How To Turn A Citrus Fruit Into A Bonsai Tree

Bonsai is an ancient Japanese technique that takes normal tree seedlings and turns them into miniature pieces of natural art. By regularly bending, weighting, and pruning the branches, Bonsai trees can be kept at a miniature size for decades. While common trees like cedar, oak and pine make beautiful Bonsai, a more avant-garde version can be made with any type of tree or shrub. For something a little unusual, try growing a Bonsai tree from the seeds of common citrus fruits available at the supermarket. With their glossy leaves and pleasant aroma, fruits from the citrus family are ideal candidates for this project.

To keep these ordinarily large trees down to house plant size, regular Bonsai-style pruning will be required:


  1. An ordinary citrus fruit. Meyer lemons, mandarin oranges and limes grow from smaller trees, which are easier to grow indoors for ornamental purposes, but any type of citrus will do. Be careful not to buy a seedless variety of fruit. Organic fruits are the best choice as they are less likely to have been genetically modified.
  2. Potting soil. Regular soil dug up from the yard can be used, but pre-packaged potting soil is guaranteed to give consistent results, won't have weed seedlings in it, and has the right qualities for growing seedlings.
  3. A shallow tray or container about 6 to 12 inches deep.
  4. A large indoor plant pot.
  5. A warm, sunny window.

Step 1: Prepare the Planter

Mix some potting soil with water until it is moist to the touch. Pack the potting soil into the tray, leaving about a half inch of space at the rim.

Step 2: Grow the Seedlings

Cut open the fruit and remove the seeds. Rinse the seeds in clean water to remove any fruit pulp or juice, which could encourage mold or fungi to grow. Making sure the seeds don't have time to dry out, plant them ½" deep in the pre-moistened soil, leaving at least 2 inches between each seed. Cover the container with plastic to keep them warm and moist; a garbage bag or cling-wrap with a few holes poked in it will do.

Step 3: Seedling Selection

Place the tray in a warm location. After 2 weeks, sprouts will emerge. Once sprouts have appeared, remove the plastic and place the tray in a warm spot with lots of sunlight. Keep the soil damp (but not soaking wet) at all times

As it is in nature, only the strongest survive. After one month, take a look at the seedlings and remove the weakest ones so they don't take nutrients away from their faster-growing siblings. After two months, select the seedling(s) that will be grown into a Bonsai. They will be a few inches tall at this point.

Step 3: Plant

Choose an ornamental plant pot to house the new citrus Bonsai. Place 2 inches of small pebbles in the bottom to aid drainage, and fill the planter with potting soil, leaving an inch of space at the rim. Carefully dig up the seedling, avoiding damage to the roots, and re-plant it in the larger pot. Add rocks, pebbles or pieces of wood to create an artistic landscape effect, and place the pot in a sunny window.

Step 4: Train

After a year, the seedling will be large enough to be trained or bent into a desired shape. Metal wire can be carefully wrapped around the trunk of the tree to bend it, or branches can be weighted down with string or elastic bands to influence their growth. The seedling will grow in accordance with the force being applied against it, creating an artistic shape.

Step 5: Prune

After six months, clip the top two leaves off the Bonsai, encouraging the tree to branch out and grow out, rather than up. Keep an eye on the seedling's overall shape as it grows, trimming outer leaves as necessary to encourage branching. Add stress to the main trunk to make the Bonsai grow in a bent or twisted shape, and make sure the branches don't grow longer than desired.

Always leave at least two leaves on a branch when pruning to make sure it doesn't die back. Prune the Bonsai tree at least every six months to maintain a miniature but natural appearance. As the tree matures, flowers might bloom, and with a bit of luck it might even bear fruit. Either way, the tree will have beautiful, glossy, dark green leaves, and a pleasant aroma of citrus.

To learn more, contact a company like Bob Rundo Tree Surgeon with any questions or concerns you have.