Why Do Bonsai Trees Cost So Much?

Bonsai is the art of growing regular trees in shallow containers to keep them small yet proportionate to their full-sized counterparts. Bonsai originated in Asia and has been bringing art to life in the form of miniature trees for centuries. Bonsai trees continue to captivate minds today and many gardeners are eager to get involved.

Gardeners find inner peace and stress relief with caring for bonsai trees. It requires patience, consistency, and an artful hand. Bonsai plants create a beautiful centerpiece to any home or garden.

If you’ve started shopping around for the right bonsai tree, you’ve probably noticed that the prices can range from affordable to quite expensive. Bonsai trees can be bought for just a few dollars yet some have a hefty price tag. But what’s the difference? Why do bonsai trees cost so much?  

In this article, we’ll discuss the factors that determine how much a bonsai tree can cost.

Why Do Bonsai Trees Cost So Much?

Many people think bonsai trees are a special kind of plant, but that’s not the case. Bonsai trees are just regular trees that can be found in nature. The reason bonsai trees are small is that gardeners have developed techniques to prune and shape the tree to maintain its size and proportion. Bonsai trees are considered sacred and the oldest trees are not for sale. However, it’s not uncommon to see trees that cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Why is that?

The art requires daily dedication because the tree requires the right amount of sunlight, water, and nutrients to survive. When you decide to care for a bonsai tree, you are making a long-term commitment. With proper care, bonsai trees can live for centuries! 

That’s why bonsai trees are so special and often expensive. They are long-living trees that require daily nurturing.

Proper Bonsai Care

If you’re looking to buy a pre-made bonsai tree, understand the amount of time and effort that goes into its growth years before you even considered making the purchase. Because they live in shallow containers, it is very easy to kill a tree by forgetting to water it or exposing it to too much sunlight. Bonsai gardeners need to water and prune their trees constantly. Gardeners need to do many things to ensure a bonsai tree remains strong, healthy, and small. 

Specialized Tools.  Gardeners invest in high-quality bonsai tools that increase precision and effectiveness when caring for a tree. There are tools for styling, shaping, and training bonsai trees. These tools can get expensive and require regular cleaning and re-sharpening.

Styling. To keep a bonsai tree small, gardeners need to regular trim roots and branches. It requires skill and knowledge so they don’t accidentally kill the tree. The trees are bent and twisted into various shapes and can be positioned around rocks or other objects. Bonsai trees can be trimmed to any shape and each shape requires unique care and consideration.  

Daily Dedication. Bonsai trees require daily dedication or they won’t survive. The trees need to be watered every day and sometimes twice a day if the weather is hot. Bonsais also require daily sunlight, at least 5 hours a day depending on the tree variety. 

Bonsai gardeners perform this delicate process every day for years until the tree is healthy and strong. The time and devotion required for bonsai are unlike any other kind of art. When you buy an expensive pre-made tree, you are paying for the years of commitment, patience, and hard work of another gardener.

What Determines The Cost Of A Bonsai Tree?

The prices of bonsai trees vary widely depending on the store and country. You can find budget-friendly bonsai trees ($20 to $50) in nurseries around the world. These trees are usually young. Higher quality bonsai trees are harder to come by and are generally found in Japan due to strict import restrictions.

Here are a few factors that affect the price of a bonsai tree.    


Bonsai masters spend years learning how to properly nurture a bonsai tree. It takes years for a bonsai tree to grow and be ready for selling. These gardeners devote every day to care for these trees. One mistake can kill a bonsai and waste years of daily activities. Their time and years of expertise are reflected in the price of these plants.


Enthusiasts want a bonsai tree that looks aged and mature. The more mature a bonsai tree looks, the higher the price. Affordable bonsai trees are young with little sign of aging and maturity.

Tree Species

The tree species affect the cost of a bonsai tree. Some tree types are rare or difficult to grow and, in turn, are more expensive.

Wild vs Farmed

Yamadori is the Japanese practice of collected trees grown in nature. Bonsai trees created by trees grown in the wild are rare and their price reflects that. It is rare to find a bonsai created by the Yamadori method. These trees are usually grown in areas that are hard to reach. The trees are collected from high cliffs which can be dangerous and time-consuming.   

This kind of bonsai tree has a low survival rate and requires additional care and attention compared to other trees.

Tree Trunk

A bonsai’s tree trunk is a vital part of its look. The trunk must be thick and tapered to mimic the tree ratios of a full-sized tree. The tree trunk must be strong and large enough to hold many branches that will be bent and manipulated.

Cheap bonsai trees are typically grown in China and start as cuttings from other plants. The trees are grown in the ground for 3 to 5 years until the trunks are thick, to about 6 feet (2 meters). When ready, they are cut down to a few inches and grown for another year to allow new branches to form. The process of growing a tree tall and then cutting it down to size is the quickest way to get a thick trunk. However, there are visible scars and no tapering.

For a proper tree trunk with no scars and tapering will take much more time. These bonsai trees are more expensive because of the time invested.   


Bonsai pots vary in price depending on its size, material, and age. Many bonsai enthusiasts prefer antique pots made in Japan. These containers are very rare and can cost up to thousands of dollars.

Newer pots made in factories are very cheap. Many gardeners opt for handmade pots as a good alternative

Additional Bonsai Costs

In addition to the years of dedication toward nurturing a bonsai tree, many additional costs are involved in the bonsai business.

One part of taking care of bonsai trees is giving them the treatments they need if they get sick. If a bonsai tree is experiencing mold or a sickness, it must be given proper treatments. This can be an art on its own. Treatments can be costly and the price reflects the time and effort spent to ensure the tree remains healthy.

There are costs that the public is often not aware of. High-quality bonsai trees are typically grown in Japan, China, Indonesia, or Thailand. These trees are shipped internationally which can get expensive. When you see bonsai trees in your local nursery understand that the shipping was costly. But the shipping expense doesn’t only apply to the trees. The tools, pots, and display tables are often shipped across the world. If you include shipping, a bonsai tree can cost up to four times higher than the original cost. 

What Is The Most Expensive Bonsai Tree?

The most expensive bonsai tree costs a whopping 1.3 million dollars! The pine tree is in Japan and is reportedly over 800 years old.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear to see why bonsai trees cost so much. As a beginner, it’s important to understand the time, effort, and money that goes into growing and nurturing a bonsai tree.

The price of a bonsai tree is reflective of its age, tree type, and labor required to keep the tree alive. Older trees that were grown in the wild are rare and generally are expensive due to their tapered trunk and mature look. Additional supplies like bonsai tools and pots also increase the price. Older, antique supplies hold a high value compared to those that are factory-made. Finally, there are associated costs to bonsai trees that the public is often unaware of. Shipping costs can quadruple the cost of a bonsai tree.

Luckily there are options for bonsai enthusiasts with all kinds of budgets. Before purchasing a bonsai, do your research and understand the costs associated with each tree.  

why do bonsai trees cost so much

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