Five Reasons Everyone Loves The Chinese Elm

Posted by Ashley Carrier on 12th Feb 2016

If anyone asks what the most popular Bonsai is here at Bonsai Outlet (and just about anywhere, really) there's only one answer: The venerable Chinese Elm Bonsai. This dwarf tree has been among the most popular Bonsai species for centuries, and continues to delight both beginners and experienced Bonsai enthusiasts alike.

Why is the Chinese Elm so eternally popular? Basically, it's a perfect tree for Bonsai cultivation: Hearty, adaptable, long-lived, and lovely to look at.

Whether it's someone's first Bonsai, or their fiftieth, there's just something special about the Chinese Elm that always makes it a great option, or a perfect gift!

Five Things That Make The Chinese Elm Such An Awesome Bonsai

1 - Beginner Friendly

While any Bonsai tree can die with sufficient neglect, the Chinese Elm is one of the heartiest breeds available. With its thick bark and great leaf coverage, a Chinese Elm is able to put up with a lot of abuse and still grow strong. This makes it perfect for beginners who are worried about accidentally killing their tree. (Spoiler: You probably won't.)

The main thing beginners should know about Chinese Elm Bonsai trees is that they are very fast-growing, especially when they're young. Most will need to be re-potted roughly once a year, rather than the 3-5 years for slower-growing breeds.

2 - Beautiful Curves

One of the goals of Bonsai cultivation is creating miniature trees that resemble aged, graceful trees. The Chinese Elm delivers this in spades. It naturally grows with graceful curves along its trunk and branches which give it the "windswept" look effortlessly. Even young trees have that "old look" very shortly after their initial growth spurt.

3 - Easily Trainable

Because the Chinese Elm is so adaptable, it's also a great option for intermediate Bonsai cultivators looking for their first experience in tree-training. It can tolerate the stresses of wires and deliberate cuts far better than most other species.

We won't lie: It's relatively common for people to accidentally kill the first Bonsai they try to train, but don't let that deter you. Learning to train a tree takes practice, but it's what separates true Bonsai masters from all the rest. And you're much less likely to kill a Chinese Elm than most breeds.

4 - Lush Foliage (most of the time)

When it's in bloom, a Chinese Elm is covered in lush, dense green leaves with a slightly leathery feel. These add to its resilience, since even the leaves are tough! A particularly healthy Chinese Elm can grow such dense foliage it can resemble a bush.

The exception here is that Chinese Elms are semi-deciduous and will usually lose the majority of their leaves during the winter. This is completely normal. Don't panic, the tree will bloom again in the spring.

5 - Indoor/Outdoor Options

And to top it off, a Chinese Elm is almost equally at home both indoors and outdoors. They want a lot of light, so if it's kept inside, be sure to keep it in a sunny area. If kept outside, they should bloom and thrive with very little difficulty.

Just keep in mind that the Chinese Elm comes from a warm climate, and doesn't deal well with cold. If it's an outdoor tree and you live in northern areas, we suggest bringing it inside for the winter.

Ready To Start Your Bonsai Adventure?

The Chinese Elm really has it all, and we have no reservations recommending it to Bonsai newcomers. If you've been curious about Bonsai, but afraid to commit, the Chinese Elm is exactly what you're looking for.