Bonsai trees are immensely popular plants with people everywhere, and they are an absolutely perfect example of how amazing plants are. Most people love miniatures, and since bonsai trees are the ultimate in miniaturization, they are a wonderful plant option. However, their costs can vary significantly.
So, how much do bonsai trees cost?
Bonsai trees can vary enormously in cost, and you might be astonished by how much some people pay for bonsai trees. A rare bonsai tree could be hundreds of years old, and these are worth considerably more, whereas a young tree that has only recently been potted is not worth as much.
Let’s explore how trees are priced and how much a bonsai will cost.
How Much Does A Bonsai Tree Normally Cost?
Unfortunately, there isn’t really a “normally” in this scenario, because it totally depends on the individual tree, its age, the pot, the spread, and a number of other factors (which we’ll cover in more detail shortly).
However, the very basic cost of a bonsai that is standard and young is often around $20 or a bit more. It is rare to get trees that are worth less than that, and if you buy one from a nursery or online seller, you should expect to pay $20 or higher.
Bonsais can be very affordable but it does depend on what you want. The more attractive a tree is, the higher the price will be. If you are happy to buy almost any tree, just for the sake of having something miniature and cute (and something that doesn’t take up masses of space in the home), you aren’t going to need to spend a lot.
On the other hand, if you want something a little bit special, you’re unquestionably going to be looking at a considerably higher price tag.
What Affects The Price Of A Bonsai Tree?
So, what are the major factors (beyond which seller you buy from) that alter the price of bonsai trees?
There are quite a few, so bear these in mind when you’re plant shopping!
Factor One: Tree Age
Firstly, the age of the tree is often a major factor. If you take two identical trees in terms of species, pot, size, etc., and one is twice the age of the other, the older tree will be considerably more valuable.
Some trees are very old, and you can’t tell just by looking at a bonsai how old it is. You may be able to guess, based on how textured the bark is and how well established the roots are, but mostly, you will just be estimating. Nonetheless, this makes a difference to the value of the tree.
Young bonsai trees that happen to look mature often cost more, too. If your tree looks young and immature, it won’t be as valuable as a tree the same age that happens to look older. This is frustrating, but just the way the industry works.
Factor Two: Tree Species
The kind of tree also makes a big difference. Some species of trees are much harder to bonsai, and therefore their bonsai versions cost a lot more to buy.
A common bonsai you may come across is the Chinese Elm, and these are not very valuable. You can, in fact, find a Chinese Elm (represented by the image) in a retailer like Amazon if you’re interested in a cheap, yet beautiful bonsai.
Other common kinds include the Ficus bonsai, the Pepper tree bonsai, the Japanese maple bonsai, and the cedar bonsai. You may also come across pine, larch, yew, and juniper bonsai trees. All of these are fairly easy to buy and readily available.
There are many more, and most plants can be grown as bonsai trees if you know what you are doing and you’re prepared to put in the time and effort. However, it is quite a tricky art to master and a lot of people struggle.
Factor Three: The Styling
You may have seen bonsai trees that are literal works of art. Their creators have sculpted and formed and trained them for years to create fabulous shapes and growth intricacies, and if you want a bonsai like this, you are going to be paying a lot for it. After all, they are one of a kind!
It takes a very long time to produce trees like this, so you won’t be surprised to learn that they cost a lot. Someone has put hours of time into tending to them, and there will not be another specimen like this in the world. Sometimes, decades are poured into a single tree.
Careful styling is a practiced art, and you will probably find that you can’t do this at home by yourself, even if you have the patience. If you want to create something extraordinary, you need to know how it’s done – and you may find that it’s much easier to buy something created by an expert!
There is a juniper strain that is over thirty years old with an outer branch that stretches to two meters long. As bonsai trees must be a meter or under in height, you can imagine what an extraordinary achievement that is; the tree is completely self-supporting, which is amazing to see.
The styling of a tree is probably one of the biggest determining factors in price, although of course, the other aspects are relevant. However, since we cultivate bonsai trees for their aesthetic, it makes sense that the biggest determiner of the overall aesthetic of a tree would have the biggest impact on its price.
You may find that you are “drawn” in by particular trees, and less interested in others. Because every specimen is unique, that’s one of the best parts of bonsai trees!
Factor Four: Trunk Thickness
Although it isn’t a hard and fast rule, having a thick trunk is usually considered very desirable in a bonsai tree, and this is again something that it can take years to cultivate. Bonsai trees with thinner trunks will usually be worth less money, so pay attention to trunk girth when making a purchase.
Thick trunks are not easy to achieve when you bonsai a tree because the growth of the tree is being so heavily restricted. There are methods that can be used to increase trunk thickness, but this does add to the overall cost of the bonsai tree.
You could look at two otherwise identical trees, and you would find that the one with the thickest trunk was worth more in most cases. Of course, slender trunks can be more aesthetically pleasing if that’s the design the grower was going for, in which case a slim trunk may bump up the price, but in general, thick trunks are considered better.
Tied in with trunk thickness is the general quality of the tree. A tree with lots of growth and healthy branches that are spread about in a pleasing manner is inevitably going to cost you more than a spindly tree that lacks growth.
The quality of a tree is judged on a number of factors, including:
- Ramification (the fineness of the twigs that make a bonsai tree look like a normal tree)
- Branch placement
- Trunk shape and stability
- Root spread
These things are among the most important factors in what makes a bonsai tree expensive; a pleasing tree will certainly fetch a higher price than one that looks unbalanced, stumpy, or generally unappealing.
Factor Five: The Container
It might seem strange to say that the container makes a difference in how valuable a bonsai tree is, but it does. A cheap pot that has been mass-produced is far less valuable than an antique or handmade container, especially one that has been designed just for that tree.
The container makes a big difference to the aesthetic, too. Of course, you can re-pot a bonsai tree, so this factor is probably far less important than many of the others, but it is still worth taking into consideration when you’re looking at bonsai trees and the prices.
Factor Six: The Tree’s Health
Obviously, whenever you buy a plant, the plant’s health has an impact on the price. You may have picked up “dollar plants” that have been left in the sun for too long, not watered, or otherwise lacked care from the nursery or store that sells them.
These plants are usually sold more cheaply, and this can be the case with bonsai trees too. Bonsai trees are as vulnerable to diseases and pests as any other plant, and although growers do try to breed healthy, pest-resistant trees, the tree’s health certainly makes a big difference on how valuable the tree is.
If you buy an unhealthy bonsai tree, make sure you are getting it at a reduced price. This makes up for the fact that you will have to put a lot of extra time and attention into nurturing it – and there is a risk that it will never fully recover.
Factor Seven: Where It Comes From
Your tree’s origin may also make a difference in how much it costs. A bonsai that has been grown in America may not fetch such a high price as one that has been grown in Japan or Korea.
Japanese bonsai trees are often the most expensive, as these are considered more “authentic” and perhaps more artistic. After all, it is often best to buy something from its place of origin.
However, that doesn’t always hold true, because supply and demand has a big impact too. If, for example, there is only one bonsai stockist near you, you might find that it costs considerably more to buy an American grown bonsai tree than it does to purchase one from an online seller that gets its stock from Japan.
This is very location-specific, of course, but be aware that supply and demand can have an impact on prices, as well as the original place of origin. Don’t assume that a bonsai tree will be cheaper just because it was produced nearby.
Factor Eight: Other Affecting Circumstances
Sometimes, a bonsai tree has something more going for it, too – and this is partly why some of the older bonsai trees are worth more. History matters to these extraordinary trees, and this could make a big difference to how much you are going to pay for one.
A tree with a story and a character, which has been cultivated by an artisan for decades, is worth more than a mass-produced bonsai from a company.
For example, one of the most famous bonsai trees is currently owned by the renowned bonsai sculptor Master Kobayashi and is thought to be over 800 years old. It is among the most valuable bonsai trees and is truly extraordinary to look at.
Another amazing specimen is a bonsai that was trained for nearly 400 years by the Yamaki family. That alone is special, but astonishingly, the tree was in Hiroshima in 1945, when the atomic bomb was dropped.
The tree survived and was then donated to the museum you can visit it in – the National Bonsai; Penjing Museum. This tree will probably never be up for sale, but it is easy to imagine it could be worth several hundred thousand dollars.
The most expensive bonsai ever sold cost 1.3 million dollars and was sold at the International Bonsai Convention in Japan. It is a pine, and is incredible to look at.
There’s no doubt that a tree’s history is what can add value to it, but you may feel you can build on the story of a “blank canvas” tree from a nearby nursery. You don’t have to pay a fortune and buy a piece of history if you don’t want to or can’t afford to.
Bonsai trees are very popular, and they probably have one of the biggest price ranges found in any kind of plant. They are viewed as an art form as well as a plant, and there are several famous artists in this field.
You should be able to purchase a bonsai from somewhere in the region of $20, depending on your location and preferences, but if you want something more unusual or an older or particularly pleasing specimen, you could be looking at a much higher price!