Bonsai Sizes

A literal translation of "Bonsai" is plant in a tray, making no mention of the size of either, or indeed the type of plant. Most of the bonsai you may have seen will have been between 10 - 60 cm tall, however bonsai come a lot smaller, or larger. While not common, trees as tall as the average man are not unknown.

Mame (pronounced "Ma-May"), and Shito (Shee-toe) are the smallest of bonsai, ideally mame being no more than 10cm in height, however Shito Bonsai can be so small that they are grown in pots the size of thimbles. Both terms refer to the size of the tree, so they may be seen in all styles.

Creating a reasonable branch structure, and trunk, with the larger Mame is no more difficult than with larger bonsai, however it is not practical with a Shito tree, so you may see a single leaf playing the part of an entire branch. One (of several) interpretations of the word 'Shito' is 'fingertip', hence trees that fit on your fingertip.

Like their larger brothers, the smaller bonsai can be produced from cuttings, seed, and collected material. Stock purchased from garden centres can be used, but is often too large to start a good small tree.

Adequate watering is one of the most difficult things to achieve with the really small trees, and most of the people I know who keep them, bury the pots in damp sand when not on display.

A Shito Bonsai, reproduced at about actual size


Mame, the next size up. these are easier to maintain than their smaller cousins, but you'll still need to keep an eye on watering.

A display of Mame bonsai.

Shohin Bonsai

Shohin are the next step up in size classification to Mame, and Shito bonsai. Yet again Shohin are seen in all styles. Unlike their smaller cousins, creating a reasonable branch structure and trunk poses no problems.

A selection of Shohin Bonsai.

The other end of the scale, definitely a 'Man' tree, moving it being at least a two 'Man' job as the fence panel behind it is 6' tall.

A Japanese White Pine

Allen. C. Roffey 09:45 16/04/2018