Bonsai (help•info) (盆栽 Japanese) (lit. tray cultivation) is the art of growing trees, or woody plants shaped as trees, in containers. Bonsai is sometimes confused with dwarfing, but dwarfing more accurately refers to researching and creating cultivars of plant material that are permanent, genetic miniatures of existing species. Bonsai does not require genetically dwarfed trees, but rather depends on growing small trees from regular stock and seeds. Bonsai uses cultivation techniques like pruning, root reduction, potting, defoliation, and grafting to produce small trees that mimic the shape and style of mature, full-sized trees.
The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation (for the viewer) and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity (for the grower). By contrast with other plant-related practices, bonsai is not intended for production of food, for medicine, or for creating yard-sized or park-sized landscapes. As a result, the scope of bonsai practice is narrow and focused on long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees in a single container.
'Bonsai' is a Japanese pronunciation of the earlier Chinese term penzai (盆栽). A 'bon' is a tray-like pot typically used in bonsai culture. The word bonsai is sometimes used as an umbrella term for all miniature trees in containers or pots, but this article focuses primarily on bonsai as defined in the Japanese tradition. Similar practices in other cultures include the Chinese tradition of penjing and the miniature living landscapes of Vietnamese hòn non bộ.
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