How to field grow a good bonsai

Hello all,

I am very surprised this subject was not already here. Many of us do not have the money to spend $300 to a $1000 plus on a tree. I started growing and experimenting with growing trees about 10 years ago. I (I think we) would love to here how all of you grow your trees. I know this is very broad considering all species, but lets give it a try.

For me I look at the quality of the trunk and nebari first, then a the primary branching while it is in the ground. If you want a thicker trunk, there is only one answer for me; put it in the ground. I use a grow box when I plant mine. It is a 2X6 or a 2X4 box with 1 1/2 in. slots on 2 sides left open to the ground. My boxes are normally 2 ft. square. This makes the tree easy to remove; just unbolt the 2 slotted sides and cut the roots and the tree is out. No digging required.

First thing I do is plant the tree on a ceramic tile to send the roots out from the trunk then while the tree is still thin, get desired movement in the trunk with wire. Trunk taper is controlled with branches and foliage mass. the more foliage the more the trunk will thicken at the branch height and below. Primary branch thickening is controlled in the same way. I have to keep a close eye on the growth of deciduous trees because they can grow rapidly when they are well rooted in. The tree will have to be removed every 2-4 years to control this and root control.

So tell us how you grow trees. I would like to hear how some of you grow pines, junipers and spruces. Here are a few examples of mine.


I plant my deciduous trees in a raised bed. I spread the roots on a planter insert (Ups-a-daisy) to develop nebari. Some are in XL pots or wine barrels, depends if it is a tree that i have to move around to avoid the summer sun and frost.

Not much field growing for pines and junipers, I prefer deciduous and broad-leaf evergreen trees.


I have grown red pines in colanders.

‘Pine from seed’ written by Kusida Matsuo that explains how he grows pine seedlings in plastic colanders using 7 parts sand and 3 parts akadama with no organic material. Stone Lantern book on PINES is my main source. Good looking starters!! Getting them through the winter and spring are my main hurdles


Plenty of useful information. This is something I would love to do in the future - growing trees that would be potential material for bonsai art in a bit more affordable price.
Right now Im literally just starting with small experiments and gaining all sort of knowledge including tips and experiences in this thread. So thank you :slight_smile:


Field growing is a good way to develop bigger trunks faster. It is hard to get the branch structure. I grow lots of species of trees. I grow them in rows and hedge trim through growing season. Pines I prune the traditional way. Thinning cuts in winter season. DSC00673 DSC01052


Living in a 2nd floor apartment with a deck for a garden I grow in nursery pots and terra cotta bulb pots. If able to get my own place my plan is to use a raised grow bed as well.:persevere: However after visiting Ryans place and getting several Yamadori pines from Randy and a couple other folks I’ll be limiting future buys likely to Yamadori and developing the “captive” grown trees already in my care. I’ve just about reached the limit of # of trees I can well care for.

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Question about your grow boxes: are they open on the bottom (i.e. raised beds) or closed (i.e. actual boxes)?

Thanks much!

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Combination of the two. There is a bottom but 2 long 1.5" slots are left open to the ground on the 2 sides. This way, I do not have to dig the tree to get it out of the ground. Just unbolt the 2 sides with the slots and cut the roots going down, and the tree is out. Same thing as letting a plant root to the ground from its’ pot, just shallower for better root control.

Ah ha, I see what you meant now. Thanks much! That makes good sense. :slight_smile:

Do you happen to have a photo of one of your boxes. I understand what you’re saying but something about it confuses me when I try to imagine it.

I have a 150ft x 6ft section right outside my fence that I want to use as potential bonsai growing grounds (Also own a nursery :smiley:) and I would love an easily removable option like a box. I was thinking I might have them be more like a crate and a bit bigger. (Remove bottom on sides in photo) Plant on a tile inside like you said and leave the roots to go sideways and down to the opening.

Edit: Do you guys ever wire your trees in the ground? I thought about possibly wiring the primary branches.

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Here is a drawing of the grow boxes I use. Pic of them is on original post. Just so you know, Mirai advises use of regular wood not treated like mine are.


Combo. The bottom of the raised bed is wire mesh or chicken wire 1/8 inch supported by wood, and is elevated by 2-3 inches above the ground so I can put a deep humidity tray with gravel underneath ensuring there is ample of space between the base and the tray. Then I mulch around the wooden box.

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