Bonsai tree seed?
To get started, you need to get your hands on some tree seeds. You can collect seeds from trees in your surroundings or you can choose to buy them at an online shop. Keep in mind that Bonsai are created from normal trees, so there is no such thing as special "Bonsai tree seeds".
Creating your Bonsai from seeds collected in your local area ensures that they will be in their ideal climate and are more likely to thrive. Locally sourced seeds should be planted during fall for the best results. However, if you want to plant local seeds out of season, purchase seeds online, or plant foreign seeds that come from a different climate, it may be necessary to use stratification techniques.
Stratification is the process of treating seeds to simulate the natural growing conditions that they need to germinate. Seeds of many tree-species are genetically programmed to survive through winter and germinate in early spring. This helps them maximize the duration of their first growing season. Most of these seeds can grow only after a cold period.
So, when you're planting seeds for Bonsai that are from different climates, or you're planting out of season, it may be necessary to simulate a cold season to increase the germination rate. Most tree-species will require you to soak their seeds in water before storing them in your refrigerator for one or two months. The exact amount of time and optimal temperature depends on the tree-species. A quick online search will provide you with an exact answer.
For beginners, this process may be too advanced, so we advise you to collect seeds from tree species in your area, and plant them right away, just like Mother Nature does!
Where do I find seeds?
As previously mentioned, you can collect seeds during autumn from local trees growing in your area. Chestnuts and acorns are easy seeds to find in the forest. Conifers seeds are found inside pine-cones. When you've collected the pine-cones, store them somewhere warm so they release their seeds from in between their scales. Seeds of various tree species are also easily available for purchase in online Bonsai shops.
When should I sow my seeds?
The best time to sow your seeds is in the autumn to align with nature's schedule. This gives young seedling the full summer to grow after germinating in spring, and it means you don't have to worry about stratification.
From seedling to Bonsai
Before we start propagating seed, it's important to know the seedlings stages of development first. Growing Bonsai from seeds will be a test of your patience, but it's a great way to style Bonsai trees without the need to prune thick branches, as you would when styling Yamadori or nursery stock. Read the Styling Bonsai section for more detailed information on wiring and pruning techniques. We also made an online course all about developing Bonsai from scratch.
To give you a quick visual journey of a tree’s growth, here are five images of a Japanese cedar that was grown from seed into Bonsai over the course of 22 years. Many thanks to Jose Ontañón for sharing these inspiring images.
1 year old Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria)
5 year old Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria)
10 year old Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria)
18 year old Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria)
22 year old Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria)