Bonsai trees are welcome additions to homes where art is appreciated. The ancient tree style began in China but eventually found a home in Japan. Today, it’s widespread among homes in several countries worldwide.
When you’re busy upgrading your patio or porch, placing some bonsais will add to the theme and ambiance. There are many indoor and outdoor species, but they need the right conditions to survive. Read our guide to see which ones are best suited for a specific location and how to choose them.
Patio or Porch: Which is Better for Bonsais?
Both the patio and porch work well for bonsais, but you need to look at the specific requirements of the small trees to know where they will thrive. Since your patio is outdoors with a solid surface and some exterior furniture, you’ll aim for bonsais that love soaking in the sunshine for several hours of the day. We also suggest species with bright flowers that will attract butterflies to the seating area.
Since porches are usually enclosed and part of the main house, you’ll want bonsais that enjoy living indoors. While there are many that can handle low-light conditions, some porches have massive windows that allow plenty of light to enter. It all depends on which species you have in your home.
There’s no easy answer for whether a patio or porch is better for your bonsais. A better approach would be to list the species that will do well in each one.
Best Bonsais for your Patio
Let’s start with the outdoor area. While plenty of species thrive in the sunlight, we selected five that will bring joy to you and visitors to your home. As long as you supply proper bonsai tree care, they’ll last for more than 50 years, if not 100.
Common or Garden Juniper
The garden juniper became famous in the 80s when it appeared in the Karate Kid movies. The soft, green needles are small and gentle to the touch. They also deliver a lovely fragrance when you prune them, but you won’t need to do much trimming as the juniper grows slowly.
The reason why we selected this bonsai for your patio is that it loves having as much sunlight as possible. You can leave it out all day, and no harm will come to it. If you want to prevent the needles from burning, you can place some shade over the area during the hottest time of the day.
The Chinese Elm bonsai has stunning serrations on the leaf edges, while the leaves deliver a minty scent when touching them. The foliage grows quickly during the warmer months, which means you’ll need to be hands-on with pruning weekly. You can easily develop a full canopy within a few years and enjoy the small white flowers that appear.
Fortunately, the Chinese Elm also does well indoors, so you can also place it in your porch. However, it grows better with as much direct sunlight and fresh air, which is why we suggest using your patio as its home. You’ll also need to supply plenty of water, as it becomes quite thirsty in all that heat.
Here’s a majestic shrub grown as a bonsai in several tropical regions. Become popular in France originally, it’s spread to many countries due to its colorful bracts. These are the mutated leaves that look like flowers. However, if you take a closer look between them, you’ll see the small white petals hidden there.
The Bougainvillea bonsai prefers drought-like conditions. If you live in an area that’s incredibly hot and humid in the summer, you’ll want one of these small trees on your patio. The bracts put on an outstanding display that will attract butterflies if placed on a tall stand.
When it comes to any citrus trees, you’ll want to give the leaves as much sunlight as possible in spring and summer. It’s especially important if you have a mature lemon tree bonsai. Those flowers will only form if the foliage receives sufficient sunlight during those two seasons.
The lemon tree is also one of the bonsai species that thrives in heat. That’s why the seeds germinate so well when you place them on a windowsill in direct sunlight. If you’re lucky enough to have pollinators visit your small mature tree, the tiny yellow fruit will be wonderful to behold while resting on your patio.
If you’re aiming for a beautiful floral display, you may want to buy an Azalea bonsai. There are many species in this genus, and you’ll have many petal colors to choose from. Many people select this small tree for how it brings the Japanese atmosphere to their gardens.
The foliage fills with flowers in the summer, but only if you provide enough sunlight. However, the Azalea bonsai will need some shade when the peak afternoon hits. Therefore, patios with gazebos or other coverings are ideal. As long as it receives at least four hours of sunlight per day, it’s happy.
Top Bonsais for your Porch
Now, let’s move to the inside of your home. Most porches have tall windows that deliver plenty of sunlight. Even if yours doesn’t, the bonsai species listed below will still grow well in those conditions. You just need to ensure there’s some sunlight during the morning hours.
Most species in the Ficus genus grow well indoors. The trees are incredibly forgiving and will happily continue to develop new leaves in most conditions. When you head to the local plant store to look for a bonsai, the Ginseng Ficus is the one you’ll usually spot the most.
It’s one of the top bonsai trees recommended for beginners. Even if you forget to water it for a few days, it will grow right back as soon as you quench its thirst. The Ginseng has a unique shape that looks like a small stump with the foliage reaching out above like the hair on a tiny troll.
While the Japanese Maple bonsai loves sunlight, too much of it can scorch the stunning red, green, or orange leaves. That’s why we’re recommending it for your porch instead of your patio. You’ll have better control of how much direct and indirect sunlight reaches your precious small tree.
Don’t place it in a dark corner where it hardly receives any sunlight. A few hours of light every morning is ideal so it can perform photosynthesis and have energy for the rest of the day. When cared for properly, you’ll see the leaves transform and change color in summer or autumn.
Norfolk Island Pine
Despite the name, the Norfolk Island Pine is actually an araucarian and not a true pine. It has unique needle whorls you won’t find on any other conifer. While it loves to reach for the skies, you can easily maintain your bonsai to remain small.
The conifer grows well indoors or outdoors, but we prefer keeping it inside where we can limit how much sunlight reaches it. The only catch is that you need to turn it once or twice a week so that you get even growth all around.
There are more than one species known as a Money Tree. We’re referring specifically to Pachira Aquatica here. It usually has two or more trunks braided together to make the structure stronger, with bright green leaves on the foliage. It’s a favorite among Feng Shui practitioners for how it brings luck and fortune to homes.
As long as you supply direct sunlight and ventilation on your porch, the Money Tree will thrive. The reason we recommend keeping it indoors and not on your patio is that too much light can burn the leaves. We’re sure no luck or fortune will come from damaging your bonsai.
Finally, we present one of our favorite succulent bonsais. The Crassula has a special place in our hearts, as we’ve grown many generations from a single parent tree. There are many variations, some of which are named after Lord of the Rings characters due to the leaf shapes. A few examples include Gollum, Gandalf, and Frodo.
The succulent bonsai does well in outdoor conditions, so you can also grow it on your patio. However, we recommend it for your sunny porch for how the small white flowers complement indoor environments. They look like tiny stars in the sunlight.
No matter where you place your bonsai, the seasons can play havoc on your small tree. There are considerations for both patios and bonsais, which we summarize in short bullet points below. You’ll need to adjust it to your region based on how hot or cold it becomes.
For your Porch
- Spring: Make sure there’s enough warmth and sunlight to promote leaf and stem production.
- Summer: Supply enough food if you want to see flowers and fruit on your small bonsai, and check that there’s enough ventilation so the heat can escape.
- Autumn: Your bonsai will start going into dormancy, especially if deciduous, so watch for falling leaves on your porch floor. You may want to keep feeding until late fall so the tree can store carbohydrates for the winter.
- Winter: As long as your porch doesn’t become too cold, your bonsais should remain healthy and secure. Your deciduous trees will drop all their leaves at this time, but watch out for mold and other fungi.
For your Patio
- Spring: This season usually hears the birds and butterflies come alive with the sound of nature’s music. If your outdoor bonsais have been in their pots for two to three years, you may want to repot at this point. If late winter starts warming up, you’ll notice leaves appearing earlier.
- Summer: Some regions have windy summers, so you’ll need to secure your bonsai pots to stands. You can also build small wooden walls on your patio to protect them from strong winds. Protect delicate species from the afternoon sunlight with shade.
- Autumn: Small insects and pests may appear in late autumn, early spring to feast on sap or flowers. You may need to spray some insecticide to protect your bonsai from damage.
- Winter: Not many bonsai trees survive cold climates or frost. Heavy rain and storms can also be devastating. We recommend bringing your small trees indoors if the weather is really bad outside. Perhaps just keep them inside until spring appears again.
Do Bonsais Complement House Plants?
Normal house plants and bonsai trees look outstanding together, especially when you choose the right species. There are many house plants that only develop green foliage, so aim for flowering bonsais to add some color to your patio or porch. If you already have enough flowering plants, you can buy some conifers with stunning bluish-green needles.
The only aspects we want to warn you about are pests and diseases. Some bonsai species are susceptible to specific insects that feed on the sap or leaves for survival. Watering bonsai soil too much can lead to root rot and mold. The last thing you want is to introduce these conditions to your healthy house plants. So, keep an eye on your bonsais for any of these conditions.
Some Bonsai Decor Ideas for your Patio and Porch
Yes, bonsai trees will look stunning on your patio or porch, but you’ll need to place them correctly so they complement the theme or other items in the area.
If you have furniture on your patio, having a small table next to it with a bonsai on the surface is a lovely touch. While you’re chatting with your family or friends, they’ll smile when turning their heads and see the foliage beside them. While it’s nice to feel the leaves, try to discourage them from doing so too much to prevent damage.
We recommend using any shelves by your patio or porch to house small bonsai trees. Suspending them in the air makes them look majestic. You can also place them on tall pillars, especially if you’re growing a cascading style. That’s when the trunk, branches, and foliage hang over the pot’s side and dip down.
Another idea is placing rising shelves on your porch walls that face the sun. Feel free to also place with other designs, such as arranging shelves in a circle or square. We also recommend painting your walls a light color to reflect some of the sunlight in summer. It will add to the sparkle of small flowers.
One last aspect you’ll need to worry about is your pets. We’ve had a few choice curse words when our cats jumped for the highest shelves so they could recline in the sunlight, only to knock the bonsai off and break the pot. Remember, your pets don’t feel the same about your small trees.
Enhance Your Home with Small Trees
Our guide only provides a sneak preview of what you can accomplish with bonsais for your porch or patio. There are so many ideas you can play with, and the world is your oyster. Feel free to browse social media and the internet to see what others are doing for inspiration.