How small can a Bonsai get!

It is true that Bonsai are miniaturised versions of the wild things that can be found on the edge of famous lakes and gardens or seen hanging off the edge of cliffs. But did you know that Bonsai too have their miniature versions!

These Bonsai are commonly known as Shohin and Mame.

Shohin is a Japanese word that means ‘tiny thing’ and in Bonsai this means that the tree has to be within a certain size to qualify as a Shohin. So the rule is that the tiny-thing must be 35 cm wide and 21 cm high.

Mame are another thing. These can be between 10 to 15 cm. These are also called ‘mini-bonsai’.

Some Bonsai classifications:

  • Up to 2.5 cm high: Keishi
  • Up to 7.5 cm high: Shito
  • Up to 15 cm high: Mame
  • Up to 40 cm high: Kifu Sho
  • Up to 60 cm high: Chu
  • Up to 100 cm high: Dai

Creating Mame Bonsai

Creating Mame is a very difficult task. It’s challenging enough training a normal Bonsai tree, but these Mame are incredibly small.

One of the most important aspect of growing Mame or any Bonsai is to understand your tree and its growing habits.

Selecting the right species for your small bonsai adventure is very crucial to its success. Ideally you should go for a plant with naturally small leaves; this will make it easier to train the bonsai as it grows. Due to their extremely small size it would be very difficult to trim the leaves and roots, you could use a magnifying glass to help you whilst carrying out these activities on your plant. Best plants to use, are the Chinese Elm or Cotoneaster. These have naturally small leaves and would be best to start off with.

Another important aspect of growing your Mame is choosing the right kind of pot. You would need to get an equally small pot to give your bonsai the effect of miniaturisation. Watering such small bonsai is a difficult task. You could easily over water these plants, as the pot sizes are small and it becomes difficult to gauge the exact amount of water required by the plants. To create a moist atmosphere for your tree, keep the pot buried in damp sand, only to bring out for presentations.  However your Mame cannot completely do without water.

Considering the fact that Mame Bonsai do not have a lot of growth to support, fertilizers should be used less than you would use with normal Bonsai. It’s probably best practise to dilute your fertilizers.

Since the size of the pot is small, the amount of soil is also very less. As a result of this the soil looses its fertility very early. Hence you must repot the Mame more frequently than you do repotting for normal bonsai trees. The average repot time for normal bonsai is every two years. See Repotting Bonsai.

For more information on Shohin Bonsai, check out Shohin Bonsai Europe.

About Paul Masterson

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