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  • Writer's picturepeacelovebonsai

Is Bonsai Cruel? Of Course Not, so Stop Asking

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

Every once in a while, a bonsai photo goes viral.

It's usually in reference to the tree that survived Hiroshima or a famous person will show a bonsai in his home. Poof! It’s all over the world; generating the type of interest that comes to bonsai once in a blue moon.

Search the comments section of any of these posts and you’ll find a bevy of ethical questions. For many, seeing a bonsai tree for the first time conjures up a sense of cruel and unusual punishment for the innocent tree. And I can understand why, between the trunk-suffocating wire and raffia bent branches, it can seem like we are torturing our little trees. But are we?

Does Bonsai Hurt The Tree?

No, it doesn’t. The tree does not have a nervous system. Further, it may seem like bending branches and cutting limbs would be akin to taking scissors to your toes or a chainsaw to your arm, but that would be an incorrect comparison. Does it hurt to shave your head or wear it in a ponytail? Of course not. We take tiny scissors to our tiny nails on a regular basis, for the sole purpose of keeping us tidy, again with no regard to the ethics of cutting our body.

Leaves and branches are made to be shed. The shedding is part of the lifecycle of a tree. A lifecycle that allows for growth and death, often in a single growing season, resulting in a stronger and happier tree. The tree must naturally shed itself, its branches, and its leaves, in order to continue its oxygen giving role.

Pruning for Aesthetics & Health

It may seem bonsai artists cut and prune to their hearts desire, never a thought to the health of the tree, yet nothing could be farther from the truth. Proper techniques are a combination of aesthetics and health. We want our trees to be pleasing to the eye, while using principles of artistic design to create living sculptures.

We also prune for health. Proper training involves knowing what a tree needs and how much pruning can take place without hurting our bonsai. Probably the most important aspect to pruning is allowing for proper light to find all areas of the tree. This ensures a healthy bonsai.

Bonsai Artists are Tree Huggers

Greg Hugging A Tree
I ❤ Trees

You may not find a more passionate group of tree people than bonsai enthusiasts. For us, trees are life. We grow them, propagate them, air- layer them, in short, we love them. We would never want to do anything unethical in regards to nature, the forest or the trees. We understand the meaning of bonsai and believe playing with little trees is a powerful elixir to many of life's challenges.

Is Bonsai Cruel?

When practiced properly, no. Of course, there are idiots that do stupid stuff, like collecting trees from the wild and not properly caring for them afterward. Or collecting trees without a permit. But we in the bonsai community will shout the loudest at those idiots. If you still believe that bonsai is cruel, I encourage you to visit a bonsai club or meet some enthusiasts in person. I'm sure you'll find them to be some of the most environmentally responsible & nicest people walking the planet.

What do you think? Do you believe bonsai is torturing little trees? I'd love to hear your opinions, be sure to share them below. If you like this post, subscribe to my monthly newsletter for all my future bonsai updates. Until next time, Peace Love Bonsai!

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Hank Martin
Hank Martin

A few years ago I purchased a small maple at a garden show. I mentioned to the vendor that I thought it would be a great bonsai candidate. She responded that I was a tree torturer. I thought she was joking but it soon became apparent she was serious, as she continued her disparaging remarks. That was the first time I’ve ever encountered that line of thought regarding bonsai, quite an eye-opener!


I know! Amazing how some people think. We are the biggest tree huggers in the world!!


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