Bonsai Styles are used by bonsai enthusiasts to classify the many different shapes and forms of bonsai trees. Each style is an artificial representation based on a natural shape that a full-sized tree may form in the wild according to it's environment. It is important that the beginner bonsai artist get a grasp of and practice with the different kinds of styles when they are starting out, so here you will find a list of bonsai styles in both text and pictorial form. Bear in mind, however, that rules are made to be broken and as you become a more advanced bonsai artist, you will develop your own artistic style.


Bonsai Style: Formal UprightFormal Upright Style (CHOKKAN)

One of the most common and most difficult bonsai styles, the Formal Upright or Chokkan style represents a tree that has grown in near-perfect conditions.

The trunk goes straight up and is completely straight with visible tapering (i.e. it is thickest at the bottom and grows increasingly thinner as it gets higher). The shape can be described as triangular or cone-like.

This style is suitable for larches, pines, spruces, maples and junipers.

Bonsai Style: Informal UprightInformal Upright Style (MOYOGI)

Similar to the Formal Upright style, the Informal Upright or Moyogi style is very common in nature.

It has a trunk that tapers to a point at the top, however the trunk is not completely vertical and the form is not symmetrical - instead it bends in a kind of 'S' shape. The apex will often bend forward, towards the viewer to give added depth.

This style works very well for maple (specifically, japanese maple) but beech, conifers and even some fruit trees, such as pomegranate can be used.

Bonsai Styles: Slanting StyleSlanting Style (SHAKKAN)

The Slanting Style, or Shakkan, represents a tree that has grown at an angle due to environmental factors such as wind or lack of sunlight.

The trunk should taper towards the apex and the can either be straight (formal) or bent (informal) but should grow at an acute angle relative to the ground.

Most species can be used successfully for this style.

Bonsai Style: Broom StyleBroom Style (HOKIDACHI)

The Broom Style or Hokidachi is a popular styling choice amongst beginners.

The main point of note is that there is a lot of symmetrical branching that begins from about a third of the way up the trunk. The shape is similar to a broom, from which it gets it's name.

This style works best for deciduous trees with fine branching formats such as elms.

Bonsai Style: Literati StyleLiterati Style (BUNJINGI)

The Literati, or Bunjingi Style represents a tree that has struggled to survive due to competition.

It has a tall, crooked trunk with branching and foliage only at the very top of the tree, depicting the battle it has wrought togrow taller than the other trees close by.

Pines, junipers and cedars work well for this style.

Bonsai Style: Cascade StyleCascade Style (KENGAI)

The Cascade, or Kengai style represents a tree that has grown in the adverse weather conditions of mountainous regions.

They are plantedin tall pots so that they can be trained to grow in a downward direction (after a brief initial phase of growing upwards) and overhang the edge.

This style can be achieved with most species.

Bonsai Style: Semi-Cascade StyleSemi-Cascade Style (HAN-KENGAI)

The Semi-Cascade, or Han-Kengai style is very similar to the cascade style.

The main difference is that the trunk does not grow below the base of the pot but some of the branching does.

Again, this style can be achieved with most bonsai species.

Bonsai Style: Windswept StyleWindswept Style (FUKINAGASHI)

The Windswept, or Fukinagashi style represents a tree that has grown in an area with strong, predominately uni-directional winds.

The branches are all bent to grow in the same direction to give the impression ofit being windswept.

Pine and junipers are good species to use for this style.

Bonsai Style: Double TrunkTwin-Trunk Style (SOKAN)

The Twin-Trunk, or Sokan style represents the common natural occurance of two trunks growing froma single root system.

One trunk is usually thinner than the main (thicker) trunk and grows at a slight angle.

Most species of bonsai can be used for this style.

Bonsai Style: Forest StyleForest Style (YOSE-UYE)

As the name suggests, the Forest, or Yose-Uye style depicts forestation. Due to the amount of care and attention required, this is probably one of the most difficult styles to achieve successfully.

This style is achieved by planting many trees in a natural staggered pattern in the same pot. The tallest trees are planted in the middle with smaller trees planted in decreasing height towards the rim.

Many species can be used for this style including maple, elm and ficus. 

Bonsai Style: Root-Over-Rock

Growing-on-Rock Style (SEKI-JOJU)

The Growing-on-Rock, or Seki-Joju style represents  a tree growing on rocky terrain.

The roots are arranged so that they grow over a rock and into the pot.

Most species can be used for this style.