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Are they very, very old?
Bonsai growers use many techniques (and a few tricks) to make the plants look older than they might really be. The specialized care bonsai trees receive often protects them from harsh conditions they may face "in the wild." As a result, bonsai trees may live beyond the normal life expectancy for their species. Bonsai trees may live for centuries: some bonsai in our National Arboretum in Washington D.C. are 100 to 500 years old. Prized trees may outlive their owners, passing through generations.

Is it cruel?
No! Plants are not mistreated or tortured in any way to make a bonsai. Water and fertilizer may be carefully regulated, but plants are not starved to make them small. In fact, with all the attention they receive, bonsai can be pampered plants.

Can any plant be a bonsai?
The goal of bonsai is to evoke the feeling of an old tree. Any plant with a woody structure, even if a botanist would not call it a tree, may be trained in a pot as a bonsai. A good candidate for bonsai will tolerate growing in a pot, will not mind being trimmed and pruned, and has small compact growth. Although some plants work better for bonsai than others, there is no such thing as a "bonsai tree." Trees, shrubs and vines may be used for bonsai training. Just about any woody plant can become a bonsai, so long as their leaves, flowers, and fruit are not too big. Surprisingly, woody plants and trees have leaves that may reduce in size, given certain conditions.

Can I keep them in my home/office?
Maybe. While so many plants can be used as bonsai, most trees and shrubs must be kept where they grow best. Some trees (like junipers or maples) will only live outdoors, while tropical and semi-tropical trees (like ficus and jade trees) can thrive indoors with the right light, temperatures, and humidity.

Didn't I see these in a movie?
It is very possible! Bonsai are a very attractive and interesting additions to the scenes in movies and television shows. Including them in scenery illustrates how well known and widely recognized the practice of bonsai has become. Most people remember bonsai from the Karate Kid movies.

Is it expensive?
As with anything, the costs can vary a lot. To buy a fine old specimen, worked on and refined for many years, may be a very expensive proposition. You can purchase a few plants from a garden center and use simple items from the shed or toolbox to create a bonsai of your own. This method is a much more cost effective way to create bonsai.

Can anyone do it?
Yes! Bonsai was born in China over 2000 years ago. The Chinese know it as penjing, literally "pot" and "scenery." Around 700 years ago, the Japanese adopted and began refining this practice, naming it bonsai, or "pot" and "tree." Today, men, women, and children of many different backgrounds from around the world practice bonsai. Bonsai involves skills in horticulture (to keep the plants healthy) as well as some artistic ability (to give the trees an interesting and pleasing form). Both skills may be learned and developed.

Where can I buy bonsai supplies and trees in Ohio?
Oakland Nurseries carries all the basic bonsai supplies you need to keep your tree alive and well. To find established, trained bonsai, visit our Links page to find bonsai nurseries in Ohio.

How can I learn more?
Your local library or bookstore should have more than a few books to help you. Local garden centers may have some bonsai items for sale, including plants, pots, tools, soil, fertilizers, and other important items. You may already have the most important items: light, fresh air, and water. The Columbus Bonsai Society is great way to learn more. We welcome you to attend our monthly meetings, which are open to everyone. Our meetings take place at Franklin Park Conservatory at 2:00 PM ET on the third Sunday of each month (some exceptions for holidays). The Conservatory, which has its own public collection of bonsai, is located at 1777 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43203. Check out the About Us section for directions. We schedule a variety of programs each month, including hands-on workshops, demonstrations from visiting Bonsai Masters, lectures and more. Our programs are designed to help and encourage new bonsai growers and experienced hobbyists alike. Our members receive a monthly newsletter, advice from experts, access to special workshops and demonstrations, special discounts, and more. Come join us!