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How much do bonsai trees cost?

Asking how much do bonsai trees cost is a bit like asking how much a painting costs. Age, rarity, size, health, provenance and quality all affect price. Some bonsai trees are incredibly expensive, while other cost very little.

The age of a bonsai affects the price

Older bonsai trees tend to be more valuable than younger bonsai trees. Sometimes it is possible to work out the age of a bonsai tree, though not always. When you know who grew the bonsai tree, it is possible to know the age. Often though, older trees have passed through many hands in various parts of the world. It isn’t easy to know how old a bonsai tree is just by looking at it. Just because a tree is still fairly slender, it doesn’t mean that it is not old. Some of the bonsai trees that I started off twenty years ago as still quite thin, while others are very thick. Roughly textured bark is a sign of age. A good nebari (root buttress) can also be a sign.

How much do bonsai trees cost? A Broom-Style Zelkova bonsai tree. Although quite slender, it is over 25 years old. The branch structure is very good. The Pot is also old and suits the tree well. This makes it a more expensive bonsai tree even though it isn't massive at a height of 32cm.
How much do bonsai trees cost? A Broom-Style Zelkova bonsai tree. Although quite slender, it is over 25 years old. The branch structure is very good. The Pot is also old and suits the tree well. This makes it a more expensive bonsai tree even though it isn’t massive at a height of 32cm.

The rarity of a bonsai affects the cost

Unusual species of tree can fetch higher prices. Bonsai are grown all over the world. Some species are not often seen in the UK. The novelty factor can increase the price, as many bonsai fans like to have one of each species of tree that they can find. In addition to this is the style that a bonsai have been grown in. Root on Rock style, Windswept style and Raft style bonsai trees are seen less often, so sometimes are more expensive.

The size of a bonsai tree can increase the price

Bigger bonsai trees can be more expensive than smaller ones, though this is certainly not always the case. We often have metre tall bonsai trees which are much less expensive than other smaller trees.

 How much do bonsai trees cost? Musk Maples are not frequently seen in the UK. The novelty factor increases price a little. This tiny tree is 15cm tall but with a thick trunk and nice pot is already increasing in value. I will continue to improve the branch structure in the coming years through careful pruning.
How much do bonsai trees cost? Musk Maples are not frequently seen in the UK. The novelty factor increases price a little. This tiny tree is 15cm tall but with a thick trunk and nice pot is already increasing in value. I will continue to improve the branch structure in the coming years through careful pruning.

How healthy a bonsai tree is affects the cost

Keeping a bonsai tree is perfect health is a skill that bonsai growers work at. Watering, feeding, pruning and location all affect how healthy a bonsai tree is. Bonsai, like wild trees, are attacked by pests and diseases, which bonsai growers work against. Bonsai fanciers will sometime take a punt on a sickly looking tree being sold for a lower price if they feel that they can turn it round.

The provenance of a bonsai affects the cost

Japanese bonsai trees tend to be the most expensive. Korean trees also command a high price. Chinese bonsai trees tend to be lower in price. European bonsai trees are probably somewhere in the middle. In the UK, there are relatively few people growing bonsai trees on a commercial scale, so price can be very variable. There are always exemptions to this.

Quality is the main factor affecting the price of bonsai

By far the biggest factor which affects the price of bonsai trees is quality. Quality itself depends on many factors, including root spread, trunk shape / movement, branch placement, ramification and silhouette. The quality of the pot also counts. Sometimes bonsai trees have a presence which is hard to define, they just have the wow factor.

This Juniper is from Japan. It is old, has great branch structure, an attractive curving trunk and is in brilliant health. It has been in training for many years. Factors such as this make it an expensive tree. Height 26cm.
This Juniper is from Japan. It is old, has great branch structure, an attractive curving trunk and is in brilliant health. It has been in training for many years. Factors such as this make it an expensive tree. Height 26cm.

what makes some bonsai trees so expensive?

Remember that when you buy a bonsai tree, it is really time that you are buying. It is the time and the skill of the bonsai grower. Bonsai trees can take decades to make. On the other hand, you can sometimes make nice looking bonsai trees in an afternoon. It’s another one of the things which make bonsai so fascinating to us.