Can You Bonsai An Orchid 

Can You Bonsai An Orchid 

Orchids are easily one of the most popular plants and flowers out there. With an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 orchid varieties out there, there is a good chance you’ve either owned or are thinking of buying one soon. With the art of bonsai becoming more and more popular, naturally, there is a lot of room for crossover. So can you bonsai an orchid? 

Orchids and orchid subspecies do not make for good bonsai trees. Orchids are herbaceous meaning they do not have wood or trunks and so do not make for good bonsai trees.  

The stalks of orchids then are too weak and cannot be trained to become bonsai trees.

So are there any bonsai techniques that you can use when keeping your orchids? And what flowering plants do make for good bonsai? Keep reading to find out more!

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

Can you bonsai an orchid

To answer this question, I got in touch with my local botanical gardens, reached out to 10 plant paladin readers, and read up on the 1960’’s American orchid society bulletin, which has been the most historically researched study on orchids as bonsai trees. 

To summarize: 

  • Orchids, generally do not make for good bonsai trees. 
  • This is because they are herbaceous – this means that they do not contain woody material such as bark, trunks, or branches that you would find on trees. 
  • The art of bonsai is to create miniature trees so you can’t create a miniature orchid bonsai, as orchids lack trunks and branches that are needed to create a bonsai. 
  • Some bonsai techniques however can be used to grow orchids. 
  • Orchids can thrive with bonsai tree potting soil, which provides adequate aeration, moisture retention, and moisture flow. 
  • Orchid species such as Moth Orchids can also benefit from defoliating the flowers of the orchid to promote new growth. 

Study on if orchids make good bonsai

The most in-depth study was undertaken on how best to closely make orchids resemble traditional bonsai trees was undertaken in a news bulletin by the American Orchid Society Bulletin Vol. 29 February 1960 No. 2

The main summary of the study, undertaken by Kyoto University in Japan, found that whilst they were able to use bonsai techniques to grow miniature orchids – particularly for Sedirea japonica and Orchis rupestris sub-species. 

The full extent to create an exemplary bonsai tree that aesthetically resembles something like an olive, jade, oak, juniper, or scots pine bonsai was not possible. 

Can you use bonsai soil for orchids? 

So whilst you cannot make a bonsai tree out of an orchid, you can use some techniques commonly used in bonsai for orchids. 

Potting soil used for bonsai, which typically contains grit such as akadama and volcanic ash rock is a fantastic potting soil mix to use for orchids. Bonsai potting soil allows for good moisture levels, moisture flow, and plenty of aeration that orchids need. 

Using cactus soil is also a fantastic soil mix for bonsai trees. 

Can you use orchid soil for bonsai? 

Potting soil commonly used for orchids can also be used for bonsai trees. This is because orchid soil has the same properties that bonsai trees need to survive, mainly having good aeration, moisture retention, and moisture flow. 

This will help prevent root rot and prevent roots from drying out. Both of which are common in both bonsai species and orchids. 

Potting Soil For Bonsai Trees - what good soil needs

Can you use bonsai techniques for orchids? 

Whilst you are not able to grow out orchids to resemble bonsai trees there are some techniques you can follow to help improve the care of your orchids. 

First, species such as the moth orchid can benefit from their own version of defoliation. 

If then, you would like your moth orchid to have more flowers, defoliate your flower from the lowest growing flower on the orchid. 

After a few weeks, new buds will appear, giving you more flower growth. 

Scale, spider mites, aphids, slugs, caterpillars, and other pests commonly attack both orchids and bonsai tree sub-species so following the best practices to avoid infestation such as investing in parasitic wasps can prove beneficial for both plants. 

how to remove bugs from bonsai tree - infographic

What flowering species do make for good bonsai?  

So if you are a little disappointed that you cannot turn your orchid plants into bonsai, fret not, there are plenty of other beautiful flowering species that you can transform into a bonsai. 

Magnolia, Serissa, Fukien Tea, Japanese quinze, and Azaleas are all flowering species that can be used in growing bonsai. 

To read up more on flowering bonsai trees, or more specifically, bonsai trees with white flowers, feel free to check out my post. 

How to make orchids more visually appealing? 

Another method you can follow to make your orchid more visually appealing than trying and struggling to transform your orchid into a bonsai tree would be to simply dye your petal. 

Only about 10% of orchids around the world have the natural blue pigment in their petals so dying an orchid can be a fantastic way to add color to your flower collection. 

If then you are interested in dying your orchid, simply inject the orchid dye of your choice in the stem of your tree, and within 24 hours, the petals of your flower should start to change color. 

Survey on can you bonsai an orchid

Finally, I wanted to finish up by asking 10 plant paladin readers if they think orchids make good bonsai trees. 

Can you bonsai an orchid

Here were the results. 

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.

Recent Posts