How To Grow A Bonsai Apple Tree That Produces Fruit

A very old looking but tiny bonsai tree with a multitude of small apples growing on it
(Image credit: SAC)

Not every tree will do well as bonsai species. These “trees in pots” are intended to look like miniature versions of mature trees, with compact, rounded canopies. For an effective bonsai, all parts of the dwarf tree must be in proportion to its reduced size, including leaves, branches, and fruits.

One tree that works perfectly for bonsai styling is the apple. If you are interested in learning about dwarf bonsai apple trees – or creating one - read on. We’ll give you the information you need to get started.

Apple Tree Bonsai

How small is a bonsai? There are a range of possible sizes for bonsai trees. These can be very short - under 5 inches (12.7 cm.) tall -- to some 30 inches (76 cm.) tall. The key is to select a type of tree with small leaves that will work with the smaller size tree, or leaves that become small with bonsai treatment.

Bonsai Apple Trees

Apple trees (Malus spp) work well as bonsai plants, especially wild apples and ornamental apple trees like Malus toringo, Malus halliana and Malus cerasifers. They grow well and produce lots of blossoms and small fruits.

You can start your apple blossom bonsai tree from seeds quite easily. Apple seeds germinate well after several months of stratification in damp sand in the refrigerator. However, the seedlings might not look like the parent plant. You can get an exact replica of the parent by rooting cuttings instead.

Select a bonsai container that works with the proposed shape of the new tree. Experts suggest glazed bonsai pots.

Growing Your Bonsai

Apple tree bonsai care is not unlike the care of apple trees in your home orchard. The plants require regular irrigation, fertilization during the growing season, and sometimes, protection during cold weather. Position the potted tree in as sunny a place as possible – bonsai apple trees need a lot of sun and can tolerate heat. But don’t let the ground dry out. It’s best to use a bonsai fertilizer.

In addition, bonsai container trees require regular repotting. This repotting is not to install the plant in increasingly larger containers, but to trim the roots and add new soil. It’s a good rule of thumb to do this in early spring. Trim out about one-third of the roots and replace the soil with well-draining bonsai soil.

Creating the Bonsai

When you are creating an apple bonsai, whether a crab apple bonsai tree or an ornamental apple tree bonsai tree, bonsai styling is essential. You will have to wire the branches and prune them in order to shape the tree.

Wiring should be undertaken in early summer. The growth in thickness slows, allowing the wire to stay on the tree for some time while the shaped shoots harden. Pruning will require a bonsai concave cutter and the type of pruning depends on the desired shape of the tree. Popular styles for apple bonsais include informal upright and slightly inclined, although cascades are also possible.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.