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How to Create Bonsai from Regular Trees

Ask This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook learns about the ancient art of bonsai


  1. Begin with a tree in a container and find the face and the front that you want to celebrate.
  2. The bonsai height should be about six times the size of the trunk.
  3. Take the top off of the tree with the concave cutter.
  4. Pluck the needles off the branches to make room for wiring.
  5. Prune out smaller branches to give the tree more shape.
  6. Use thick bonsai wire to anchor the tree to the soil and then wrap the trunk to the top. Use wire cutters to cut the wire to size.
  7. Use thinner wire to anchor the branches, working from the bottom up.
  8. Bend the branches to the desired angles.
  9. Rake the roots, starting at the bottom, knocking soil off of the root ball.
  10. Spread the roots out.
  11. Add screens to the container holes and hold them in place with wire.
  12. Add wires to anchor the tree to the container.
  13. Add bonsai soil to the container and set the tree into the container about ⅓ off to the side with the apex appearing to bow.
  14. Use wire to anchor the tree to the pot.
  15. Add more soil to the pot firmly. Add decorative rocks or moss as desired.
  16. Dunk the tree in a basin of water to remove air bubbles.
  17. Water with a hose and soft nozzle.
  18. After a year, remove the wires from the tree.


Roger visited Bonsai West in Littleton, Massachusetts.