Glossary of Bonsai Tree Terms


Japanese clay-like soil with perfect characteristics for bonsai.


Anneal (copper wire)

Softening wire, by heating it to red-hot, and allowing to cool slowly.


Apically dominant

A plant that concentrates a lot of energy in upward growth.



Twisted Trunk Style. Unnatural, and thankfully now seldom used.



Literati Style – tall, slender trunk with ample movement and a minimal amount of foliage. Reflects the brush strokes of Chinese calligraphy.


Calcined Clay

Clay that has been baked to stabilize the granules. It is able to absorb large volumes of water without breaking down and is used as a soil conditioner.



Plants that will not tolerate lime in their soil or in their water.



Cation Exchange Capacity – the ability of a material to absorb nutrients from soil water and to release them to the roots as they are required.


Cleft Grafts/ Crown Grafts

Quick method of grafting ornamental varieties onto stocks of stronger varieties. Commercially successful this often leaves ugly unions



Formal Upright Style, with a straight, upright trunk.



A group of fungal diseases that attacks seedlings, causing them to collapse.



Soil that contains no lime. Also plants of the heather family.



Windswept Style.


Growing On

Allowing plants a period of free growth to strengthen them.



The Semi-Cascade Style in which the tree cascades below the rim of the pot.


Hardwood Cuttings

Cuttings from shoots that have become woody, usually in autumn



A sliver of the parent branch that stays attached to a hardwood cutting.



Broom Style.



The section of a stem between the leaves



Root-in-Rock Style – in which the rock acts as a container for the roots.



A dead brach which has been removed, either naturally, or artificially.



Clump Style in which the trunks are joined at the base. Usualy made by cutting a single trunk to ground level, and training the many new shoots.



Japanese volcanic clay which is excellent for growing azaleas.



Cascade Style – in which the tree cascades to below the base of the pot.



Wrapping a deliberately wounded branch with a wad of sphagnum moss, in order to induce the production of an entirely new set of roots.



The main, upward-growing shoot.



A shoot or a root that has become woody as a plant matures.



Mini-bonsai that will fit on the palm of your hand.



Informal Upright Style – feature a curved, upright trunk.



Micropsopic, subterranean fungi which colonize plant roots and assist them in gathering nutrients and water, in return for sugars manufactured by the host plant.



Exposed Root Style – the tree stands on a column of exposed roots.



The heavy roots which are visible above the surface of the soil.


Netsunanari, Ikadabuki

Raft Style – the trunks of the bonsai are formed from branches of the true trunk, which is laid horizontally in the pot, and partially or entirely covered with soil.



Chinese art of miniature landscapes. A tree with a rock is penjing, not punsai.


Pricking Out

Planting newly germinated seedlings in individual containers.



Commercial unit with container for soil and cuttings and a clever cover.



Soft stone made from fine-pored lava.



The Chinese pronunciation for the word we know as ‘bonsai’.


Reverse Osmosis

The passage of water from within roots to the soil, which may be caused by an excessive concentration of fertilizer in the soil.


Root Burn

The effect on roots of ‘reverse osmosis’ which may be caused by overfeeding with a rich fertilizer.


Rooting Hormone

Commercial preparations that some growers believe may be credited with an increase in success rate of propagation from soft or hardwood cuttings.



Root-over-Rock Style, in which roots are clasped to a rock before they enter the soil.


Semi-Ripe Cuttings

Cuttings from shoots that are just hardening in mid-to late summer.



Slanting Style



An area of trunk  from which bark has been removed, naturally or artificially


Sharimiki, Sabamiki

Driftwood Style – in which deadwoods is the major feature.



The japanese term for the tree known in English as the Chinese Juniper



Small bonsai that are generally under 6 inches (150mm) tall.


Softwood Cuttings

Cuttings taken from young shoots that are still green – this is usually done in the early months of the summer.



Double-Trunk Style.


Sphagnum Moss

Also known as bog moss, this is the best medium to use when air-layering.



The process of exposing seeds of some hardy trees to extremely low temperatures, in order to stimulate germination.



Viewing stone. A stone resembling, for example, a mountain or a cliff. The stone s generally mounted on a plinth and used as an accent to complement a bonsai display.



An alcove in a traditional Japanese home, used for the display of bonsai. Generally consists of the bonsai, an accent and a scroll.


Trace Elements

Chemicals that plants only require in minute quantities. These are usually present in garden soil but are almost always absent from inert bonsai soils.



Wild trees that may be collected from open ground and used for training as bonsai.



Forest Style.


Terms from The Bonsai Handbook (by David Prescott) & Bonsai – A Care Manual (by Colin Lewis)