Best Bonsai Books - Top 12 Choices in 2021

Sophie Wagner
February 19, 2021

Plant care and keeping have been around for many years; people have been actively trading plants for their aesthetic. Not to mention the many benefits of keeping a plant in your home. Plant hobbyists worldwide explore the vast collection of plants that can be maintained, from flowering plants to carnivorous plants. 

One unique example among these is bonsai. Bonsai originated from China and was adopted by Japan. Later on, the term “bonsai” was literally translated as “planted in a container.” These plants are famous for their impressive looks. However, these extraordinary plants come with rigorous maintenance and keeping. 

Typical bonsai are trees planted in containers to stunt their growth. They are wired to guide their growth to the preferred pattern or design of the keeper. Despite the difficulty of keeping a bonsai, many plant hobbyists commit their time and effort to these magnificent plants. 

Expert bonsai keepers share their knowledge through various means, from workshops to groups to even organizations to share and teach the art of keeping bonsai. Besides all that, one infallible way of extending knowledge in bonsai keeping is books.

Best Bonsai Books

Tons of books about bonsai will be found in the market, but which one is the best for beginners and experts alike? Below are some of the best bonsai books in the market to kick-start your bonsai keeping.

1. The Bonsai Beginner's Bible by Peter Chan

In this beginner-friendly book, you’ll explicitly learn about bonsai. It ranges from its roots and history, care and management, bonsai essentials, and a guide to different varieties of bonsai. 

Peter Chan also included illustrations to showcase the beauty of learning the art of bonsai. Furthermore, this guide teaches you the differences between outdoor bonsai, indoor bonsai, flowering bonsai, coniferous bonsai, and more. With over 180 illustrations included, this guide will help you choose the right bonsai for you.

With that said, even the beginners of beginners will learn the essentials of the bonsai hobby and grant you the knowledge to start wiring, watering, and caring for your dream bonsai.

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2. The Complete Book of Bonsai: A Practical Guide to Its Art and Cultivation by Harry Tomlinson

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll find in-depth explanations of different aspects of bonsai keeping. This includes growing them from seeds or cuttings, the different containers, and the classic styles of bonsai. Harry Tomlinson directly explained each aspect as to maximize the things that you’ll learn. He provided step-by-step procedures in the art of bonsai keeping, from growing and maintaining your bonsai, choosing which container to use, and more. 

He also discussed the different tools you’ll need to ensure that your bonsai will meet its maximum potential and optimal health. Illustrations of different bonsai styles are also included to explain further every step of bonsai management that differ based on what style you are aiming for. With this, you’ll have everything you need to keep your bonsai happy and healthy.

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3. The Little Book of Bonsai: An Easy Guide to Caring for Your Bonsai Tree by Jonas Dupuich

From the founder of the #1 bonsai blog in the U.S., Jonas Dupuich, comes this thorough guide to bonsai keeping. The Little Book of Bonsai provides you with everything you need to know to make sure your bonsai will be healthy and impressive. 
From wiring techniques, choice of containers, tools and their uses, utilizing fertilizers, combating pests and diseases, and more. Also included are illustrations that depict different bonsai styles, such as forest style bonsai, exposed root bonsai, bunjin bonsai, and much more. This guide will surely help you achieve your dream bonsai in no time and with relative ease.

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4. The Complete Practical Encyclopedia of Bonsai by Ken Norman

Created for beginners and experts alike, The Complete Practical Encyclopedia of Bonsai will guide you through the start of your bonsai to achieving its fullest form. Ken Norman shared his knowledge of bonsai from its history down to its evolution as to how we see bonsai now. 

He also provided advice on choosing your pots, which kind of soil to use, which style fits your lifestyle, and more. Also, he included details on advanced bonsai techniques for creating flowering and fruiting bonsai such as Fuschia, chrysanthemums, wisteria, and more. 

Included with illustrations of over 600 photographs of different bonsai styles. He also provided a step-by-step guide to help you achieve your preferred bonsai style. With this, your bonsai knowledge will expand in a manner that will ensure the quality and beauty of your bonsai.

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5. The Secret Techniques of Bonsai: A Guide to Starting, Raising, and Shaping Bonsai by Masakuni Kawasumi II

In this complete guide, the art of bonsai is carefully detailed, from its basics, down to the secret techniques of its art form. Masakuni Kawasumi II and his son provided in-depth information on basic steps such as how to start your bonsai from seeds or cuttings and keeping it healthy; to advanced steps such as shaping, grafting, replanting, and training your bonsai. 

They discussed everything from Toriki or layering, Tsugiki or grafting, Metsumi or bud-cutting, and Hagari or defoliation in great detail. Also, they provided information on how to use bonsai tools effectively and how to improvise with other readily-accessible garden tools. With photos alongside the step-by-step instructions, it is easy for starting bonsai keepers to make sure that their dream bonsai is within reach.

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6. Bonsai: The Art of Growing and Keeping Miniature Trees by Peter Chan

Peter Chan once again shares his expert knowledge in the art of bonsai through the form of another book. Bonsai: The Art of Growing and Keeping Miniature Trees provides all basic and advanced information about bonsai, such as choosing the right bonsai, which tools ensure your bonsai is kept groomed, shaping your preferred style, how different pots and soils affect your bonsai growth, and more. 

He also included photographs and easy-to-follow instructions and explanations to guide you further into mastering the meticulous art of the bonsai hobby. With this, whether you’re a beginner in the bonsai hobby or an advanced bonsai enthusiast, you’ll be able to shape, train, groom, and maintain your bonsai with utmost knowledge and care.

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7. Bonsai Book For Beginners: Learn How To Plant, Grow and Care a Bonsai Tree Step By Step by Robert Smith

Created with beginner bonsai enthusiasts in mind, the Bonsai Book For Beginners provides you with all the necessary knowledge to start planting and caring for bonsai. Robert Smith discussed in detail the rich history of bonsai, over 15 of its styles and their differences, how to start growing your bonsai from seeds, identify problems such as pests and diseases, and much more. 

He also included a few pieces of advice if you are aiming to purchase your first bonsai. If you are looking for a great reference book about starting your very first bonsai, or you’re an experienced bonsai enthusiast yearning to supplement your knowledge, this book by Robert Smith is made for you.

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8. The Ultimate Bonsai Handbook: The Complete Guide for Beginners by Yukio Hirose

If you are the “observation learner” kind, then this book is made for you. Yukio Hirose approached the “imitation and observation” readers with this and provided over 1000 pictures of detailed procedures on how to start and care for your bonsai. 

He carefully described each type from the Shouhaku up to the Kusamono, and each shape from the Chokkan up to the Yose-ue, and every single one accompanied by a color photograph. Also, the pots, tools, and other aspects are all provided with supplementary pictures and descriptions similar to the styles and shapes to ensure that you learn the differences between each. 

Even the differences between soils, shelves, and floor designs are discussed in great detail and with pictures to enhance your bonsai knowledge greatly and capture its elegant aesthetic in your home. Having this reference book will significantly improve your bonsai techniques and allow you to master this intricate form of art.

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9.Bonsai: A Beginner’s Guide on How to Cultivate and Care for Bonsai Trees by Akira Takahashi

In this complete guide, Akira Takahashi explained in detail the different aspects of bonsai keeping. From the history of bonsai in the Orient and how its beauty spread across the world to the smallest detail of pruning and training your bonsai to conform to your chosen style. He discussed how bonsai originated and was initially called “pun-sai” until it spread onto Japan and the styles expanded. 

He also explained the mentality of where the bonsai originated, which is to “capture” nature in its true form and bring its pure and positive energy into a household. Moreover, this book is aimed to provide you with all the details when it comes to bonsai basic care and management such as potting, types of soils, types of bonsai, and more. This book will teach you to appreciate not just the beauty of bonsai itself but also the story that comes with it.

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10. Bonsai by DK

Made for bonsai enthusiasts looking for new ideas, this book aims to supply you with additional information about the art of bonsai that you may be missing. After discussing the basic care for bonsai, this book explained the other aspects of bonsai keeping, such as choosing the suitable tree and how to create your preferred bonsai. In this, you will learn about the many bonsai styles in great detail. Explaining the principles of clump-style, forest style, rock planting, penjing style, twin-trunk style, and more. 

Furthermore, the techniques in wiring, pruning, and grooming your dream bonsai are also explained in full detail. Whether you aim for an impressive exposed-root style bonsai or patiently waiting for the bloom of your azalea bonsai, this book supplies you with all the knowledge and techniques you might need when taking care of your tree.

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11. The Bonsai Book: The Definitive Illustrated Guide by Dan Barton

The Bonsai Book is a must-have for bonsai enthusiasts and experts alike. Dan Barton shares his two decades of research and knowledge of bonsai in this immersive guide aimed to enlighten you of the techniques and ways of the art of bonsai. For starters, he covered the basic care and management of general bonsai, then proceeded to discuss the various styles of bonsai from the formal Chokkan down to the forest group style Yose-ue. 

Featured in this book is a unique calendar to keep track of your bonsai management on a month-to-month basis to ensure that you keep your bonsai beautiful and healthy in all aspects. With illustrations and line drawings to help guide you, this book will allow you to fully establish your bonsai collection or encourage you to start taking care of this remarkable art form.

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12. Indoor Bonsai for Beginners: Selection - Care - Training by Werner Busch

Are indoor trees seem unusual to you? In this immersive book, you will learn that the art of bonsai is not entirely dependent on outdoor planting. Werner Busch explains in his manual the basic care and maintenance of bonsai in and outside of your home. He describes the importance of soil, pot, and style of your bonsai relative to the location of where you will exhibit your unique tree. 

Included in his guide are many specimens to choose from, whether you prefer the flowering and smooth stemmed Camellia japonica or caring for the sturdy Olive tree. Included with colored photos of different specimens, this book will allow you to choose and identify which species are best for indoor aesthetic or outdoor placement with an in-depth explanation of the background care of each tree.

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Final Thoughts: Best Bonsai Books

Choosing the right bonsai for you is quite a complicated task due to the many variations of trees and shrubs to choose from, not to mention the different styles and types of bonsai that exist. However, after reading the books mentioned above, growing, caring, maintaining, grooming, styling, and keeping your bonsai healthy should be a relatively simple task even for the beginner-level bonsai enthusiast. They will allow you to capture the elegant nature and unique aesthetic of this one-of-a-kind plant in the comfort of your home or garden.

Sophie Wagner
Sophie is 26 years old, originally from Bordeaux, France, now living close to Dallas, Texas. She's a fan of the Dallas Cowboys and tries to visit as many games as possible. Currently, Sophie is working at the Human Resources Resort of a finance company in Dallas. Her hobbies are volleyball and swimming.

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