The Five Main Bonsai Styles

Bonsai is the study of the artistic miniaturisation of trees, by developing them in pots or containers. Bonsai culture has developed specific styles in cultivating these trees. Many styles have evolved over the years in making a bonsai tree but all the styles are generally classified into five main styles, based on the position of its trunk. These main styles are formal upright (Chokkan), informal upright (Moyogi), slanted trunk (Shakan), semi-cascade (Han Kengai), and full cascade (Kengai).

The formal upright method is the easiest among the five for the beginner artist. This bonsai style always has a straight, tapering trunk. Normally, a bottom branch is lower and stretches out from its trunk. The recommended species for this style are junipers, pines, spruces, larches, and maples. In informal upright, the trunk bends a little, or twists to the side and front. This bend represents the informal look, and most plant species are suited to this style. In slanted trunk style, the trunk bends either to the right or left, in between 11-45 degrees from the perpendicular. The container is normally rectangular or oval shaped, and as the tree slants in one direction, the lowest branch stretches in its opposite direction. The style of a semi-cascade bonsai has a curved trunk, with idea of this style to depict a tree that is leaning out over a rocky ravine or a cliff. The full cascade bonsai style developed from trees found growing along cliffs. The tree cascades down, with its tip landing beneath the base of the container.