The term “Cannabonsai” is a combination of Cannabis and Bonsai, and this sculptural art form is a celebration of both growing cannabis and traditional bonsai art. While cannabonsai projects come in all shapes and sizes, most focus more on self-expression through sculptural form than traditional goals like yield.
Some refer to this work as bonsai weed or cannabis bonsai, but I have the utmost respect for Japan’s traditions and culture, including Bonsai, so I intentionally do not use those terms. I like how “cannabonsai” explains what it is but does not call it Bonsai. Traditional Bonsai refers to a tree in a small pot, and cannabis is 100%, not a tree.
Like any postmodern art, there is a great deal of wiggle room in cannabonsai. As someone who has always love traditional bonsai, I personally celebrate walking the line as close to possible with tradition. This extends to the pots I use (ceramic glazed bonsai pots), sculptural elements I add (round rock, driftwood, other natural elements), traditional bonsai wire, traditional tree shapes, and more.
Other cannabonsai artists take a more modern approach and are more light stress training (LST) focused, shining a light on the incredible lengths cannabis can grow through. These artists grow plants in knots, spirals, and over illuminated crystals, with their imagination being the only limitation.
The cannabonsai subreddit Mod recently drew a hard line about what is considered cannabonsai in the group due to this line getting a bit blurred. Still, the gist is that cannabonsai are cannabis plants paying some level of homage to traditional bonsai.
It will be interesting to see that line become firmer over time as artist styles develop along with the community, but for now, I love seeing folks getting started growing. Most people don’t have room or money for a 4×4 tent set up and everything that comes with it, so this is a hobby that is much more accessible to the average person.
Best to use Autoflowers or Photoperiods for Cannabonsai?
Cannabonai can also be grown with autoflower plants OR photoperiod plants, so those looking to get started just need to grab a pot, some seeds, and few other items to give it a go. Due to their finite lifecycle, I always recommend starting with autos, and I even grew my first autoflower cannabonsai 100% outside in the sun:
Of course, photoperiod varieties are also fun because you get to grown them as long as you’d like (but be sure to keep them on at least 18 hrs of light per day). This allows you to make all kinds of cool cannabonsai art you can’t really pull off with autoflowers like this East Coast Sour Diesel roots over rock that’s about five months old:
How To Get Started With Cannabonsai?
Getting started with anything can be stressful, but if you have any experience with cannabis cultivation or even keeping houseplants, you’ve got this. Zero plant experience or someone who kills plastic plants? Cannabonsai uses small pots, so it’s a little tricky in general, but YOU CAN DO THIS TOO.
I started growing with absolutely zero knowledge or people to show me the way in person, but there are infinite amounts of growing knowledge online for free. From forums to subreddits, the world is your library for growing weed.
YouTube has been a game-changer for basic knowledge as well! On my YouTube series Zen Cannabonsai I have a beginner video for Autoflower Cannabonsai and a ton of other videos where I start and maintain my various projects.
Another solid intro video is Episode 4, where I went down to my local dispensary and grabbed a clone. I wanted to show how anyone can start one of these with a clone, and I’m happy to say that the Venom OG clone is alive and kicking to this day.
Manny’s Cannabonsai also has a series for auto-enthusiasts where he walks you through the process of growing an Autoflower Cannabonsai from start to finish. On top of that, he has a book called Cannabonsai: A Beginner’s Guide that’s really sharp visually and can show you the ropes in an afternoon.
As you dive deeper into the art, you may enjoy my Roots Over Rocks episodes as well as Cannabonzai’s videos and books on more advanced photoperiod techniques. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing their books as well, and while distinctly different than Manny’s, they offer a TON of valuable info and lovely pictures.
Besides knowledge, the only other thing you need to get started is supplies and a thick skin. Growing anything can be tough, and while cannabis is actually relatively easy to grow, shit happens! From cats eating plants to overwatering, there are countless pitfalls that can face a grow. But keep your chin up and JUST KEEP GROWIN!
As for supplies, I’ve outlined most of what you’ll need on the Supplies page here on Zen Cannabonsai. I only listed the products I’ve used and recommended and linked to the two seed companies I trust right now.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Do cannabonsai plants smell?
Yes and no. The two things that make traditional cannabis smell strongly in flowering and drying phases are genetics and surface area. Some strains like Sour Diesel have a FUNK and smell in any amount. Others have less of a smell, and if the plant is small, there isn’t a ton of surface area for the smell to emanate from as air circulates over the plant.
How long do cannabonsai live for?
Autoflower cannabonsai live for their pre-bred timeline. This is usually around 60-100 days. They can’t be regrown and die at that time.
Photoperiod cannabonsai can live over a decade but require ongoing maintenance and rootwork after around the 6-month mark. This variety can also be “revegged” after flowering, though this is definitely an advanced technique.
How do you train a cannabonsai into a shape?
Any way that works for you! I personally use traditional bonsai wire, but I’ve used rubber bands and binder clips, hemp cord, zip ties, and whatever else I had around in the past. When deciding on a shape, I like to look at traditional bonsai shapes and draw inspiration from there, but other cannabonsai artists take a more whimsical approach and shape their plants into plants Dr. Suess himself would be proud of.
Another material I see folks often using for shaping is horticultural wire. It has a soft exterior, and I should probably switch to this at some point.
When do you start training?
It’s super tempting to start messing with the plant as soon as it’s broken ground, but patience is key. I like to wait until the 3rd or 4th node before shaping at all due to the cell walls being really weak before that point. It’s super easy to accidentally “fold” a fresh stem where it doesn’t break, but all vascular movement is severely impacted, leading to crappy overall health.
It’s fine to move the plant around a bit, and I even recommend lightly flicking seedlings to build up those cell walls (adding water-soluble silica to your water helps enormously, too), but less is more. At about $10 a pop for seeds, there’s no reason to rush that first bend.
If I missed anything or you have ANY more questions, drop a comment below, and I’ll be sure to drop some knowledge! I don’t know everything, but I love researching, and if you follow my videos at all, you know I hate gatekeeping.
Much love, PK