There are so many ways to train and shape a bonsai, you will want to spend some time perusing photos of the various forms until you find the one that speaks to your soul. Some shapes are more complicated than others to achieve, such as Windswept, so try to choose one of the simpler forms if you’re a beginner.
Some of the most common shapes include:
Informal upright – Moyogi
Informal upright is frequent in both nature and the art of bonsai. The trunk is tapered, from wider at the bottom to narrower at the top, with a discernible “S” shape, and leaves branches occurr at all of the curves.
Formal upright – Chokkan
Formal uprights also have a tapered trunk, but no curving. This tree shape is very common for bonsai and occurs frequently in nature as well. The very top of the formal upright is one single branch. Conifers are well-suited to this shape, and the finished tree is a clearly recognizable triangle.
Broom – Hokidachi
The broom has a straight trunk which ends and branches out about a third of the way up the tree. The branches spread out into a large, rounded broom shape – a sight which is very familiar in nature, particularly in winter when all the branches are bare and the full broom effect is recognizable. Fine-branched deciduous species take particularly well to this bonsai.
Semi cascade – Han-kengai
Possibly one of the most stereotypical shapes that appear in our imagination when we think of bonsai, the semi-cascade has a trunk that is only upright for a small portion, then bends down to the side. The tree’s crown remains above the level of the pot, while the branches dip down below the rim, but not below the pot’s bottom as they do on a regular cascade bonsai.
Slanting – Shakan
Slanting occurs in nature when the wind blows consistently in one direction or when the tree is forced to bend in order to obtain sunlight. With a tapered trunk that may contain some curvature, the tree should be at approximately a 60-80 degree angle from the surface of the soil. The root system is stronger on one side in order to keep the tree upright. While almost any tree can be trained to slant, pine and maple are especially suited.
Double trunk – Sokan
One of the less common styles in bonsai art, the double trunk is often seen in nature. Its defining characteristic is the two trunks that share a root system, although sometimes one trunk will grow from the other just above the surface of the ground. One trunk is more substantial while the other comes out to the side a bit and is typically thinner, and the tree is topped by a unified crown of leaves.
It’s easy to get caught up just looking at all the different bonsai shape options; each is unique and beautiful, and one of our bonsai trees may just be perfect for you!