What are Shohin bonsai

  • Shohin bonsai are typically under 10 inches from the soil to the top of the tree.
  • Mame bonsai, a sub-category of shohin, are bonsai under 4 inches from the soil to the top of the tree.
  • More about feel. Trees should be physically small and express the feeling of a small bonsai.
  • Shohin focus more on seasonal beauty (flowering, fruiting, and colorful trees) as well as harmony, subtlety, and balance.
  • Shohin are freer, and more abstract, than larger bonsai but a natural feeling is still important.

Shohin history-

  • Mention of potted trees in china dates back to at least 206 B.C.
  • These potted trees made their way to Japan somewhere between 1180-1333 A.D. and thus bonsai was born in Japan.
  • Though the art of shohin bonsai dates back roughly a hundred and fifty years, popular interest in shohin didn’t begin until 1968.
  • Interest in shohin made its way to the west shortly thereafter in the 1970’s.
  • Today shohin bonsai are extremely popular and offer several benefits over larger trees.


Shohin Pros:

  • Take up less space
  • Are easier to move and transport
  • Development is faster
  • Younger material may be used convincingly
  • Less apt to be overwatered

Shohin Cons:

  • Arguably lacks the impact of larger trees
  • Special horticultural considerations
  • Much more delicate and unforgiving
  • Less room for error
  • Often compromises must be made due to small size – such as branch placement


  • Air Layer’s
  • Cuttings
  • Small/young nursery stock
  • Larger trees that may lack taper or interest higher in the tree
  • Species with small leaves
  • Species that ramify well with fine branching and twigging.
  • Tropicals are ideal as they tolerate hard pruning.

Tips for creating convincing Shohin-

  • Shohin have fewer branches so proper selection of the branches is important.
  • Typically, a strong taper ratio in both trunks and branches is desired.
  • Informal, and semi-cascade are styles that are most common and compliment the shohin feel.
  • “clump” style shohin and even small forests can be made into convincing shohin.
  • Nebari is not AS important in shohin, and may be little more than a small flare at the base.

Shohin Containers-

  • As in all bonsai, drainage is most important in selecting a container.
  • Shohin pots can be a lot more expressive and colorful, but care should be taken not to overpower the tree
  • Pot should be in harmony with the tree and composition as a whole.
  • Special horticultural considerations should be made due to the small soil mass. Ex. Placing into tray of sand, or keeping in the shade.

Shohin Display-

  • Displayed in compositions of two or more trees
  • Often a formal, less eccentric tree sits at the top of the display. Typically a pine or juniper
  • Trees should be all different species varying color, texture and shape.
  • Pots should also vary in color, shape, and design.
  • Display should have a “Flow” or Rhythm. Typically the flow is circular and continuous


By- Mike Lane





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