Purchasing a good quality, young bonsai plant will likely cost you at least $100. There are also expenses associated with keeping and caring for bonsai. In this article, we will give you some tips on how to grow a bonsai on a budget.
Why are bonsai expensive?
Bonsai is an art form that can be dated back to the sixth century in China. People study for many years to become experts at growing and tending bonsai. In 2012 at a bonsai convention, one plant was priced at just less than one million dollars. Some bonsai plants are over 800 years old- just imagine the hours of work that has gone into caring for plants of this age. The skills required to establish and grow these plants contribute to the value of the plant. Certain types of trees are also harder to grow or require certain techniques and may fetch a higher price. But, more than anything, these trees are works of art valued for both their beauty and the vision of the artist.
What investment is required?
The cost of buying an established plant will vary, because it depends on the amount of effort and care that has been afforded to the plant. Older plants are likely to cost more than younger plants. Each bonsai is like an artwork in the eyes of its creator and so they will pick a price that they believe is reasonable for their time, effort and artistic expression. Traditional pots and tools are often handmade and can also cost thousands of dollars.
Price of established bonsai plants
You will notice quite a bit of variation in bonsai prices; from shop to shop, region to region and across countries. You will be able to find basic, cheap bonsai sapling plants for about $20. More established plants that have been grown into traditional forms will cost more. It is not easy to have mature and older bonsai plants imported into America. Often there are trade restrictions on bringing plants into the country. It is not easy to get an older plant into the country and most plants do not travel well anyway.
Price of bonsai seeds
Seeds to grow plants for bonsai are widely available online. However, the cheapest ones are likely to be of poor quality, may not grow into the plant you are expecting and may never take at all. If you want to buy seeds, buy at a local gardening shop or nursery, or from a reputable online dealer. Buying seeds is a much more economical option, but remember, it may take many years before you have a plant big enough to begin life as a bonsai.
Varying plant costs
The type of plant you use will impact the cost, of course. Make sure you research what plants are suitable for your area and climate. It is very disappointing when a plant dies because it is not well suited to the conditions in which you want to keep it. If you want to use a general plant from the local garden center, inspect the structure thoroughly before you purchase. You will want to feel a well-developed root structure under the soil. You also want to have a look at how the branches are shaped and try and assess if they will suitable for you to work with, trim and wire. Some more affordable plants tend to be:
Posts are typically ceramic and will need to have a drainage hole. Most pots are between 5 and 20inches. They can be round, oval, square, rectangular or, less commonly, in irregular free-form shaped pots. Pots can be glazed or unglazed. Depending on where it has been made, you can expect to pay about $15 for a very basic and small pot suitable for a young bonsai. Cream or white, plus brown and blue are probably the most common colors for bonsai pots. For large, antique or artisan pots you could pay many hundreds of dollars. You will also need mesh to cover the drainage hole.
There are lots of tools of the trade in bonsai, and the cost for these pieces can add up. You might need to purchase:
• Watering cans
• Spray hoses and nozzles
• Drain hole mesh
• Leaf cleaner
• Bonsai soil or individual components
• ph. meters
• Humidity tray
Many growers like to use pebbles or moss around the base of their bonsai. It is also common practice to place a small sculpture or decoration in the plant. You can get simple decorations for around $15. Typical forms include:
• Boats or junks
• Pagodas or temples
There are lots of bonsai tools available on the market. It is worth investing in some good quality tools rather than buying cheap or generic tools as they won’t last, and won’t help you take care of your bonsai. It is better to have fewer, but good quality items. Individual pieces are available from around $25- $30. Tool sets of more than 50 pieces are available. These will equip you with everything you need, but may cost in excess of $2000. Tools you might need include:
• Root cutters
• Trimming shears
• Twig shears
• Saws or knives
• Branch benders
• Leaf or bud cutters
• Tool cleaners and sharpeners
• Anodized aluminum wire
• Potting and grafting tools
• Knob cutters
Profit from your bonsai
Once you have spent money on the tools and equipment you need to grow bonsai, and you are seeing some of your plants thrive, why not think about starting to sell some of your plants? Experienced bonsai growers can get a good return on investment after a few years. Selling bonsai plants that are healthy, at various stages of growth, will bring in extra income so you are able to purchase more tools, plants or equipment. Bonsais make popular gifts all year round, and will often sell well at markets, fairs and expos.
The bottom line: Buying and growing bonsai is not a cheap hobby, but it is a rewarding one. There are ways you can save yourself extra expenses, by shopping carefully and thoughtfully for plants, pots and tools.