In Japanese: “Misho” - Growing Bonsai from tree seeds can be very rewarding and gives you full control from the earliest stage possible. Although it takes a long time (at least three years) before you have a tree you can start working on, this is the only way to grow a Bonsai right from the start!

 

 

First of all, seeds need to be obtained; you can collect these from trees in your surroundings or you can choose to buy them in an (online) shop. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as special “Bonsai tree seeds” as Bonsai are created from normal trees.

If you collect seeds from trees growing in your local area planting the seeds in autumn will do just fine, however, if you want to plant seeds out of the season (during springtime for example), or if you purchase seeds online, or if you like to grow seedlings from trees not growing in your local climate, a process called "stratification" might be necessary.

 

Stratification

Seeds of many tree-species are genetically programmed to survive through winter and germinate in early spring, to maximize the duration of their first growth season. In fact, most of these seeds will only be able to grow after a cold period.

So if you want to plant seeds for Bonsai, it might be necessary to mimic the cold season by storing the seeds at a cold spot for a few weeks - increasing the germination rate significantly. Seed of most tree-species will need to be soaked in water first and then stored in your fridge for one or two months. The exact amount of time and optimal temperature will depend on the tree-species, a quick online search will provide you with an exact answer.

For beginners this might be a bit complicated, so it is advisable to collect seeds from tree species found near you, keep the seeds outside and plant them in early spring, just like Mother Nature does!

 

Growing trees from 'Bonsai tree seeds' short movie

 

Where?

As mentioned previously, you can collect seeds from trees growing in your area in autumn. Seeds like chestnuts and acorns are easy to find in the forest. Seeds from conifers can be found inside pine-cones. Once you collect the pine-cones you need to store them in a warm place so they will release the seeds from between the scales. Seeds of various tree species are also easily available for purchase in (online) Bonsai shops.

 

When?

The best time to sow seeds is the autumn, this way you follow nature’s time schedule and the young seedling will have a full summer to grow after germinating in early spring. This also means you don't need to worry about stratification.

 

From seedling to Bonsai

Before we start propagating trees from seed, let's look at the stages of development of seedlings first. Growing Bonsai from seed will be a test of your patience, but it is a great way to style Bonsai trees without the need to prune thick branches (which is often inherent to styling Yamadori or nursery stock).

Read the "Bonsai styling" section for detailed information about techniques including wiring and pruning. But first, six images of a Criptomeria tree that was grown from seed into Bonsai over the course of 15 years. Thanks to Jose Ontañón for sharing these inspiring images.

 

Young bonsai seedling

1 year old

Two year old Bonsai tree

2 year old

Three years old

3 year old

5 year old Bonsai

5 year old

10 year old

10 year old

Bonsai tree after 15 years

15 year old