If you live in an apartment and would like to enrich it with a fantastic bonsai tree or maybe own a garden but feel like you lack something different inside, you have come to the right place. In this article, we have prepared a list of the eight best indoor bonsai trees, and we hope it will encourage you to get one for yourself if you don’t already have one. In this article, let’s talk about best indoor bonsai tree types how to care for them.
They’re not just the best but also low maintenance (for the most part)! Whether you will buy ready-made or cultivate and shape your own from scratch is up to you, but know that growing a bonsai tree indoors is not that hard, especially if you choose one that is great for novice bonsai “masters”.
1. Ficus Bonsai (Ficus Spp.)
Ficus is a genus of almost 900 species belonging to the Moraceae family, growing naturally in Southwest Asia. Many of the species in this genus have dwarf growth and are evergreen, making them a very popular bonsai tree choice.
They’re also adaptable plants that tolerate low humidity and less light, which is why they are especially great indoor bonsai trees. When we add to this the fact that ficus doesn’t require much attention, it’s no wonder why it’s probably the most beginner-friendly bonsai tree.
When it comes to appearance, ficus is known for its vivid green leaves with pointed tips.
If you want to change the direction in which a branch grows, wrap a wire around the trunk and that branch, and in some six weeks, you’ll find it in the desired shape.It’s a moderately growing plant, so you should prune two to four leaves each time new six to ten leaves grow. Pruning should ideally be carried out every spring, but it can be done all year round.
When ficus is pruned, it will ooze a milky, white sap called latex, which dries quickly. Latex is toxic to humans and animals and will cause an allergic reaction if it comes in contact with your skin. Because of this, it should be kept out of the reach of children and pets.
When grown as bonsai, ficus plants can live for a very long time, evidenced by more than a thousand-year-old Ficus retusa Linn, the oldest bonsai tree species in the world.
The most popular species used to make bonsai are Ginseng ficus, Ficus retusa, and Ficus benjamina. Ginseng ficus and Ficus retusa are two different ficus species that people usually take as one. However, they have leaf blades of different lengths: up to four inches for Ginseng ficus and between four and eight inches for Ficus retusa.
If you have ever seen the aerial roots of Ginseng Ficus (scientific name Ficus microcarpa), you will understand why it is so popular as a bonsai specimen. Twisted thick roots can be as long as half the length of the visible part of the plant. Give growing Ginseng ficus a try, you’ll feel like a bonsai master!
Ficus benjamin, also known as weeping fig or benjamin fig, has less pronounced roots but a much longer trunk that is also hard, which enables easy cultivation in bonsai form.
The combination of a long trunk and thin branches growing near the top of the canopy make this plant exceptionally visually appealing and look like an actual tree. If you want to cultivate a ficus bonsai tree but don’t like the weirdness of Ginseng ficus or Ficus retusa, Benjamin is the right choice for you. And as a cherry on top, let’s just add that this plant is one of the best air purifiers.
2. Carmona Bonsai (Ehretia Microphylla)
Carmona retusa or Ehretia microphylla is a woody plant from the Boraginaceae family, grown as a hedge or bonsai, and is the only species in its genus. It is also known under the names Fukien tea tree and Philippine tea tree among plant and bonsai enthusiasts.
It is naturally distributed in China, Japan, Southeast Asia, northern Australia, and the Solomon Islands.
When grown as a hedge, it sprouts three to nine feet tall with a branching crown, thorns, and up to one-inch long evergreen leaves. The oval leaves are hairy on the face and light green on the reverse. The bark of the tree is gray and cracks in older specimens. In a pot, it reaches between 12 and 32 inches in height.
What makes Carmona bonsai popular are its red berries and tiny white fragrant flowers that can bloom all year round.
The Fukien tea tree is one of the best options for an indoor bonsai tree, but it is still recommended to leave it outside at times, especially in spring and summer.
This plant requires a lot of natural light, so it should be placed next to a window with the most light. The ideal temperature for it is around 70 F (20 C). Since the number of sunny hours is limited during the cold winter months, you can use a grow lamp to simulate more favorable conditions. Since the heating produces dry air that affects the Fukien tea bonsai negatively, during that same period, it is necessary to fill the container with wet gravel or foam clay and place it under the container to regulate humidity.
Regarding nutrition, you should use solid organic fertilizer. The liquid one is used in moderate quantities and only on moist soil. The plant should be fed more often from spring to autumn and less so in winter.
3. Schefflera Bonsai (Schefflera Arboricola)
Another plant from Southeast Asia and the Australian continent is Schefflera arboricola, also known as the Hawaiian or dwarf umbrella tree.
It is very popular as a houseplant but even more popular as an indoor bonsai tree because, like the ficus, it can live in low light and humidity. In addition, it tolerates pruning well, which may be an even more important reason why many decide to grow it in an indoor environment.
However, the stems aren’t thick or woody, which is why it’s impossible to shape them with wire. This deficiency is neutralized by mangrove-like roots, probably the most attractive part of a Scheffler bonsai, as they allow you to achieve any weird and not-so-weird bonsai tree shape.
The leaves are bright green, dark, light, or mottled, which depends on the variety, and wonderfully contrast the elongated pale roots. They are formed on long petioles from several lobes. Younger plants have two to four lobes, while adult plants usually have six to eight lobes.
Schefflera bonsai doesn’t tolerate temperatures below 50 F, while the ideal is between 64 and 72 F. It likes moist soil, so try not to let it dry out. Be more on the lookout for dry soil during the colder periods since trees placed above or close to the heater experience faster drying of the root ball.
4. Jade Bonsai
If you have read articles related to Jade bonsai, you may have noticed that in some of them, the scientific name for Jade bonsai was Portulacaria afra, while in others, it was Crassula ovata. What gives?
Well, two different plants bear the name jade and immeasurably resemble each other. One is Dwarf jade (Portulacaria afra), and the other is the standard and widely known Jade plant (Crassula ovata). A bonsai species can be made from both, but Dwarf jade is more suitable since it has smaller foliage. This is also how you can differentiate between the two plants, bonsai or not.
As we said, they look alike and have the same care requirements, so in this article, we’ll just use the words Jade plant and Jade bonsai.
The Jade plant is a woody plant originating from southern Africa that can grow up to nine feet. This plant has a tree-like lower part, while the top has stiff, fat, oblong, and shiny leaves that grow in pairs and store water. Add their thick branches to the mix, and it’s clear why this plant resembles a bonsai, even in its “normal” form.
However, the reason why the Jade tree is on our list of the best indoor bonsai trees is that it tolerates pruning and branch bending well. Roots and branches should be pruned in the spring. When pruning, cut the whole stem, not half, to reduce growth. Only the ones in the lower part of the tree should be pruned.
Considering it’s a succulent, the Jade bonsai tree has leaves sensitive to the cold, which is another quality that makes it better for cultivating indoors. It does not tolerate temperatures below 40 F and should be placed in full sun. The edges of the leaves turning red is a sign that the plant is not receiving enough light.
The leaves contain a lot of water, so watering is done less frequently than in most indoor bonsai trees. From spring to autumn, fertilize it once a month.
5. Chinese Elm Bonsai (Ulmus Parvifolia)
Chinese elms are plants native to China and Southeast Asia that can grow up to 80 feet. The main features of the Chinese elms, which make them indispensable as bonsai trees, are their unique dense branching and small leaves, as they allow for creating mini copies that are as close as possible to the “regular” plants.
Since they’re often sold as indoor bonsai, the Chinese elms have acclimatized to such growing conditions, but you should know that these plants are moderate to completely frost-resistant.
Furthermore, when grown indoors (or in areas with very mild winters), they won’t lose their foliage throughout the year, while the ones that live outdoors become deciduous.
The Chinese elm bonsai tree has alternately growing, round, or elliptical toothed leaves of unequal sizes. Gray, smooth, tanned bark with young red twigs underlines the complex structure of the tree.
It needs very careful watering since it doesn’t tolerate long-term drought or constant moisture. Water it only when the top layer of the soil is dry while ensuring that the entire root mass is watered. Provide it with full sun or partial shade and a combination of solid organic fertilizer with well-balanced liquid chemical fertilizer.
6. Serissa Bonsai (Serissa Japonica)
Serissa is a subtropical shrub that reaches two to four feet in height and about as much in width. Although some still use its old scientific name, Serissa foetida, the correct one is Serissa japonica. When it comes to traditional names, Serissa is known as Snow rose, Tree with a thousand stars, Japanese boxthorn, etc.
It is an eye-catching species featuring small star-shaped white flowers that bloom in spring and summer and thin, long shiny, elegant leaves. Its charming fluorescence is why it’s one of the most beautiful flowering bonsais. Thanks to its rigid and gnarled gray trunk, you can have all of this even in the miniature version, i.e., as a bonsai.
Although it can be grown outdoors, it is more suitable as an indoor bonsai because it can’t tolerate night temperatures that drop below 50 F. Another thing that makes Serissa a good indoor bonsai plant is its intolerance of large temperature changes.
From autumn to spring, it requires a stay in a closed space where the temperature is between 50 and 70 F. In addition, the plant must not be allowed to dry out, which is why keeping the root ball moist is essential.
Sudden falling off of the leaves means you should water it less frequently. On the other hand, the absence of flowers on the tree signifies that it needs to be splashed and sprinkled with lime-free water.
If you’re going to use solid organic fertilizer for feeding, feed the plant every four weeks, while liquid fertilizer should be applied every week during the growing season.
Sensitivity to dryness, the previously mentioned vulnerability to temperature changes as well as general pickiness regarding care requirements when grown as a bonsai are the reasons why Snow rose is not recommended for beginners.
7. Money Tree (Pachira Aquatica)
After all the plants from Asia and Australia, it’s time to talk about a plant originating from the tropical and swampy areas of Central and South America: Pachira aquatica. Pachira aquatica belongs to the Malvaceae family and the genus Pachira, which includes about 77 species. The name pachira is a name of a language spoken in Guyana.
Why do we include it among the best indoor bonsai trees? If you have encountered this plant before, you already know part of the answer: braided trunk. This fascinating plant has three, five, or more smaller trunks that form a central one by intertwining. For those who are hearing about it for the first time, we present the picture below as evidence.
Of course, it’s not only a strong and attractive trunk that made us include it. The money tree is resistant to dry air, making it suitable for growing indoors in rooms with central heating. In winter, try not to have temperature drop below 57 F. During the summer, spray the leaves periodically and wipe the dust off them.
Money tree bonsai likes strong but indirect lighting, and in such conditions, it will grow very quickly, which, along with the fact that it tolerates pruning well, contributes to its popularity as a bonsai plant.
A bonsai wouldn’t be a bonsai if it didn’t have an aesthetic part, and with this plant, it’s not just the trunk that grabs attention but also the adorable canopy of delicate, light green, lance-shaped leaves.
Pachira aquatica is known by its folk name, Money tree, because it is believed to bring wealth, luck, and happiness to the owner. Interestingly, another plant from our list, Crassula ovata, has the same nickname. In addition to supposedly bringing luck, this plant has another connection with Feng shui since its palm leaves are divided into five parts, symbolizing the five Feng Shui elements: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth.
The magic of the art of bonsai is shown by the fact that this plant, when grown as a bonsai, reaches a height of about two feet, while in its original environment, it can be up to 30 times larger, i.e., 60 feet.
8. Ponytail Palm Bonsai (Beaucarnea Recurvata)
The last plant on our list of best indoor bonsai trees and the second one from Central America, precisely from Mexico: Beaucarnea recurvata. This plant has many names, such as Ponytail palm, Bottle palm, Nolina, and Elephant’s foot. It also has had many classifications as it was classified as part of the Agavaceae and Liliaceae families, but today it is in the Asparagaceae family.
When people hear the word bonsai, most people think of plants with weirdly shaped trunks and normal-looking foliage. If you would like to get something different, try training a Ponytail palm as a bonsai.
The combination of the extremely thick trunk that this plant uses as a water reservoir and the dark green leaves that grow at the top of the body from where they drool downwards will give you a bushy specimen that you can hardly get from the more traditional plants used for bonsai. This plant is also different in that no wire is used – you only need to cut new growth from the top to force the plant to start growing foliage from the sides.
Since it comes from the warmer parts of our planet, it has no problems with drought nor being grown as an indoor bonsai, but don’t forget to spray its leaves with cold water from time to time so that they don’t dry out due to the dry air in closed living spaces.
What Ponytail palm especially likes is the sunlight. It is best to place it near a south-facing window where it’ll get all the sun it needs. On warm summer days, you can take it out to the terrace, balcony, or yard – it definitely will not complain.
If you want to learn a lot, and we really do mean a lot, of things about how to grow an indoor bonsai, check out the video below!
Frequently Asked Question
How hard is it to keep a bonsai tree alive?
Unless you find one of the plants that require very little care, keeping a bonsai plant alive is a task that requires more effort than maintaining an ordinary plant. It’s expected that it’s this way because, after all, plants grown as bonsai species aren’t ordinary plants.
However, if you give them enough light, humidity, appropriate temperature and amounts of water and fertilizer, it is far from impossible. With a little bit of discipline, experience, and knowledge, you are good to go!
Can I keep a juniper bonsai indoors?
Even though junipers are best suited outdoors, it’s possible to grow them as an indoor bonsai. Don’t expect it to be easy, and especially don’t forget to simulate the dormant period!
What are the most popular outdoor bonsai trees?
When it comes to outdoor specimens, besides the aforementioned juniper, Japanese white pine bonsai and Japanese maple bonsai are the most popular outdoor specimens. In general, junipers, pines, and maples do great when grown without a roof over their heads.
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