Every year, more and more people move to the city, where yards are much smaller, or even just a condo balcony. Gardeners adapt by learning to grow in smaller spaces and finding smaller plants to grow. Bonsai trees are the ultimate small plant, considering a sixty foot tall tree in nature may be just eighteen inches high trained in a bonsai pot. Urban growth has fueled increased demand for these tiny trees, and sales of bonsai trees, pots and tools is booming.
As a result, there is money to be made in the bonsai business, both in local sales and on the internet at sites like eBay. Many successful growers never meet their customers except online, while other growers still enjoy showing their bonsai collection in person or at bonsai shows.
A backyard bonsai nursery can have hundreds of trees in a very small space. One Utah grower has a collection of over 1,200 bonsai trees in a tiny backyard measuring just 40 by 50 feet. Compare that to a conventional tree nursery, where the same number of trees could easily fill an acre.
Best Bonsai Trees to Grow
A few of the trees that are popular with bonsai collectors are the Chinese elm, the number one bonsai tree, Japanese maple, hornbeam, birch and Japanese black pine. The conifers, such as pines and hemlocks, require less attention than the broadleaf trees, such as maples.
Most commercial growers build raised benches for their bonsai trees, as it puts the plants at a more convenient height for pruning, watering and training, yet leaves plenty of room under the bench for supplies. In addition to benches, some of the broadleaf trees, such as Japanese maples, need partial shade to do their best. A simple greenhouse shade cloth, stretched between posts, is usually all that is needed.
New growers can sell starter plants to earn some income while they are growing out their mature trained bonsai trees. Starter trees can be grown from seed or, for a faster start, from plug purchased from a wholesale tree seedling nursery. After the trees are one to three years old, they are ready to sell or train.
Producing trained bonsai trees that are two to five years old is a good niche for most small growers, as the retail prices are reasonable compared to more mature trees, so there is more customer demand. Most young trained trees are sold in a bonsai pot, so growers can earn more income from buying pots wholesale and selling them.
Bonsai trees are a popular gift item, so expect a surge in sales during the holidays, such as Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Christmas. The “sweet spot” for pricing gift bonsai trees is around $30 to $60, although “specimen” trees can bring hundreds of dollars.
A bonsai business ins a perfect way for gardeners to put their green thumb to work in their spare time. Getting started takes very little space or money, and best of all, any trees that go unsold one year become more valuable the next year!
To learn more about starting a backyard bonsai nursery, read GROWING TREES FOR PROFIT, which has detailed startup information, such as a list of all the best-selling bonsai trees, and wholesale sources for seeds, seedlings, pots and growing supplies.