Best Bonsai Books For Beginners ( #5 Is An Easy Read)

Best Bonsai Books Beginners

One of the things that drastically helped speed up my journey as a beginner in bonsai was reading books. This allowed me to hone my skills, not make other people’s mistakes, and just feel more confident when growing my trees. With there being thousands of bonsai books out there, what are the best bonsai books for beginners? 

To summarise the best bonsai book for beginners, I’ve broken this down into four key categories: 

  • The best bonsai book for beginners  – Without a doubt the best general bonsai book for beginners who have zero experience in bonsai would be successful bonsai for beginners – this book talks to you as if you are a beginner and makes it hard to understand concepts easily. 
  • Best general bonsai help book – The best general bonsai help book would be Bonsai 101 – it covers the exact process from planting a tree to growing a be 
  • The best encyclopedia bonsai book – This would have to be Peter Chan’s bestseller – The Complete Practical Encyclopedia of BonsaiFollow his 30+ years of experience in keeping bonsai and follow his success. 
  • The all-time great – without a doubt, the greatest of all time bonsai book would have to be John Naka’s watershed bookBonsai techniques

Let’s explore these books in more detail, starting with my six personal favorite books

Just a quick heads up, over the past three years of running Plantpaladin, hundreds of people have asked for product recommendations. As such, You can find my favorite indoor bonsai tree here (link takes you to Bonsaiboy), my favorite outdoor bonsai tree (link takes you to Bonsaiboy), or have a look at all the products I recommend here

Bonsai 101 by Harry Tomlinson

So first up in my list of the best bonsai books for beginners would have to be bonsai 101 by Harry Tomlinson. 

A best-selling book in the bonsai category on Amazon since its inception in 2003. 

This book is not only easy to follow but comes with 101 essential tips you can use when dealing with any aspect of wiring a bonsai

You can get it here (the link takes you to Amazon). 

What is good about the book 

In my opinion, bonsai 101 has several advantages over other books including: 

A wide range of species 

Anyone who has kept bonsai for any significant period knows just how different species are from each other. 

The way you look after a Juniper will be vastly different from how you keep an Olive tree

One of the best things about the book then is the in-depth knowledge of all the most popular and best-selling species of bonsai, the tools, and techniques required to achieve specific styles on these different tree varieties. 

In-depth images 

One of the problems with a lot of books recommended in best bonsai books for beginners lists is no images in books.

Reading up on bonsai can be difficult enough without images or videos to follow up on that talk you through the process. 

One of the best things about the book is the in-depth illustrations for the more complicated process followed in the book 

Easy to read 

A lot of bonsai tree books can often be a little too technical diving in on the deep end making them a little incomprehensive to follow. 

One of the best things about this book is that it makes the entire process beginner-friendly, ensuring you won’t get lost in the insider-only jargon that bonsai tree keeping can sometimes have. 

What isn’t good about the book

Like every book, there are also some downsides to this book too including:

A little hard to read

Whilst the book has its concept explained in an easy-to-read manner, the physical words and images can be a little difficult to read on the page due to the size of the book. 

If the text size was a few points bigger or the images a little larger then this would be an easy fix. 

Small size 

Another downside is whilst the book has a lot of great pointers, sadly it is only 70 pages long meaning the breadth of information won’t cover everything insignificant detail. 

Overall rating

Overall, however, I would recommend this book. 

I give it a solid 8/10

Bonsai: The Art of Growing and Keeping Miniature Trees

The next book in my best bonsai books for beginners list would have to be bonsai: the art of growing and keeping miniature trees by Peter Chan.

Peter Chan is somewhat of a local legend in UK bonsai circles, being the founder of the renowned bonsai tree experts bonsai empire. 

Peter himself, is a self-taught bonsai enthusiast meaning that all his self-taught knowledge has been summarised in his book.

You can grab it here (link takes you to Amazon)

What is good about the book 

The major benefits of Peter’s book are for me, the following: 

Yearly caring cycles 

One of the best things about this book that I have found is that unlike a lot of other beginner bonsai books, this one goes into detail on the yearly caring cycle of trees. 

Knowing exactly how to care for your tree, the right temperatures, water, and sunlight requirements during different parts of the year is vital. 

One of the best things then that Peter does with his book, summarising this all up in an easy-to-understand format, ensuring that the basic care of your tree is prioritized. 

Great images on the kindle version

Like other books, this one has loads of great images and illustrations of trees. 

Unlike other books, however, this book is available on Kindle and other digital e-readers, making it a lot easier to zoom in on some of the more complicated or small images to get a good understanding of what will be required of you. 

Competition level advice 

Peter is also renowned for his competition-level trees and so, should you want to expand upon being a beginner, then this would be an ideal book to show you how to transition from being a beginner to an advanced bonsai keeper.

What isn’t good about the book

Now Peter’s book, as good as it is, has one major issue with the editing of the book. 

While the information is there, some passages of text and paragraphs are incredibly long, meaning you have to read them a few times to truly understand the topic. 

Also, some of the text on the page and formatting is a little bit off so will cause you to double-take a few times.  

Overall rating

Overall, however, I think this book is easily one of the best bonsai books on the market, written by true experts. 

I give it a 9/10

The Complete Practical Encyclopedia of Bonsai 

The big granddaddy of a lot of bonsai books out there (and one that makes a lot of best bonsai books for beginners lists) has to be the complete practical encyclopedia of bonsai by Ken Norman. 

A best seller for well over a decade, this book functions more like an in-depth information depository of everything you need to successfully grow bonsai as opposed to a how-to guide. 

You can grab it here (link takes you to Amazon)

What is good about the book 

So this book has many significant advantages over other books including: 

Over 800 images

As mentioned earlier, having a bunch of information without relevant images (where necessary) can make understanding bonsai concepts very difficult. 

Luckily then the encyclopedia has well over 800 images, which go into detail on the exact step-by-step process to create styles and specific looks. 

Probably the best book out there in terms of in-depth images. 

Seasonality care and maintenance 

Like Peter Chan’s books, one of the best things about the encyclopedia is that it never forgets about the basics, covering all aspects of watering, maintenance, how long trees take to grow, and most importantly seasonality when it comes to looking after trees. 

The breadth and depth of species 

Finally, the book also comes with a bunch of information around the depth and species of trees that work best for bonsai. 

One of my favorite sections is how the book breaks down the exact step-by-step process to create specific bonsai tree styles such as cascade sumo and many more. 

What isn’t good about the book

As the book is more like an encyclopedia as opposed to a general how-to guide, there are some things that I didn’t like too much about the book including: 

The text size

Similar to a few of the other books we have talked about, the text size on this book isn’t the best meaning that if you need to find information in a rush, you have to pay attention and re-read a few times to find what it is that you are looking for. 

The depth of information

Whilst a book that titles itself as an encyclopedia, the 256 pages are full of information, again meaning that you will have to do a lot of back and forth to find the exact few sentences or paragraphs you need to find your relevant information. 

Overall rating

Another fantastic book that not only covers the fundamentals but gives you a bunch of additional information to ensure you have a successful bonsai journey.

I give it a 9/10

The Complete Book of Bonsai: A Practical Guide to Its Art and Cultivation 

Next up is a book that is more than 30 years old but has been at the anchor of many bonsai libraries for many years. 

The techniques outlined in this book were often followed by some of the newer bonsai book authors and have helped me improve my ability. 

You can grab it here ( link takes you to Amazon)

What is good about the book 

The books major benefits are as follows: 

Great for wiring

One of the most complex processes of creating bonsai is wiring a tree. 

Getting this wrong can significantly damage your tree and so one of the best things about the book is the in-depth sections on wiring and pruning trees

This will ensure that when it comes to wiring your tree – you can rest assured that you are in good hands. 


A lot of you reading this post will want to create a bonsai from scratch or from a cutting. 

If this is the case with yourself then this book does a fantastic job of talking you through the propagation process, the soil structure, and just everything you need to know about what is needed for your tree to thrive. 

What isn’t good about the book

Sadly, there are a few things about the book that could be improved including: 

Outdated techniques

Easily the biggest downside about the book is that the first copy of this book was written in the 70s. 

Some of the newer methods which people are using for bonsai trees have not been included in the book. 

This means some of the methods might be overly complex when explained in the book when compared to the modern way of completing a technique. 

General care 

One area this book struggles with is focusing too much on the styling and wiring of a bonsai but it can sometimes forget about the basics such as watering and fertilizing. 

Whilst it might be common sense, it can be easy to miss for beginners, new to the art of bonsai. 

Overall rating

Whilst this book is a little outdated, I would still recommend it for its breadth and depth of knowledge.

I give it an 8/10

The Bonsai Handbook 

A little gem out there that not too many have come across is David Prescott’s bonsai handbook. 

One of the best things about this is that it is super beginner friendly allowing you to truly understand some of the basic concepts needed for bonsai keeping. 

You can grab it here ( link takes you to Amazon)

What is good about the book 

The major benefits of the book are as follows: 

Super beginner-friendly

Of all the books I’ve come across, this is easily the most beginner-friendly content out there. 

It covers 24 of the best plant species to use in bonsai and fundamentally, shows you the care process required to keep your bonsai tree healthy. 

Written by a teacher 

Another great thing about the book is that it is written by a teacher of bonsai keeping. 

This will make it a lot easier to follow along as David is already familiar with teaching classes and knows the common pain points that beginners make when keeping trees, not overburdening them or overwhelming them with unnecessary information. 

What isn’t good about the book

Now this book has a few disadvantages including:

Not an in-depth guide 

Unlike the other books out there, which sometimes read an encyclopedia as this book is far from a comprehensive guide. 

This book should be seen as one of the first books you should read on bonsai. 

If however you want an in-depth guide for your specific species of bonsai and creating a specific style then other books might prove more beneficial. 

Overall rating

Although this book might not be the most in-depth book around when it comes to bonsai keeping, its easy-to-read nature makes this the perfect entry-level book for bonsai keeping. 

I give it an 8/10

Bonsai For Beginners

The final book I’m going to go into detail on has to be George Yasukazu Tagawa Bonsai for beginners. 

Despite the book’s overly long title, this is a newer book, that is a fantastic beginner guide to getting to grips with the fundamentals of all things bonsai. 

You can grab it here (link take you to Amazon) 

What is good about the book 

This book has a few major things I liked including: 

The structure

Easily, one of the best things about this book is the structure of the book. 

As a beginner, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by all the things that go into growing a bonsai tree. 

One of the things George then does in his book is structure it so the first few pages you go over the terminology, tools, and terms that are frequently used in bonsai. 

As a beginner then, it can help make the process of creating bonsai trees a lot more democratic. 

It’s new 

Unlike some of the other books on this list, it was published fairly recently. 

This means this book benefits from all of the modern techniques and advancements that have been made in horticulture. 

As such, it’s unlikely you will find a book that is as in-depth that is also as up-to-date as this one. 

What isn’t good about the book

Now this book has a few significant downsides too. 

The book needs editing 

Sadly, there are a few spelling and grammatical mistakes in the book. 

Whilst this won’t be a deal-breaker for everyone, it does mean you will have to do a few double takes to make sure you understand the concepts that are outlined. 

Some basic concepts 

Whilst this might be seen as a benefit for some, this book does not cover more advanced methods of bonsai keeping. 

As such. Once you have kept bonsai trees for a few weeks, a lot of the learnings will have already been gathered from the book. 

Overall rating

Whilst a great book for beginners, the book does lack some more advanced features

I give it a 7/10

Other great beginner bonsai books 

So while the 6 books above are my best bonsai books for beginners, there are 9 other books that I feel also fall into the category of best bonsai books for beginners. 

I want to dive into these quickly and Highlight just why I think these are so good! 

These include

RHS The Little Book of Bonsai

One of the things I love about this book is that Malcome and Kate Hugh’s passion for bonsai comes through – you can definitely tell they have been in the industry since the 70s!

The fact that this book is RHS-approved only adds to the authority this book has. 

With tons of images and loads of helpful content, this book really does excel when it comes to understanding the fundamentals as well as giving a whistle-stop tour of the history of bonsai. 

I know this book makes up several people’s best bonsai books for beginner lists so I’m glad to see it on here too!

You can grab it here

Rating: 7/10 

Bonsai Basics

Colin Lewis’ book is one of my favorites as it does not try to cover everything. 

Instead, this book focuses on the basic day-to-day stuff that is vital in keeping your tree alive. 

This book is also great as it touches upon some of the trickier aspects such as how to prune the needles of coniferous trees – Definitely worth a read

You can buy it here. 

Rating: 8/10 

The Bonsai Beginner Bible 

You can probably tell I’m a bit of a fan of Peter Chan!

Another brilliant book he wrote utilizing his experience over the past few decades is his bonsai beginners bible. 

Think of this book more as a directory for over 180 different species of tree you can turn into bonsai with loads of images to help you – a true bonsai encyclopedia 

Buy it here. 

I’d also recommend having a look at all of Peter’s work – which comprises several books all of which can make the list for best bonsai book for beginners.

Rating 9/10 

Bonsai: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide on How to Cultivate and Care for Beginners

Another fantastic book that also comes in kindle, and e-reader form is the bestseller by Kitaro Takagi. 

What I like most about this book is that it asks you, the reader, questions. After all, why read a book about different styles of bonsai if you know you’re not going to make them all. 

Instead, it hones in on the 5 key styles of tree that all other trees stem from. 

Using this approach means that it is one of the best books to walk you through the step-by-step process. 

You can buy it here

Rating: 7/10 

The Ultimate Bonsai Handbook 

One of the reasons I love reading bonsai books so much is that it’s almost like getting a mini, one on one session with bonsai experts from around the world. 

This is no more apparent than by reading Yukio Hirose’s masterful ultimate bonsai handbook – a definite recommendation in a list of best bonsai books for beginners. 

This book goes into specific detail on how to care for 70 different plant species. 

To add to this, the book also contains well over 1000 pictures meaning that you won’t feel lost when reading through the book.

Grab it here 

Rating: 8/10 

The Little Book Of Bonsai

The little book of bonsai was written by Jonas Dupuich – founder of acclaimed bonsai blog bonsai tonight

As such, Jonas infuses this book with his decades of knowledge. 

A few things I really like about this book is that Jonas teaches you not only the basics of bonsai care but what to look out for should you decide to move your bonsai into the competition. 

The book also covers a bunch of basics such as the right tools to use, and the right species for the type of bonsai style you are going for. 

You can buy it here.  

Rating: 9/10 

Bonsai Techniques by John Yoshio Naka

Finally, I couldn’t do a list of the best bonsai books for beginners and not talk about the book that was arguably the best bonsai book for beginners for at least two decades.

A book that started it all for a lot of people. 

John Nakas’s book was the first popular book in the west that added illustrations and gave exact care guides on how to look after a variety of species. 

It also popularized a bunch of techniques such as trunk bending and made them mainstream. 

Whilst the book is a little dated (after all it did come out in 1984) it does come in two volumes giving an exhaustive list of ideas for all bonsai enthusiasts. 

Rating: 7/10 

Grab it here

My top picks for the gear you will need!

So like I mentioned earlier, over the past three years of running PlantPaladin, hundreds of people have asked me for my recommendations on the best bonsai gear on the market. 

Having spent thousands of dollars on bonsai items these past few years and tested at least 100 bonsai-specific products, I’ve listed my favorite products below – All of which I highly recommend and think you can get great value. 

They can purchase directly by clicking the link to take them to Amazon. 

Bonsai Tool Set: One of the significant challenges I’ve had is finding a toolset that was not only durable but didn’t break the bank. SOLIGT has recently developed a fantastic bonsai tool set that covers all the tools you need to trim, prune, and repot your trees. – You can grab it here

Complete Bonsai Set: Many of you will want to grow your bonsai trees entirely from scratch, but finding the varicose seeds, pots, and other items in one place can be challenging. Leaves and Sole then have created a complete bonsai set that I’ve personally used that ticks all the boxes. You can grab it here

Bonsai wire: The number of times I’ve run out of wire for my bonsai or purchased cheap bonsai wire that doesn’t do the job is embarrassing for me to admit. After a lot of trial and error, I found that using Hotop’s aluminum bonsai wire is one of the best options on the market. This can easily be used for both indoor and outdoor bonsai. You can grab it here.

This post was written by Fehed Nicass who has been passionate about bonsai for over 3 years

Fehed Nicass

Fehed Nicass has been passionate about all things bonsai and botany focused for the past 3 years. What started out as a hobby has developed as a passion and he is now on a mission to teach and learn.

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