Creating Strong Roots For Different Bonsai Styles

When you look at a bonsai, you might notice the trunk is formed into beautiful waves, that it is leaning heavily to the side, or that it is straight up and down like it was taken straight from a redwood forest. Bonsai is, at its very core, an art form. This means that the bonsai grower, or artist, has a lot of influence over what his or her final product looks like. A young bonsai is like a blank canvas and with a lot of patience and attention to detail, the artist can create a spectacular image.

Here at Clark M Long Biogold Original, we understand that the success and longevity of any bonsai requires care, attention, and high-quality bonsai food. Our founder has been successfully growing and cultivating bonsai for over three decades and in that time has come to trust the products we offer on our website. Keep reading to learn more about your options when it comes to shaping, styling, and growing strong and beautiful bonsai.

Understanding How Trees Grow

Trees naturally want to grow upward with the bulk of branches and leaves at the top of the tree. This is a phenomenon called apical dominance and helps trees in the wild compete for sunlight by growing taller than surrounding trees and featuring sun-absorbing foliage at the top. This is why it is not uncommon for very tall trees to only feature branches on the top half. Lower branches have been deemed less important for survival and have died off.

While apical dominance works great for trees in the wild, it is not favorable for bonsai. For that reason, bonsai growers must continuously prune and shape their trees into a desired shape which “tricks” the tree into a better distribution of growth.

There are a handful of bonsai trunk orientation styles that are recognized by professionals. You can shape your bonsai tree using wires to resemble one of these trunk orientations below:

Chokkan: This style is also called ‘formal upright’ and is a popular style for first-time bonsai growers. This style of bonsai has a straight up and down trunk that narrows toward the top of the tree. Branches start low and have uniform spacing up the height of the tree. The tree should be pruned to an overall triangular shape.

Moyogi: In English, ‘informal upright’, is a slight deviation from formal upright. The trunk of these bonsai feature curves but ultimately, the top of the tree is directly above the base. Like formal upright, the trunk should taper toward the apex and the branches should start low, getting progressively thinner as they go up.

Shakan: The shakan means ‘slanting’, so a shakan style bonsai will be slanting or leaning to one side. However, while the trunk is at an angle, the branches should still grow parallel to the ground. The key to a good slanting bonsai is to ensure the trunk is still straight like that of a formal upright. Because this style features a strong root system to keep the tree standing in a shallow bonsai pot, it is important to provide a hearty bonsai food and a good soil mix. For root growth, we recommend using the Biogold Classic Motohi which features root stimulants and can be added directly to your potting soil or used as a top dressing. For soil, you will want a bonsai soil mixture that has good air flow, drainage, and water retention. We recommend Clark’s Mix, a bonsai soil mix that has been carefully crafted by our founder and bonsai expert Clark Long.

Kengai: Perhaps one of the more visually stunning bonsai styles, kengai bonsai are also called cascading. This unique style requires a sturdy tree with a solid root foundation, so using the same bonsai food and potting soil we mentioned above will be helpful. The apex of a cascading bonsai will be below the base of the pot, and this style of bonsai is almost always grown in a deep pot. These trees will grow upright slightly and then morph over the edge of the pot and grow downward.

Cascading bonsai can also be identified as semi-cascade or multi-trunk cascade. A semi-cascade will feature the apex of the tree just about level with the lip of the pot or slightly below it, but it does not extend past the bottom of the pot. A multi-trunk cascade features a tree with two or more trunks, or a split single trunk, where two or more of the trunks cascades.

More Bonsai Styles To Try

While the above classify trunk orientations, there are also other ways to style your tree in addition to those above. For example, one popular style of bonsai is fukinagashi, or ‘windswept’, where a tree appears to be caught in heavy wind. These trees are always a hit at bonsai shows and typically feature a slanted, informal upright, or cascade trunk. To achieve this look, train the branches of your bonsai to flow to one side.

Another popular style to try is hokidachi, or ‘broom’. These bonsai look, quite literally, like you stuck a broom in the ground. A formal upright trunk is pruned to feature no branches or foliage on the bottom with a mass of fine branches starting about a third of the way up the trunk and shaped into a rounded mount resembling the head of a broom.

Make Sure Your Bonsai Has What It Needs To Thrive

Shaping, pruning, and repotting bonsai trees adds a lot of stress to a growing plant. Make sure to give your bonsai the nutrients it needs to withstand the styles you will shape it into with Biogold bonsai food and  high-quality bonsai potting mixture, both of which you can find on our website. Get yours today!