The 12 Best Outdoor Bonsai Trees to Cultivate Now

Written by August Croft
Published: December 3, 2022
© Christian Musat/Shutterstock.com
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If you live in a temperate climate, you may be wondering what some of the best outdoor Bonsai trees might be. Depending on the species, some Bonsai trees can only be grown either indoors or outdoors. You might also find that your particular region is ill-suited to certain species and tree types. But what Bonsai trees typically grow best in outdoor weather conditions, and what should you know before finding an option that works well for you? 

In this article, we will give you some of the best Bonsai trees to try growing outdoors, regardless of your region. These trees typically can’t be grown indoors, despite their miniature size. However, once you select a species that appeals to you and works well in your outdoor climate, all that’s left to do is start growing! 

The 12 Best Outdoor Bonsai Trees

best outdoor bonsai trees
Depending on the species, some Bonsai trees can only be grown either indoors or outdoors.

©iStock.com/GlobalP

Given that all Bonsai trees are just miniature versions of their full-size counterparts, knowing how to take care of the specific tree species you’re interested in is step one. Depending on the type of tree that you choose, you may find that your outdoor growing Bonsai does not thrive in certain temperatures. However, you can always protect your Bonsai tree or move it to a new location if it doesn’t seem to enjoy where you first place it. 

Keep in mind that some Bonsai trees will suffer in temperatures that are too hot or in sunlight that is too direct. The same can be said for trees that can’t handle frosty conditions or cold weather. However, given the size of the average Bonsai tree, you can easily help it thrive with extra care and protection! 

With all this in mind, here are 12 Bonsai tree options for you to consider growing outdoors! 

Juniper

best outdoor bonsai trees
You can craft your juniper Bonsai to grow on rocks.

©iStock.com/Dima Berlin

Arguably one of the most popular Bonsai tree species, juniper trees thrive in outdoor weather conditions. Do you experience winter temperatures of 15 degrees Fahrenheit or less? You may want to consider protecting your Juniper Bonsai in a frame or wrapped in burlap. These Bonsai trees produce intricate deadwood and look amazing when incorporated with other natural features such as rocks or moss. 

Elm

best outdoor bonsai trees
You can grow an entire stand of elm Bonsai trees in a single container.

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The Chinese Elm is one of the most popular specimens for Bonsai tree cultivation. However, other Elm trees are better suited for outdoor living. For example, the Siberian Elm makes a wonderful Bonsai in colder climates. The Japanese Elm produces foliage that changes colors with the seasons. No matter what, Elm trees are easy to care for and shape as they age, making them ideal Bonsai trees for beginners. 

Cedar

best outdoor bonsai trees
Attractive and ornamental, cedar Bonsais also have a pleasant scent.

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With dark trunks and contrasting green foliage, cedar trees make fantastic Bonsai specimens. They grow well outdoors, but you will need to protect this particular type of tree from any cold snaps or freezing conditions, particularly if your specimen is young. Cedar trees remain evergreen year-round and have straight, textured trunks that are appealing and unique. Some of the best species for Bonsai cultivation include the atlas cedar, the western red cedar, and the Lebanon cedar.

Maple

best outdoor bonsai trees
Japanese and red maples are some of the most popular tree varieties for maple Bonsais.

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The Japanese Maple tree is one of the most common and popular Bonsai trees in the world. You can keep any type of Maple Bonsai tree outside given the right conditions, and this specimen prefers the cold. In fact, you may want to protect your Maple Bonsai in the summertime, as harsh, hot sunlight can damage the beautiful foliage of this deciduous tree. Red maple trees are also popular, as well as trident maples.

Azalea

best outdoor bonsai trees
Found in a variety of colors, azalea Bonsais produce gorgeous flowers.

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Given that there are nearly 1,000 rhododendron species cultivated around the world, you may have a great time finding an Azalea Bonsai specimen. Azalea plants make wonderful Bonsai trees given the fact that they flower profusely and come in a variety of colors. Plus, you may be able to find an Azalea or rhododendron species that is more frost tolerant and resistant than others, making them ideal for colder climates. However, most Azalea Bonsai trees likely need protection, both in freezing conditions and hot conditions. 

Cypress

best outdoor bonsai trees
Many beginners have decent success cultivating cypress Bonsais.

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There are plenty of cypress trees to choose from, all of which do well as outdoor Bonsai trees. However, some of the most popular cypress Bonsai trees are in fact false cypress trees. Some of these include the bald cypress and the hinoki cypress. Keep in mind that, depending on the species, your cypress tree may need protection during the wintertime, as many options are not very frost tolerant. 

Oak

best outdoor bonsai trees
You can grow any type of oak tree as a Bonsai.

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When placed in full sunlight, oak trees thrive outdoors in small containers. However, they will need protection during the winter season, though some oak tree species are more frost tolerant than others. Some of the most popular oak trees to use in Bonsai cultivation include the white oak, English or European oak, the coast live oak, and the cork oak. With proper care, your oak Bonsai tree may even produce tiny acorns! 

Hackberry

best outdoor bonsai trees
The tiny branches of most hackberry species make it a great Bonsai specimen.

©Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz/Shutterstock.com

With tiny branches and thick trunks, the hackberry makes a great Bonsai tree specimen if you are seeking something intricate and detailed. Most hackberry trees thrive outdoors, better suited for outdoor living rather than indoor living. However, make sure to give it extra attention during the summertime, as hackberry trees are most likely to suffer if they don’t receive enough water. 

Olive

best outdoor bonsai trees
Your olive Bonsai tree may need protection in the winter.

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Did you know that you can grow an olive tree in a Bonsai format? Growing an olive Bonsai tree outside helps reduce the size of its leaves, especially when grown in full sun. However, most olive trees can survive in temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure to protect this specimen during winter. The wood of this particular tree is light and unique, especially when paired with its dark leaves. 

Pomegranate

best outdoor bonsai trees
Your pomegranate Bonsai may produce tiny fruit!

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While it prefers a more temperate climate, pomegranate Bonsai trees are a great choice for those of you seeking a fruiting Bonsai option. Requiring protection from harsh sunlight and warm conditions as well as freezing ones, a pomegranate Bonsai likely isn’t for a beginner. However, these tiny trees still produce pomegranate fruits, making them beloved and eye-catching even if they are a bit fussy! 

Boxwood

best outdoor bonsai trees
Most boxwood Bonsais maintain their small, delicate leaves.

©iStock.com/MarcBruxelle

Also known as the box Bonsai, boxwood shrubs make fantastic Bonsai tree specimens. They have tiny leaves naturally and are used to being pruned, with a fast growth habit and intricate branches. However, boxwood Bonsai trees need to be protected in the wintertime, preferring a garage or greenhouse during this time of year. Common boxwood does the best in cold temperatures, but protection will still be necessary. Otherwise, they are easy to care for and enjoy fresh air and breezes during all other seasons. 

Birch

best outdoor bonsai trees
There are a number of birch species well-suited for Bonsai cultivation.

©Christian Musat/Shutterstock.com

Arguably one of the most frost-tolerant tree species, birch trees are a fairly underutilized Bonsai tree specimen. This is likely because birch tree branches often perish without much warning, which may force you to redesign your entire Bonsai tree. However, if you are up to the challenge, birch trees grow well in the elements and just about every season. You may want to protect it during the summertime, but most birch trees can only be grown as Bonsai trees outdoors. Some of the best birch tree species to consider include the silver birch, yellow birch, and white paper birch.

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There are a number of birch species well-suited for Bonsai cultivation.
© Christian Musat/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.

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