* Courtesy of 'Bonsai Empire'

Bonsai styles

Over the years many styles to classify Bonsai trees have been advanced, closely resembling

circumstances in nature. These styles are open to personal interpretation and creativity, meaning

that trees do not necessarily need to conform to any form. Still, the styles are important to gain

a basic understanding of shapes and should serve as guidelines to successfully train miniature trees.

Cascade Bonsai style

A tree living in nature on a steep
cliff can bend downward as a result
of several factors, like snow or falling
rocks. These factors cause the tree
to grow downwards. With Bonsai it
can be difficult to maintain a
downward-growing tree because
the direction of growth opposes
the tree’s natural tendency to
grow upright. Cascade Bonsai are
planted in tall pots. The tree should
grow upright for a small stretch but t
hen bend downward. The crown of the
tree usually grows above the rim of the
pot, but the subsequent branches
alternate left and right on the outermost
curves of an S-shaped trunk.
These branchings should grow out
horizontally in order to maintain
balance of the tree.

Formal upright Bonsai style

The formal upright style is a very
common form of Bonsai. T
his style often occurs in nature,
especially when the tree is exposed
to lots of light and does not face the
problem of competing trees.
For this style, tapering of the
upright-growing trunk must be clearly visible.
The trunk must therefore be thicker at
the bottom and must grow increasingly
thinner with the height. At about 1/4 of
the total length of the trunk, branching
should begin. The top of the tree should
be formed by a single branch; the trunk
should not span the entire height of the tree.

Informal upright Bonsai style

The informal upright style is common
in both nature and in the art of Bonsai.
The trunk grows upright roughly in the
shape of a letter ‘S’ and at every turn
occurs. Tapering of the trunk must be
clearly visible, with the base of the
trunk thicker than the higher portion

Slanting Bonsai style

As a result of the wind blowing in one dominant direction or when a tree grows in the shadow and must bend toward the sun, the tree will lean in one direction. With Bonsai, the leaning style should grow at an angle of about 60 - 80 degrees relative to the ground. The roots are well developed on one side to keep the tree standing. On the side toward which the tree is leaning, the roots are clearly not as well developed. The first branch grows opposite the direction of the tree, in order to create a sense of visual balance. The trunk can be slightly bent or completely straight, but still be thicker at the bottom than at the top.

Broom style Bonsai

The broom style is suited for
deciduous trees with extensive,
fine branching. The trunk is
straight and upright and does not
continue to the top of the tree;
it branches out in all directions
at about 1/3 the height of the
The branches and leaves form a
ball-shaped crown which is also a
stunning sight during winter