bonsai tree meaning

Meaning and Symbolism of Common Bonsai Trees

Sharing is caring!

The art of bonsai dates back centuries and is a deeply symbolic, sacred practice with its integral elements of simplicity, harmony, and balance also reflected within many aspects of Japanese culture, and their way of life. 

Dating back 2000 years in cultivation, the art of bonsai was inspired by the Chinese art of Penjing, which was brought to Japan from China, and then was shaped and influenced by the minimalist Buddist culture.

Every artistic element, down to the tiniest of details, is intentionally orchestrated, and is combined to create a story and lend to the aesthetics, deeper meanings, and symbolism within each tree. Each individual bonsai is created with the purpose of eliciting emotions from the viewer. 

So, what does a bonsai tree symbolize? In general, bonsai trees are believed to bring good luck and harmony, but every type of bonsai tree has its own deeper meanings and symbolism. 

In this article, we outline the meaning and symbolism of nine common bonsai trees.

1. Azalea Bonsai

azalea bonsai tree

An Azalea bonsai is an especially stunning symbol of femininity. Its bright blossoms represent feminine beauty, vulnerability, and gentleness. 

Its cloud of bright pink, white, or red flowers bloom at their conventional size despite blossoming on what appears to be a miniature flowering tree. This happens because bonsai are grown from the same seeds as their conventional counterparts. They’re even genetically the same. Bonsai are simply pruned to remain miniature. 

Also associated with an Azalea bonsai is abundance, passion, wealth, and love, with abundance applying to wealth, intelligence, and beauty.

An Azalea bonsai is often gifted to a loved one and can be especially meaningful if given to a beloved woman in your life. 

2. Ficus Bonsai

ficus microcarpa ginseng

Ficus bonsai is referred to as a “cheerful tree” because it is thought to enhance the moods of those who are nearby. This bonsai symbolizes unity, new beginnings, abundance, simplicity, and the harmony of nature.

It is also believed that having a ficus in the home will release positivity and understanding. 

Ficus is one of the most popular indoor bonsai because it is notoriously low maintenance. For this reason, it is popularly gifted and is considered one of the best beginner bonsai.

3. Jade Bonsai

portulacaria afra bonsai

According to feng shui, Jade bonsai produces positive vibrations and attracts good luck, money and prosperity into your life. This is why it is commonly referred to as the lucky money tree, the money plant, and the friendship plant. 

Jade’s vibrant green leaves symbolize energy, growth, renewal, and great friendship.

Gifting Jade is a traditional feng shui practice and is commonly given to business owners, because placing a Jade plant near the entrance, near the cash register, or in a southeast location of the space brings prosperity and success to the business.

Placing Jade in the southeast corner of the room or desk is also considered very auspicious.

Another asset attributed to this succulent plant is that it is great for beginners, as it is one of the easiest indoor bonsai to maintain because it requires minimal tending and watering.

4. Juniper Bonsai

chinese juniper

Juniper is a long-lived, coniferous evergreen that is a symbol of protection, and is said to ward off evil spirits. It also represents the cleansing and purification of those nearby and even produces berry-like cones that are used in health and healing rituals.

The Juniper bonsai tree is also a symbol of power and strength, representing the ability to overcome life’s inevitable challenges. 

5. Cherry Blossom Bonsai

cherry tree bonsai
Photo by T.Kiya | Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Cherry Blossom is the national flower of Japan, so it makes sense that Cherry Blossom bonsai would be deeply symbolic, and be culturally significant. 

Producing delicate pink flowers that have an extremely short blooming period, monks associate Cherry Blossoms with mindfulness, mortality, and living in the present moment. The beautiful, yet quickly fleeting flowers are a reminder that life is to be lived fully in the moment, for it too is fleeting. 

Flowering bonsai traditionally represent femininity. Specifically, the Cherry Blossom represents female dominance, strength and beauty. 

The Japanese also associate the Cherry Blossom with renewal and rebirth, celebrating their two weeks in bloom every spring, and welcoming new beginnings and the year ahead. 

6. Chinese Elm Bonsai

chinese elm bonsai

The Chinese Elm is often referred to as the “tree of harmony” because it symbolizes inner strength, intuition, wisdom, and love.  

The Elm is thought to be a magical tree, offering predictions and protection and it is often planted in front of homes and churches, as it is thought to be a good omen.

7. Maple Bonsai

japanese maple bonsai tree

Adorned with lovely bright red, yellow, and orange foliage in the autumn, the Japanese Maple tree has been admired and associated with elegance and beauty for thousands of years. Maple trees and their color changing, falling leaves are frequently represented in Japanese art and mentioned in their literature. 

Maple bonsai is also a symbol of peace, serenity, balance and practicality, with the Japanese word for this tree translating to “peace” or “calm.” 

8. Cedar Bonsai

Due to  their conventional size, shape and longevity, Cedar trees are a symbol for immortality, strength, and protection.

Cedar is a ceremonial plant that is traditionally used as an incense and it is associated with prayer and medicinal healing. The bark and leaves of the Cedar tree are used as medicine and it is considered a purifying herb.

9. Oak Bonsai

Their strong trunks, long lives, and associations with powerful Gods make Oak bonsai a symbol of strength, longevity, and knowledge.

Oak trees are suited for bonsai because of their tough trunks, aged bark, and the ability to endure constant pruning.

Regarded as a storehouse of knowledge and spiritual wisdom, the Oak tree’s longevity is symbolic of loyalty and eternal life.


Final Thoughts

Not only are bonsai believed to produce and promote positive “chi” or energy, but bonsai trees are also commonly considered a means to help naturally ease anxiety and to help you attain inner peace and serenity. 

When choosing a bonsai tree to gift someone or learning how to grow a bonsai tree and add to your own collection, it is important to consider the energetic associations and the symbolic meanings behind the tree.

Gifting a bonsai is actually believed to double the fortune that is found by the recipient. As pieces of living art, these trees invite care, nurturing, patience and positivity into your life. 

Featured photo by depositphotos.com/HavlicekRadek

Sharing is caring!

shares
Scroll to Top