If you like Bonsai, you might be missing out on a whole variety of plants to grow in your collection; Herbal Bonsai. Cultivating herbs for their medicinal purposes has been common practice for hundreds of years, but how to apply their qualities for Bonsai is relatively unknown.
You can pick a herbal plant from your garden or buy from a botanical garden or local plant nursery. Especially older herbs, that have partially wooded trunks, will work well to grow into a Bonsai. The benefits off using herbs for Bonsai is obvious; pruning your thyme or rosemary Bonsai will supply your kitchen with a fresh and steady supply of herbs ;-)
What kinds of herbs can you use for Bonsai?
There is an almost unlimited variety of herbs to use for Bonsai. The choice depends on what you like, and what is available to you. Especially Rosemary and Thyme are often used for herbal Bonsai. Some of the herbs you can use for Bonsai are:
- Lemo Verbena
- Sweet Bay Laurel
- Sage French Tarragon
- Scented geranium
How to grow herbal Bonsai
We grow herbal Bonsai in very similar ways like we would grow any Juniper or Pine Bonsai. Basically, there’s the three steps of acquisition, styling and care.
Acquisition of a herbal Bonsai
We could start with rosemary seed or buy a plant plant; the latter being the faster option. Make sure to purchase a herb that fits your environment; take into consideration the amount of sunlight a plant needs, as well as the optimal temperature.
Shaping and Styling
Styling your newly acquired herbal Bonsai is a delicate exercise, but very much in line with normal Bonsai techniques explained on this site. The two main techniques include pruning and wiring. Please note that this is a journey requiring your full patience. It could take a few years to get what you want, so be ready to wait!
Keeping your Herbal Bonsai healthy
Bonsai techniques including watering and fertilizing can be applied to herbal Bonsai without much change. The soil is something to keep in mind though, as normal Bonsai soil is not the optimal mixture for most herbs. With the large variety of herbs out there, prefer to recommend you to check on specific information for your exact plant.
Thyme Bonsai by Xavier de Lapeyre. Source: Flickr