High school science teacher Pauline Muth enjoyed growing and training bonsai trees in her spare time, and decided to turn her hobby into a real bonsai business when she retired from teaching. Now, several years after retiring at age 55, she has realized her dreams with a home-based bonsai business that provides a substantial income and allows her to get paid for doing what she loves.
In addition to growing her own collection of bonsai, Pauline offers bonsai lessons at her studio, teaching beginning to advanced bonsai techniques to students. Topics for these private lessons range from creating a bonsai to tree selection to growing specific bonsai types, such as bonsai forests or bonsai rafts. Mature bonsai plants from her personal collection are sold at her studio and online for prices ranging from $180 to $1,200.
Like Pauline, thousands of bonsai enthusiasts have learned how to make money growing these tiny trees. There is always a market for bonsai and that market can be found on the internet as well. A bonsai nursery takes up a fraction of the space needed for a conventional tree nursery, and can be started with just a few hundred dollars in most backyards.
Most bonsai growers use benches for their trees, as this makes it easier to prune and maintain trees and easier to view and display the plants. A simple shade cloth overhead will protect sensitive trees, such as japanese maples, from the direct sun and reducing evaporation and watering frequency. Conifer bonsai trees, such as fir, larch, pine and spruce prefer full sun year-round and are more heat tolerant.
New bonsai growers on a budget can start trees from seed, as the cost of starting hundreds of trees is still quite affordable. Starting from seed can produce a salable tree in one to three years. To produce salable trees sooner, start with plugs from a wholesale tree nursery
Consider the amount of care and time you have to spend on growing bonsai when starting out and choosing the trees for a new bonsai business. Conifers, like larch and pine, require less attention than broadleaf trees such as maples. Indoor bonsai plants typically require more attention, as well as supplemental heating and lighting in the winter months.
Popular bonsai varieties include Chinese elm, perhaps the most popular bonsai tree, beech, birch, hornbeam, larch, maples, pines and spruce. Variations of these basic trees are also popular, such as zelkovia, also called Japanese elm and Japanese black pine.
Unlike a traditional bonsai business, today’s sellers are able to tap into a huge marketplace by using eBay to sell their trees and accessories. There is a diverse bonsai market online, where you can find starter trees for a few dollars or accessories, bonsai pots and tools, all the way up to rare or exotic specimen trees costing hundreds of dollars.
When you’re ready to start selling your bonsai trees on eBay, you can easily open a storefront for just a few dollars a month and sell using both fixed prices and auctions. Many bonsai shoppers prefer to take advantage of the “Buy It Now” fixed prices, but having both options will also help attract bargain hunters as well.
If you prefer to sell your bonsai plants locally, you will draw customers who simply have to touch and see what they are buying. Local sales are also great for selling low cost items like starter trees or pots, as shipping costs for these can equal the cost of the product itself.
Bonsai plants are popular gifts, so expect a surge in sales during holiday periods such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Affordable potted trees under fifty dollars are the best sellers for holiday gifts.
A bonsai business can be a great way for gardeners with limited space to earn a tidy income. You can specialize in just the trees you love, or offer a broad variety of choices. It’s a business with hundreds of years of tradition behind it, and a growing future ahead. To learn more, read Growing Trees For Profit.