Bonsai is the ancient art of utilizing horticulture techniques to create miniature replicas of trees as they are found in nature. It’s a Japanese art inspired by the Chinese art of penjing (“pot landscape”). The art of bonsai has strong symbolism in many different cultures. For many, bonsai represents harmony in life and the balance of nature.
What Does A Bonsai Tree Symbolize?
Bonsai is an art used to communicate ideas and represent complex emotions. The aesthetic element of a bonsai tree has significant symbolism. A bonsai gardener is considered an artist because bonsais require both horticultural and artistic techniques. Refinement in both techniques over centuries reflect the aesthetic qualities in nature through balance, simplicity, and peace.
In this article, we’ll explore what popular bonsai tree types can represent.
What Do Bonsai Tree Types Symbolize?
Bonsai trees have different representations depending on the tree type. Here is a list of popular bonsai tree types and their symbolic meanings.
Azalea – Femininity, Abundance, Passion, Wealth
The azalea is a beautifully unique plant that works well as a bonsai. An azalea has different meanings all over the world. Because of its distinct flowers, azaleas are a symbol of femininity. Traditionally, the azalea is a great gift for holidays devoted to women.
The azalea represents:
- Beauty – The azalea flowers are a symbol of feminine beauty. Specifically, they can represent female vulnerability and the gentleness of a woman.
- Abundance – The azalea is associated with abundance. This can be an abundance of wealth, intelligence, or beauty.
- Passion/Love – The azalea is a symbol of passion and is often gifted to a loved one. The plant can represent first love and it is a symbol of emotional vulnerability.
Boxwood – Immortality
Boxwood is an evergreen tree that is often used for bonsai. The tree is native to western Europe, North Africa, and West Asia. Throughout history, the tree’s wood was used for shelter and was used heavily in the Christian faith. The Greeks and Romans used the wood to make tablets.
The boxwood represents:
- Immortality – Boxwood trees represent immortality because it has slow growth, high longevity, and has leaves all year round.
Cedar – Immortality, Generosity, Protection, Strength
Cedar trees have great importance in many cultures, particularly for many Native American tribes. It’s a ceremonial plant used as an incense and is considered a purifying herb. Cedar is associated with medical healing, protection, and prayer. Cedar leaves and bark are used as medicine.
- Immortality – Due to the cedar tree’s top shape that points to the heavens, it is often used as a symbol for immortality and elevation. In certain cultures, the cedar tree is associated with the Virgin Mary.
- Generosity – The cedar tree is a symbol of generosity for many Native American tribes.
- Protection – Many Native American tribes associate the cedar tree with protection due it its drooping boughs.
- Strength – In Lebanon, the cedar tree is a sign of strength and eternity due to its size and longevity.
Cherry Blossom – Mortality, Female Dominance, Renewal
Cherry blossom trees produce delicate, pink flowers. They are a beautiful tree native to Asia. People, especially in Japan, unite for a traditional cherry blossom viewing every spring. The cherry blossom tree has deep meaning in many Japanese people. It’s the country’s national flower and has deep cultural significance. Cherry blossoms hold an elevated status in several Asian countries and signify beauty and strength.
Cherry blossoms represent:
- Mortality – Buddhist monks associate the cherry blossom with mortality, mindfulness, and living in the present. Cherry blossoms signify human existence. Because the blooming season is powerful and beautiful, yet very short, the tree is a reminder that time is fleeting.
- Feminine Dominance – In several Asian cultures, the cherry blossom is a symbol of a woman’s beauty. In China, the tree represents female beauty and sexuality.
- Renewal – The Japanese believe the cherry blossom trees signify renewal or rebirth. In ancient Japan, people believed the trees represented mountain deities and would worship them every spring.
Chinese Elm – Harmony, Love
The Chinese Elm is native to Southeast Asia and can grow up to 80 feet. Because of its small leaves, it’s a popular choice for bonsai. Chinese Elm is a symbol of balance, love, and peace.
Chinese elms represent:
- Harmony – The Chinese Elm is considered the “tree of harmony” because it symbolizes inner strength, wisdom, and intuition.
- Love – The Chinese Elm represents love in a way that is calm, balanced, and brings peaceful energy.
Ficus – Unity, New Beginnings, Abundance
Ficus trees are a popular choice for those who want to grow bonsai trees indoors. The Ficus tree can be found all over the world and has a rich significance to many cultures. The tree symbolizes unity and abundance.
Ficus trees represent:
- Unity – Many cultures associate the Ficus tree seeds as unity and universal understanding. Many believe having a ficus in a home will release positive vibes of understanding.
- New Beginnings – The Ficus is known as a cheerful tree because it enhances the mood around it.
- Abundance – The Ficus tree is a symbol of abundance and peace in the Middle East.
Jade – Wealth & Prosperity, Good Luck, Friendship
A Jade plant is a succulent that symbolizes good luck and attracts wealth according to Feng Shui. The plant goes by many names: friendship tree, lucky tree, or money plant. It’s a popular tree for bonsai due to its small size and tolerance for pruning.
- Wealth & Prosperity – The Jade plant has vibrant green leaves that closely resemble jade coins. For this reason, it continues to be a symbol of wealth and prosperity.
- Good Luck – Having a Jade plant in the home releases positive energy. Jade plants can be commonly found in businesses to represent good luck and success.
- Friendship – When a Jade plant is flowering, it signifies good energy and friendship. The flowers can also represent the fragrance of great friendship.
Japanese Maple – Peace, Beauty
The Japanese Maple tree is a beautiful tree with bright red, yellow, and orange foliage. The tree has a significant cultural impact in Japan and has been a popular subject in art, poetry, and literature for thousands of years.
- Peace – Japanese Maple trees are symbols of peace and serenity in many Asian Cultures. The tree is associated with the serenity of the world’s elements and represents balance and practicality.
- Beauty – It’s expanding branches and bright red foliage makes the Japanese Maple a symbol of elegance and beauty in many cultures.
Juniper – Purification, Protection, Power
The Juniper tree is a coniferous plant native to England. It’s an evergreen plant that is a good choice for bonsai. The tree grows berry-like cones that are used in rituals connected to good health and healing.
- Purification – In many cultures, the presence of a Juniper tree represents the cleansing and purification of those around it.
- Protection – The Juniper tree is a symbol of protection and is known to ward off evil spirits.
- Power – The Juniper tree is a symbol of power and strength. It represents the ability to overcome life’s challenges.
Oak – Power, Longevity
Oak trees are one of the most loved trees in the world. They symbolize strength, health, and knowledge. Oak trees have been linked to powerful gods in various cultures and are considered a storehouse of spiritual wisdom. Oak trees are good for bonsai because of their strong trunks, aged bark, and the ability to endure constant pruning.
- Power – The Oak tree represents power due to its large size and a strong trunk.
- Longevity – The Oak tree’s longevity makes it a symbol of loyalty and eternal life.
Bonsai trees represent peace and harmony with nature. Different tree types have different meanings. When choosing a bonsai tree, consider the symbolic meaning behind the tree. Many cultures link big trees with strength, power, and protection. Flowering plants are known for their femininity and are symbols of feminine power and beauty.