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The Beauty of Bonsai Cannabis

By Luis Cordova
Published: February 22, 2022
Key Takeaways

It might sound unusual, but it is fairly easy to train your cannabis plants to become bonsai cannabis, making for a beautiful ornamental in the home. Luis Cordova explains how.

With all the many ways to grow cannabis, many growers are taking on the world of bonsai. The dream of a bonsai cannabis enthusiast is to have a miniature version of a cannabis plant. Imagine a miniature version of your favorite cannabis cultivar you can place in your window. Before we get too deep into the steps of making cannabis bonsai, let’s discuss the idea and concept.

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What is Bonsai?

The Japanese word bonsai translates to planting in a tray. However, it is much more than that and it actually originated in China. When introduced to Japan, it became a recognized Japanese form of art. Thousands of years ago Japanese gardeners would use small containers to replicate what they saw in the forests. By using different techniques, plants could be kept for hundreds of years in these small containers. The overall purpose was to allow the viewer to contemplate their existence with nature and how much care it needs. Bonsai has developed into many different plant shapes, proportions, and the number of plants used. Many enthusiasts believe a 7:1 stem to leaf size ratio is the most desirable proportion for a bonsai. Therefore, they tend to ignore plants like cannabis as being a true bonsai. Bonsai has many different architectural shapes that are dependent on the type of style you like. Many bonsai practitioners believe a miniature plant doesn’t become a bonsai until the container chooses its plant. Thankfully, there are many shapes and colors of bonsai containers to choose from that suit any style.

Bonsai Cannabis?

If you are thinking of creating a bonsai cannabis plant, you should consider that this is a plant with the final goal of becoming an art piece. Many bonsai cannabis enthusiast do so to keep a mother plant, for stealth grows, to save space, or to develop a centerpiece for their house.

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Whatever your preference is, consider reading other resources on bonsai techniques. Bonsai techniques don’t differ much from cannabis training techniques, however, some methods are drastically different in order to keep the plant for years.

bonsai cannabis plant

How do You Create Bonsai Cannabis?

Let’s next discuss the steps involved in creating bonsai cannabis.

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The first step is to prepare your pot. Ideally, small pots are used to constrict the roots and keep the plant small. The type of pot doesn’t matter too much — a plastic or ceramic pot will do. The pot should have holes at the bottom to allow for guide wires and drainage. If there are no holes, drill them in, and make sure the holes are big enough for the wire you will be using.

The second step is to either get your seed or choose your cutting. If you choose a cutting, pick something very healthy and from a strong mother plant. If using seed, you typically want it to grow out to the second week before beginning training on the main stem. A cuttings stem should be trained immediately after root development. I prefer using rubber-coated wire or aluminum wire as it has the sturdiness required to hold the desired shape. I stay away from string and twines as they can cut through your plant.

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During this stage, the roots will begin to fill out the pot. Do not overwater as root rot can occur. It is also safe to use minimal nutrients, organic foliar spray, or soil composed mainly of worm castings.

The third stage is to begin training each cannabis branch into its desired position. Depending on the flexibility and length of the branch, putting it in its final position is easy. Some branches require a slow progression into their position. Wire easily achieves this effect and can be used many times. Before adding wire, make sure the branch can be worked into the desired position. At this time, unwanted branches can be removed or trimmed.

During the final stage it is time to prepare for flowering. In the vegetative stage, we set the shape of the plant. Now it is time to prune any areas that may interfere with each other and increase airflow. Put the plant into flowering and watch it grow. Depending on the size of the pot and flowers, you may need to pin down the roots. Your plant can now be set out on the table, harvested, and enjoyed.

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Issues with Bonsai Cannabis

If all went well, a beautiful cannabis plant should be complete. Let’s discuss a little of what can go wrong. The most common problem for bonsai cannabis is overwatering. Over-fertilizing is a common problem as well. I prefer an organic soil mix that I create myself.

Other organic soil mixes you might use in any other grow are usually fine. However, you may want to dilute them down with regular potting soil as some are nutritionally too dense for bonsai. In most cases, it’s best to foliar spray the plant as it grows.

cannabis bonsai

Cannabis Strains for Bonsai

With so many strains to choose from, it’s hard to nail down a few that are best for bonsai. I tend to choose strains that like to grow small 23 inches (60 centimeters) at harvest or smaller. I tend to look for indica-dominant breeds as sativa dominant will grow too big. Some strains that work well include:

Cannatonic: Although this hybrid is a 50:50 of indica and sativa, I have bred mine to be more on the indica-dominant side, staying very short. This plant does well in bonsai, however, I have had issues with flowering.

Afghani Kush IBL: A pure Afghan, indica breed. These breeds are best suited in stem size for bonsai, however, their leaf sizes tend to be large. So, a lot of pruning is needed with this strain. They do well in any environment, are very easy to take care of, and are a good choice for bonsai.

Blueberry: A very famous indica strain. Can grow quickly but gives a good structure and produces nice buds. This strain gives plenty of branches to manipulate and can be forced into almost any shape. It is a good beginner strain as the plant is very forgiving in bonsai.

Girl Scout Cookies: Another famous old strain. It works well to bonsai but can present some growth challenges. It is best to veg short and flower early with this strain. They tend to outgrow their pots and tip over easily.

Squirrel Tail IBL: A purebred sativa plant. I know what I said about sativas, but the genetics of this breed lends itself well to bonsai. This is one of the most common old breeds still found in Thailand. This breed tends to grow tall and has a long flowering time. However, the leaf structure tends to be small, the stems are thin, it has a very solid yet flexible branch structure, and the flower resembles squirrel tails. With the height of this plant, you can train them for a more dramatic or topiary-style plant.

No matter what cultivar or strain you use have fun and try bonsai.

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Written by Luis Cordova | Plant Biotechnician, Pharmaceutical Scientist

Profile Picture of Luis Cordova

Luis holds a M.S. in Plant biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Science. He is a long-time cannabis grower He has put his focus on breeding cannabis and development of organic soils for tropical regions. He loves how much the industry has grown and changed. He hopes to pass on new and old knowledge to all growers across the world.

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