Growing your own miniature trees

Prachi Shah
Prachi Shah standing next to some of her bonsai plants. PHOTO | DIANA MUTHEU | NMG 

The ornamental, artificially dwarfed varieties of potted trees and shrubs with different shapes and designs sit meticulously in a row. Some are set atop a table and others on the ground.

Prachi Shah, a 42- year- old landscaper started growing these trees in 2001. It all started as a hobby until 2009 when she decided to go commercial.

The art of growing these trees originated from Japan where they developed a technique of creating miniatures of famous trees and flowers.

“Thus in fact, these may also be called the ‘dwarf’ form of the otherwise impressive trees,” Prachi says.

During the Farmers and Artisans Exhibition at the Serena Beach Resort and Spa, Mombasa, Prachi’s stand was packed with visitors who came to admire the potted bonsai trees and the succulent Echeveria elegans that are growing in white containers.


In her nursery located on Links Road, Nyali, she is growing about 650 species of bonsai trees. These include, baobab, ficus, flamboyant, jade, tamarind, desert rose, mango, bougainvillea and Indian Banyan just to mention but a few. She collects her seedling from various parts of the continent including India and Thailand.

These plants can be used for either outdoor or indoor decorations.

“One can incorporate a ‘bonsai corner’ in their spaces which could be in an area where one may be resting, reading and generally absorbing the beauty of nature,”Prachi says, adding that her aim is to take the attitude of using antiques in spaces a notch higher and introduce these ornamental beautiful bonsai plants.

We have flowering and non-flowering bonsai trees. These include, bougainvillea, pomegranate, snow rose, potentilla and Chinese quince, they can start flowering within a year. Those that do not flower are indinian Banyan and baobab.

These plants require very little maintenance and thrive well in the tropical climate. To care for these plants one can do the following;

What to grow?

Prachi says bonsai trees can either be grow from a seed or a stem. Those that grow from seed include mango, tamarind, baobab and flamboyant plants. Those that germinate from a stem include ficus, desert rose and jade plants.


Water your trees when the soil gets slightly dry. She says you can use your fingers to check the wetness of the soil.

These plants can stay for long without water. Flamboyant, bougainvillea and baobab can be watered once, everyday whereas desert rose and jade plants on alternate days.


Depending on the species, these trees require different levels of sunlight. Flamboyant and ficus plants require partial sunlight hence can grow well under a shade. Desert rose and baobab require maximum sunlight.

Soil and manure

The soil needs to be able to hold and retain sufficient quantities of water to supply moisture to the Bonsai between each watering. It should also have qualities like good drainage so as to avoid retaining excess water which make the roots rot and eventually killing the whole plant. Also, soil that has good aeration is recommended.

According to Prachi, organic manure is good for growing bonsai trees. She uses coco fiber, cow dung and dried neem leaves, to make her manure. She adds river sand, which makes the soil porous.

Potting and repotting

To prevent a tree from being pot-bound and ultimately starving to death, regular repotting is crucial. The pots may be made out of ceramic, concrete, plastics and certain metals.

“Re-potting your Bonsai will not keep it small; instead it will supply the tree with new nutrients that it needs to grow and flourish,” adds Prachi.

She also recommends that there has to be drainage holes on the bottom side of the pot and wiring holes so that the tree can be fixed to the pot.

Wiring and twisting

She notes that it is important to wire branches of the bonsai plant so that they can grow in the desired shape. One can use thin galvanized wire. Also the tip of the plant can be clipped off to retain a certain height and allow more branches to sprout.

Also one can twist the plant to achieve desired shapes. The plant is twisted while still young about 10 cm and the tip tied loosely with a cloth. As the plant grows, one has to do more twists.

Pests and disease

Some of the pests affecting these plants are spider mites and aphids. Prachi says using soap water to rub on the parts affected can help remove these pests.