How Long Do Bonsai Trees Live?

Bonsai trees have a reputation for being difficult to care for, and there are many reasons for this, one of the most common is that they have wildly different care requirements depending on the species.

But something that is widely agreed on is the lifespan of bonsai trees tends to be much longer than other plants, including houseplants. 

This makes all the confusion at the beginning worth it, as some can last for hundreds of years!

But what exactly dictates how long they live? Do some live longer than others? What’s the oldest bonsai tree? Let’s take a look at everything you should know.

How Old Is The Oldest Bonsai Tree In The World?

The oldest bonsai tree in the world is a Ficus bonsai, held at the Crespi Bonsai museum in Parabiago, in northern Italy. 

Specifically, it’s a Ficus Retusa linn, and features striking white bark, beautifully gnarled roots, and bright green leaves. 

It is over a thousand years old, and came from China in 1986, where it arrived after more than a decade of negotiations. 

It’s not difficult to see why, as this is a beautiful bonsai tree.

Why Can Bonsai Trees Live For So Long?

Bonsai trees are carefully cultivated and maintained, not just to train them into a certain shape, but to ensure that they live for as long as possible. 

The meticulous care that goes into growing a bonsai tree means that these plants receive the best of care and the optimal conditions that they need, so they are capable of living for a very, very long time.

This is part of the joy of growing them, not only to see them thrive under your care, but also to pass them onto the next generation. There’s a reason why bonsai trees symbolize longevity!

How Many Years Can A Bonsai Tree Live For?

Bonsai trees can live for many years. Exactly how long is mainly dictated by the species you choose, as well as the care and growing conditions you provide them with.

Some bonsai trees, for example, can last for up to a decade, while others can live for hundreds of years. 

It’s not unusual for a bonsai tree to live for much longer than its full-sized counterpart, as bonsai trees have access to constant care, nutrition when they need it, and most importantly, pest and disease control.

The Lifespan Of Indoor Bonsai Trees 

Indoor bonsai trees can live between anywhere from a couple of years to around a hundred years, depending on the species and its natural lifespan, and how well it is looked after.

On average, it tends to be between 50 and 100 years.

How Long An Outdoor Bonsai Tree Can Live For

Outdoor bonsai trees tend to live much longer than those grown indoors, but this does depend on the species. 

On average, outdoor bonsai trees will live for hundreds of years, even a thousand years if taken care of properly.

How Many Years Until A Bonsai Tree Is Full-Grown?

Exactly how long a bonsai tree takes to mature depends on several factors. The first and most important is the species you go for. 

Some bonsai trees can take only a few months to mature, while others can take decades. It really depends on the species you grow – just like it does with their full-sized counterparts.

You can speed the process up by rearing a bonsai tree from a cutting rather than from seed, and giving the plant the best conditions possible, but there really isn’t a shortcut when it comes to the art of bonsai.

The best way to keep a bonsai tree happy is to make sure that the growing conditions you give the plant are as close to its natural conditions as you can make them. 

This will not only make the plant mature as fast as possible, but it will also mean it will live for as long as possible, too.

Are Bonsai Trees Worth The Effort?

Bonsai trees are not for everyone, that’s for sure. They require patience and a keen eye, but the learning curve in itself is a rewarding journey.

The key to growing a bonsai tree is to find a species that matches where you want one to grow, whether that’s outdoors or indoors. 

This goes a long way in keeping a happy and healthy bonsai tree, as you can choose one that matches how much care you can dedicate to it, and the growing conditions you have.

It is an art form, and it can be tricky to begin with, but the results are well-worth it. You can train a bonsai tree into any shape or style, given the right techniques, tools, and vision.

If you want to grow a bonsai tree that’s likely to outlast you (and even the next generation along, or more!), consider growing these species as bonsai trees:

  • Azalea 
  • Pine 
  • Cedar 
  • Cypress
  • Ficus
  • Maple

Final Thoughts

Bonsai trees are incredibly rewarding plants, and the fact that they may also outlive you is an interesting (even if somewhat terrifying) thought. 

It is incredible, though, that a plant you care for (or even raise from seed) can be passed down for generations.

While they take a lot of time and care, the art of bonsai does keep you connected to nature, and are pieces of living art. They are ever-changing, can reduce stress, and help to keep you grounded.

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