bon·​sai | \ (ˌ)bōn-ˈsī How to pronounce bonsai (audio) , ˈbōn-ˌsī, ˈbän-ˌsī How to pronounce bonsai (audio) also ˈbän-ˌzī \
plural bonsai

Definition of bonsai

: a potted plant (such as a tree) dwarfed (as by pruning) and trained to an artistic shape also : the art of growing such a plant

Illustration of bonsai

Illustration of bonsai

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This is a living dwarf tree. The word bonsai can also refer to the art of training and growing these dwarf plants in containers. Bonsai specimens are ordinary trees and shrubs, not hereditary dwarfs; they are dwarfed by a system of pruning roots and branches and training branches by tying them with wire. The art originated in China, but has been pursued and developed primarily by the Japanese. The inspiration for bonsai is found in nature, in trees that grow in harsh, rocky places, and are dwarfed and gnarled throughout their existence. Bonsai may live for a century or more and can be handed down from one generation to another. Bonsai pots, usually earthenware and of variable shape, are carefully chosen to harmonize in color and proportion with the tree. A sizable bonsai industry exists as part of the nursery industry in Japan. California is home to a small-scale bonsai industry.

Examples of bonsai in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Standing just eight inches tall, this flowering bonsai tree will bloom vibrant, pink Azalea flowers that bloom in the late spring. Christina Montoya Fiedler, Good Housekeeping, 6 July 2022 There are bonsai clubs in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville. al, 13 May 2022 Continue learning about bonsai design, techniques and care. oregonlive, 25 Mar. 2022 Two weeks later, the watch was only logging neglect, stashed on his desk right next to a dead bonsai tree and a weekly planner that didn’t appear to have been used in months. Ryan Van Bibber, Outside Online, 5 Dec. 2020 Most who attend really don’t know much about bonsai trees. al, 13 May 2022 This bonsai tree is unique and makes a memorable gift. Olivia O'bryon, Forbes, 17 Apr. 2022 Choose from sansevieria, or snake plant, to double as an air purifier, a mini bonsai tree for a chic touch, or a money tree—which resembles a miniature palm tree—for all the good luck your space needs. Andrea Navarro, Glamour, 14 Apr. 2022 The flowers have a tie to Japan: Many evergreen azaleas originated in Japan, including Kurume azaleas, which feature prominently in the collection and are used in bonsai practices. Washington Post, 18 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bonsai.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of bonsai

1899, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bonsai

Japanese, literally, tray planting

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Last Updated

14 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Bonsai.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

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