Native Trees as Bonsai

There are many trees unique to New Zealand. Some of these make good subjects for bonsai, others are not so good. Below are details of some trees with a guide to their suitability for use in bonsai. This is only a guide and should not put you off from trying anything.

Most Popular

Kahikatea
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Forest canopy tree. Small brownish leaves of long-persisting juvenile form. Natural formal upright. Easily trained, profuse bud-back, slow-growing. Cuttings grown from an adult tree will retain the adult characteristics.

Totara
totara
Forest canopy tree. Small leaves, attractive bark, easily trained, slow-growing and slow bud-back. There are several other species of Podocarpus suitable esp. P. acutifolius.

Southern Beech
silver_beech
Very attractive trees, small leaves, easily trained, need very good drainage to avoid fungal infections. Mountain and Silver are the most suitable. All species have a mycorrhizal fungus.

Kowhai
kowhai
Fast growing, deciduous, always attractive. Compound leaves, small leaflets, some types flowering as bonsai. Very forgiving. S. prostrata has the smallest leaves, is easily trained but is slow to thicken the trunk.

Pohutukawa
pohut
Originally called the New Zealand Christmas Tree. Brilliant flowers. Large leaves which reduce if flowering is sacrificed. M. kermadecensis is similar but with smaller leaves.

Rata
rata
Some trees, some vines, all dramatic flowering. M. robusta is epiphytic so is suitable for root over rock. M. umbellata has small leaves and with time makes great bonsai.

Corokia
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Many cultivars. Small leaves. Easily grown and styled. Quick results. C. cotoneaster “North cape” are naturally prostrate and make wonderful bonsai.

Coprosma
coprosma
Quick-growing rather short-lived trees, with some species making attractive bonsai. Easy

Pokaka
pokaka
Long-persisting small juvenile leaves, Attractive trunk and branching.

Kanuka
kanuka2
Very attractive flowering shrub. No bud-back, hates root disturbance, needs close attention. Unforgiving.

Manuka
Very attractive flowering shrub. No bud-back, hates root disturbance, needs close attention. Unforgiving.

 

Less Common

Miro
Forest canopy tree. Small leaves, Trains well. Slow bud-back and slow growing.

Matai
Forest canopy tree. Long-persisting juvenile stage. Easily maintained. Best grown from adult cuttings or layering.

Kotukutuku
Medium leaves, small flowers, flaky bark. Fast growing and buds back well.

Hinau
Larger leaves. Beautiful flowers when grown from cutting.

Kamahi
Attractive serrated leaves that reduce well. Hard to transplant.

Kaikomako
Long-persisting small juvenile leaves.

Mountain Toatoa
Attractive unusual leafless tree.

Kawaka Pahautea
NZ’s only ‘cedars’. Slow-growing. Hard to transplant.

Mingimingi
Shrub with small leaves and minute flowers. Sulks.

Rimu
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Forest giant. Grows readily but pendulous branchlets make realism difficult.

Tree Ferns
Grow easily but hard to keep to scale.

Kauri
Kauri
A wondrous giant but juvenile habit is anti-bonsai.

Cabbage Tree
Cabbage Tree
Gimmicky addition to a native collection. Leaves too long to be a convincing miniature.

Puriri
Large tree, very gnarled and hollowed. Large leaves reduce well.

Broadleaf
Very hardy. Leaves reduce well and has great bark.

Pittosporum
Shrub, but sometimes a convincing bonsai.

Ake ake
Easily-grown. Long brownish green leaves reduce a little. Attractive flaky bark.

Silver Pine
Small leaves. Very slow growing.

Yellow Silver Pine
Small leaves. Very slow growing.

Bog Pine
Small leaves. Very slow growing.

Lancewood
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Long-lasting juvenile form of ridiculously long leaves. Great gimmick bonsai.

Whitey Wood
Very easy and fast growing. Leaves reduce well and it back-buds. Multiple trunks would fuse together.

Tree daisies
These have great papery bark.

Ngaio
Rugged coastal tree.