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Bonsai literally means “tree in a bowl” and symbolizes the universe, life and strength of nature. The miniature trees are created to spark the emotions of nature in the audience.

Do you know that bonsai have companion plants?

I don’t know much about the world of bonsai but when I was a child I was extremely fascinated by them and for several years at my birthday I asked a bonsai as gift and one is still there, he has lost some of his identity but is happy at my parents’ house!

Some time ago I visited a bonsai exhibition and I was fascinated by the presence of these small side plants. While you are reading this blogpost I am traveling to Japan, so it seems the perfect topic to get there together… I obviously take everyone in Japan with me, follow me on Instagram and Facebook!

These are some curiosities I’ve discovered about bonsai companion plants:

A companion plant (or accent plant) can be a flowering plant, bamboo, grass, ferns, a variety of musk or even some mushrooms. Depends on the season and the Bonsai style. They are called kusamono 草 物 or shitakusa 下 草 which literally means “herbaceous object” and “grass that stay underneath”.  They have to accentuate the bonsai tree on display and create a sense of harmony. 


Photo Matteo Caliendo from Il Potatore

Choosing the right companion plant is not easy, you have to follow very precise rules: it can represent Spring in case the bonsai is made up of an evergreen plant, it can be an herb that in nature grows in the same bonsai environment, if the bonsai has flowers or fruits the companion plant will not have them, there must be no repetition.


Geranium bonsai, Art of Bonsai

Even its shape is never accidental: it can have vertical or through the bonsai course, never outward. Pots – always without edges – have to resemble the colors of the bonsai and its flowering and the height of the companion plant can not exceed the one of the bonsai support.

A successful companion planting is beautiful in its own right, but should not become the dominant part. Usually bonsai has a three-pieced display – bonsai tree, a scroll (finely painted) and an accent plant – that represents respectively men, heaven and earth.

The Bonsai art is so charming and full of history that reveals so much about Japanese culture. We can only admire it! If you walk into a bonsai nursery or a bonsai exhibition, do not miss the opportunity step in this amazing world!



Photo cover Roger Ferrer Ibáñez