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Indoor Bonsai: Choose Wisely for Success

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Bonsai can make a wonderful houseplant (and a lovely gift) but only if some consideration goes into choosing a type. Here are guidelines for choosing and caring for a bonsai tree that will live its life indoors.


Many bonsai specimens are evergreen or deciduous tree species that come from temperate climates. These plants require a winter dormancy, just as they would if they were allowed to develop to their normal size in nature or in the garden. If these bonsai are kept inside all year, they do not experience the cold temperatures that would trigger the winter dormancy that they need.

For easier success with bonsai indoors, choose a tropical or subtropical tree that prefers fairly consistent growing conditions all year. Common choices include ficus, jade and schefflera.

Research your selected species to find out if it’s a tropical plant or a subtropical plant. If it’s tropical, it will enjoy warm temperatures all year. It will be comfortable where you are comfortable. If it’s a subtropical plant, give it a winter placement where it will experience temperatures that are cooler than those of your main living space. An entryway, enclosed porch or unheated bedroom would do the trick.

Both tropical and subtropical bonsai will benefit from higher humidity than normal. To provide this, stand the pot on a tray of damp gravel. Cluster several plants together to further create and conserve moisture in the air. Kitchens and bathrooms tend to be more humid than other rooms, so they may be a good site for your indoor bonsai, as long as their air temperature and light level are also adequate.