A Look at Different Types of Indoor Bonsai Plants

by Craftsy
By Ramon Gonzalez for Craftsy
Do you want to dip your toes into growing bonsai, but are intimidated by training and growing deciduous and evergreen trees? Maybe an indoor bonsai tree is the tree that’s right for you. What we colloquially refer to as indoor bonsai trees are really tropical and subtropical plants, trees and shrubs.
The word bonsai can literally translate to mean a plant in a pot. We can use this fast-and-loose definition and look into some common houseplants and tropicals that would make good candidates for indoor cultivation to save us some money and allow us to get some experience.
Have you looked at the prices for bonsai at your local garden center? They can get pretty expensive. But if you look just a few feet away you may find the same plants growing in standard plastic pots for a lot less money. All you’ll need to do is buy your own pot and soil and you’ll have the making of a bonsai in record time.
Crassula ovata
One common houseplant that you can find at a big box garden center Crassula ovata, the jade plant (seen above). Grown for their oval, shiny green foliage, these plants are pretty tough and can be a great plant to learn bonsai design with. This succulent plant grows pretty fast given the right conditions a small cutting can quickly look like a small tree or shrub.
Adeniums are another good candidate for indoor growing, especially for people who don’t remember to water their plants. Too much water is deadly to this plant. The fat trunk of adeniums can grow to quickly resemble a small ancient tree.

Portulacaria afra is commonly known as elephant’s foot or elephant’s food. It is a cousin of the jade plant, although this plant grows faster and has much smaller leaves that are perfectly suited for bonsai.

Schefflera arboricola is a popular houseplant that you are probably familiar with. Sometimes called an umbrella tree, it is practically unkillable.

Polyscias fruticosa is another houseplant that you will readily find at garden center. This dwarf evergreen tree can can be styled into a nice miniature bonsai. The ruffled, variegated leaves are very unique and can make a very interesting tree.
There are many varieties and hybrids of ficus available and all of them have good characteristics that would make good indoor bonsai trees. Serissa would make a good choice as an indoor bonsai just because the scale of the foliage is so suited to bonsai. But the tiny, rose-like flowers really make this a must-have for any indoor bonsai collection.


Whichever of these houseplants you decided to grow as an indoor bonsai tree you must remember that these tropical and subtropical plants will not survive outdoors in areas that experience freezing. These plants may be tough, but they really should be kept inside in most climates.

The biggest challenge you’ll encounter growing bonsai trees indoors is the struggle to give them enough light while they spend the winter indoors. Remember, these are real trees and shrubs in nature, and they require watering and ample light. Grow your indoor bonsai is a south-facing window or invest in a grow light or two to keep your indoor bonsai happy over the dark, winter days.
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