Bonsai Size Classification

By April 26, 2017 No Comments


The word bonsai among the general public means a small tree in a pot, but for the professionals and the enthusiast alike, the word bonsai goes deeper and is more intricate.  It is divided into various aspects such as:

  1. Tree species
  2. Style design
  3. Bonsai sizes

Bonsai Sizes

Although bonsai trees look like fully grown trees, in fact they are, but their sizes tell a different story,  they are much smaller in scale than ordinary trees and they need a different approach to maintain their health and vigor.  To maintain trees in a pot is more difficult than keeping it alive in an natural environment.  There are various techniques to keep the bonsai healthy in a pot.  The smaller the pot, the harder it gets to keep the tree healthy and to maintain it to it’s specific size.

We might deal with the techniques on how to start and maintain bonsai trees in other blogs, today we are dealing with bonsai size classification.

Various sizes

It is not enough to say that bonsai trees are categorized in Small – Medium – Large.  By time the Japanese worked hard to refine the art of bonsai by giving a name to most of the important work needed on bonsai, and so they also named the different sizes of bonsai trees.

Before starting the classification one has to remember that the height of a bonsai tree is calculated from top of the pot up to the tree apex.


Kenshi (Keshi Tsubu)

Size of tree: Up to 2.5 cm in height.

The smallest size possible in the bonsai classification.  Easily lifted with two fingers.


Size of tree: 3 cm up to 7.5 cm in height.  

Very small bonsai trees and difficult to maintain.  The pots are not larger than a thimble.  Due to it’s size, few branches and no ramification forms this tree size.


Size of tree: 8 cm up to 15 cm in height.  

Branch development and some ramifications can be visible in this size.


Size of tree: 15 cm up to 25 cm in height.  

A small practical size for those with space problems.  Better branch development and more ramification can be visible if compared to the Mame size.  The pot size is large enough to keep the tree standing.


Kifo Sho

Size of tree: 20 cm up to 40 cm in height. 

Very popular due to its practical size, which is not so big and not so small.

Chu (Chumono)

Size of tree: 41 cm up to 61 cm in height.  

Somewhat heavy when handles by just one person.


Dai (Omono)

Size of tree: 61 cm up to100 cm in height.  

The difference between the Omono and the Dai is nearly similar by the western bonsai world but easily recognizable by the Japanese bonsai Masters.


Size of tree: Between 102 – 152 cm in height.  

It needs three people to carry this large sized bonsai.


Size of tree: Greater than 152 cm in height. 

The largest bonsai size.  This got it’s name since this size is often found in Japanese imperial gardens.  Not very popular in the western bonsai world.  Four people are needed to carry this bonsai size.

How to measure

The bonsai style and design might varies its height.

  • Normal trees, height is calculated from the Nebari base to the top of the apex.
  • When calculating the height, the Jin should be considered as part of the tree, even those protruding out of the apex vegetation.

  • In case of a cascade or semi cascade, the height is calculated from the apex to the lowest branch.
  • In a Penjing, the stone should be calculated when measuring.
  • In a forest, the height is determined from the base of the Nebari up to the tallest tree.

The same rule applies to the width of the tree:  The width is calculated when facing the front of the tree.

  • The widest point on the left to the furthest point to the right.
  • Any Jin or Shari should also be calculated.


Sizes such as styles in bonsai are used to describe the tree.  One can say that his bonsai is:  ‘A Shohin in a cascade style’.  That tells everything one needs to know.  Also sizes are used to group the bonsai trees during an exhibition.

Martin Abela

Author Martin Abela

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