Bonsai Culturist

Bonsai culturists nurture and grow "miniature" or '’dwarf'’ trees. After they have selected a suitable tree for bonsai, chemicals are added to the soil and the branches and roots are pruned to stunt growth. There are various types of bonsai trees; for example: chokkon (formal upright), mayogi (curved informal upright), hon-kengai (semi-cascade), shakan (slanting style), kengai (hanging style), sankan (triple trunk), yose-ue (multi-tree), to mention but a few.

Successful bonsai culturists are artists in their own right because they capture the feel of a tree and shape it accordingly. The Japanese have a dislike of even numbers (only the number two is acceptable). Bonsai shapes are influenced by symmetrical shapes, which again are not favoured by the Japanese. To be a successful bonsai culturist, one needs to capture the specific atmosphere of these trees. Beginners find group plantings great fun although, as time passes, it might become a problem caring for the trees, as each tree has an individual need and one tree may upset another.

Soils used for planting are granule chipping, fresh peat with grit and sanding loam. Slow growing bonsai, for example conifers and pines, do better in a dry soil mixture containing sand. Bonsai can be planted in rocks to form a natural looking unity. Rock bonsai with plants rolled onto the rock can become dislodged from the stone if not kept frost-free. A bonsai tree needs a lot of care and attention, but it brings the feeling of tranquillity to the minds of those who cultivate them.

Personal Requirements

  • enjoy working with plants
  • self-motivated and disciplined
  • an eye for balance and form
  • dedicated to the creation of unique miniature trees
  • love of nature 
  • meticulous
  • patient enough to wait many years to see results

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

No specific schooling required

What to Study

In-service training may be provided under the supervision of an experienced bonsai culturist.


  • nurseries
  • bonsai shops
  • self-employment

Further Information

South African Bonsai Association

Botanical Society of SA
Private Bag X 10
Claremont, 7735
Tel: (021) 797-2090

Getting Started

  • try to obtain voluntary or part-time work with a bonsai culturist.
  • make an appointment to speak to a bonsai culturist about this field
  • spend time in nature observing the spread and form of various trees

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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