The Alabama Bonsai Society meets every month on the 2nd Monday at 7:00pm at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

In an effort to educate new enthusiasts, we have a beginner’s forum at 6:00pm.  We also offer demonstrations, lectures, workshops and personalized instructions to new members.  On the Saturday following the meeting, we have a workshop at the BBG “Potting Shed”, where we can bring trees to work on or attend workshops.  On the schedule is the annual show, a swap and shop meeting, a holiday party and a dinner meeting during the summer.

We often have guest Bonsai Artists  that offer workshops for club members to attend.

Our  membership dues are $30.00 per year for individuals and/or families..


Bonsai, pronounced “bone sigh”, started (as an art form) in China and then spread to Japan,, where it was refined and developed into its current art form.  The word Bonsai in Japanese literally means tree in a pot and spiritually related to the art.  Most of the trees utilized in Bonsai would become large, full-grown 100-foot trees if planted in the ground.  However, when the pruned roots are contained in a small pot and the foliage trimmed to balance the root structure, the tree will grow very slowly and can be maintained at almost any size.

General Techniques

Bonsai can be collected from the wild and after careful removal of taproots and developing feeder roots, the tree can be placed in a Bonsai pot.  In Japan it is common to see trees in a pot that are as old as 500 years, which have been handed down from generation to generation.

Some regular nursery stock can be used as a source of Bonsai.  However, they are cultivated to become large trees and often are not suitable for smaller  scales.  Bonsai nurseries raise tree stock for the purpose of small-scale trees, which are more suitable to the art.

The hobby of Bonsai is an art form involving living sculpture.  Sometimes limbs or trunks are wired for periods of time to develop a better shape or placement of limbs for better growth and aesthetic purposes.  Limbs and trunks are pruned to improve the general shape of the tree, and sometimes limbs are grafted where a limb is desired.

Generally, trees with smaller foliage are more suitable for these smaller trees.  However, the leaves can be pruned and the newer leaves will be smaller and more proportionate to the tree.

Historically, starving the plant for water and nutrients developed smaller needles and leaves.  Modern day procedures involve understanding the basic growth of the tree so that smaller leaves or shorter needles can be developed for most species.

Indoor Bonsai

Tropical Bonsai can be grown outdoors during the warmer months and brought inside when the night temperatures drop down to 50 degrees.  Most will do well in a south-facing window or under some fluorescent lights.  They need a tropical climate all year round.  All other Bonsai are like yard trees.  They need to experience all four seasons outdoors.  Many require full sun, especially conifers, while some maples and azaleas do better in partial sun or afternoon shade.  Non-tropical trees should never be brought inside for more than 5-6 days at a time as they require the normal temperature and sunlight of outdoors.

Winter Care

In winter, the pots are placed in a bed of pea gravel, with the foliage protected from wind and to protect the roots and pots from freezing.  Cold frames and cold greenhouses also work, as well as bringing your trees into a cold garage area when the weather is going to freeze.


Bonsai soil is a blend of small stone gravel (aggregate), course river sand (not sand box sand) and a small amount of fine pine bark or other organic material.  The pot and soil are designed to drain freely and therefore the trees must be watered daily during the growing season.  Watering should be done in the morning or evening by gently sprinkling the soil surface until water runs through the holes in the bottom of the pot.  The tree can also be watered by immersing the pot for 10 minutes in a tray of water in which the water level is just below the top of the pot.  During the heat of the summer, the tree should be surface-watered daily (sometimes twice a day) and weekly with pot immersion to be certain the soil and the roots are well soaked.

The soil for Bonsai contains very few nutrients, so they must be supplied for the health of the tree.  

The club owns and maintains the trees in the Bonsai exhibit within the Japanese gardens of the BBG (Birmingham Botanical Gardens), provides training for new members and works to promote the art of Bonsai in the area.

Come join us at one of our meetings.