bonsai Society – Bonsai education and community

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