How Long Do Bonsai Trees Live? (And the 4 Oldest)

It’s fascinating how the lifespan of your bonsai tree can surpass your own. Your indoor bonsai trees can become family heirlooms as they survive generations, given proper care is given to them. Most bonsai enthusiasts are intrigued about the lifespan of a bonsai tree; they want to maximize it as much as possible. 

This reading will provide the necessary information to grow your healthy tree from a fast-growing species. Interestingly, the world’s oldest bonsai trees will be explored as well. 

How Long Do Bonsai Trees Live?

old bonsai tree with yellow flowers in a shallow container

The lifespan of a bonsai tree is dependent on a few specific things, including the species, care, and where it’s grown.

History of bonsai trees shows us that Ficus bonsai trees, for example, will commonly live between 10-50 years under the right conditions, while some rare species of bonsai can live up to a whopping 1000 years, provided the right care and conditions.

The World’s Oldest Bonsai Trees 

old bonsai tree with white trunk and green needle leaves in a container

The most important thing to keep your bonsai thriving for decades is consistency and good care. For instance, look at these bonsai trees that have lived for an incredibly long time.

They have come a long way since they were mere bonsai babies, growing to be some of the oldest bonsais in the world – surviving major world events and passing the test of time. 

The Crespi Ficus 

Gloriously situated in the first official bonsai museum in the world, the ‘Crespi Ficus’ is the oldest living bonsai tree in the world and is still going strong at over 1,000 years young!

This particular bonsai is kept in the Crespi Bonsai Museum, which was the brainchild of the remarkable Italian painter Luigi Crespi.

This mammoth 10-foot-tall model of greatness epitomizes persistence in daily care.

With its dense network of aerial roots and silhouette in perfect equilibrium, this exemplary ficus bonsai tree serves as eye candy for hundreds of thousands of admirers of the illustrious Japanese culture.

The ‘Crespi Ficus’ is housed in the world’s largest bonsai pot, which was singularly crafted and fired for the well-reputed ficus tree. 

The Bonsai that Survived Armageddon

This 400-year-old Japanese white pine has the unique distinction of surviving the terrible atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, during World War 2. The mighty bonsai tree was planted in close proximity to the blast.

Miraculously, it survived both the atomic impact and the radiation aftermath that ensued. 

Today, the tree serves as a monument of peace and endurance in the United States National Arboretum after it was gifted to the country on its 200th birthday by bonsai master Masaru Yamaki in 1975. 

The legendary Japanese white pine has thick and luscious foliage consisting of several terraces; all of this goodness is held together by a robust trunk. 

The Pine of the Phoenix 

This dwarf giant is a staggering 600 years old Japanese white pine species; this isn’t the only reason that makes it stand out. Its gigantic size, measuring 16 feet tall and 30 feet wide, makes it one of the largest bonsai trees to ever exist.

The ‘Pine of the Phoenix’ draws numerous visitors to the Rose Garden in Japan, where it is situated. 

The Most Expensive Bonsai Ever Sold 

The oldest trees are the creme de la creme in the bonsai community, as they signify years of intensive care on a regular basis.

The $1.3 million price tag fetched by an 800-year-old Japanese white pine is a superb counter-attack to the saying “money doesn’t grow on trees.” 

Bonsai Species with a Particularly Long Lifespan 

There are certain indoor bonsai trees that are quite hardy, being able to withstand several natural challenges such as pest attacks by spider mites and other crawly critters that love to munch on roots and foliage.

The list below comprises both evergreen and deciduous trees, and everything on this list should live to be well over 10 years old when given the right care and treatment.


long-lived azalea bonsai tree with green leaves and pink flowers in a container

This spectacular long-living species is known for its vibrant flowers that bloom in shades of pink, violet, red, and white.

The Azalea bonsai tree requires substantial fertilizing and watering if you want yours to survive a lengthy amount of time.

Since azaleas do not bode well with frost during winter months, they should be shifted indoors. 


long-lived fiscus bonsai tree with green foliage and thick turnk in a shallow container

Given their unparalleled growth factor and rigidity, these tropical plants can grow and survive for decades if you provide them with a healthy life.

The biggest factor of its unsurmountable popularity is the ease of caring for it. 


long-lived cypress bonsai tree with a number of branches and foliage in a shallow container on a table

If you provide them with the right conditions to take advantage of new growth, it is unsurprising for this type of tree not to survive a century.

Belonging to the coniferous family, this type of bonsai tree has stunning needle-like foliage and a conical shape. 


long-lived cherry bonsai tree with green leaves and old bark in a container

The small size of these miniature trees, coupled with their alluring pink blossoms, create an enticing sight.

Although this species of bonsai is slightly delicate, intensive care is worthwhile when you consider the beautiful value it adds to your bonsai collection. 


long-lived maple bonsai tree with old trunk and green leaves growing on a moss

Japanese maples are known to survive more than 100 years if proper care is provided. In short, growing Japanese maple trees is worth it due to their mesmerizing colors, which is why they have immense ornamental value.

During early spring, young orange shoots develop. A red maple is a revered, beautiful tree. 

This one, which sits on the Penn State University campus, is over 100 years old and is still growing strong.


long-lived pine bonsai tree with needle leaves in a container

In particular, the red pine bonsai tree has spectacular longevity and following because of its free-flowing growth pattern. Pines take interesting shapes, and bonsai enthusiasts eagerly wait for their pines to take shape. 

Assessing the Life Expectancy of a Bonsai Tree

old bonsai tree with think bark and creamy white flowers in a shallow dish

Type of Bonsai Tree 

Speaking in terms of longevity, a good idea is to get an azalea, ficus, or maple since each bonsai tree lives 9 lives.

Certain species, such as the Chinese juniper and other juniper trees, barely survive more than 50 years; you would’ve rarely seen an old juniper bonsai tree. 

The age of a bonsai tree also dictates its lifespan. A bonsai tree species that has aged considerably would’ve already lost its optimal level of activity — such old bonsai trees are in their declining stage. 

The Mother Tree

In their natural habitat, if the parent trees flourished and lived a lengthy life in various outdoor environments, bearing frost and warmer months, the offspring would also carry the same features. 

Right Care Regime 

The general rule of thumb for growing bonsai is consistent care; there is no way around it. Growing bonsai is not only a rewarding process, a common misconception held by many.

It requires several years of determination. 

Provide Regular Pruning 

Pruning is not only for aesthetic purposes; it enhances the growth rate of your bonsai plant as it disposes of dead organic matter: dying leaves, shoots, and branches.

Since pruning keeps old bonsai trees fresh and healthy, it prevents potential pest attacks on decaying matter. 

Use the Perfect Soil Mix 

Root rot is a prominent cause of bonsai fatality. It occurs when the bonsai’s soil mix does not possess proper drainage. The ideal soil mix strikes the perfect balance between sufficient moisture retention and drainage.

Normal trees in nature rarely face such problems because their roots are free to travel rather than being trapped in a small container. 

So, how can you achieve the perfect soil mix? Start off by adding useful ingredients such as pumice, akadama clay, and lava rock to your soil mix.

Proper drainage is vital to prevent root rot; since regular watering is needed with bonsai, a soil mix having poor drainage will result in waterlogging of the roots by the excess water.

You can solve this problem by adding a bit of gravel at the bottom of your container. 

Provide Proper Watering 

Never water through a routine — this can not be stressed enough. Before watering, always check whether the topsoil appears and feels dry or not. If it’s dry, water away! 

But, hold your horses. For the best watering experience, get yourself a watering can having a long spout.

By using a watering can, you not only save water, but also save the lives of your bonsai plants as you have more control over the water coming out. 

Allow for the Right Temperatures

Different bonsai species have varying temperature requirements. However, a common range works for almost every variety of tree: 60°F to 80°F.

During the early spring and summer months, treat your bonsai trees as outdoor bonsai trees by keeping them outside to optimize new growth.

During colder times, bring your bonsai plants inside to protect them from frost. 

Provide Full Sun Lighting

Almost every species of bonsai, especially outdoor species, loves positions where full sun is available. Direct sunlight, worth 5-6 hours, is critical for almost every bonsai species out there.

During the growing season, from early spring to late summer, ensure ample provision of direct sunlight to your bonsai, whether indoors or outdoors. 

Fertilize Consistently

Since a bonsai can not freely spread its roots for nutrition and is limited to a small container, providing consistent fertilization is necessary for it to grow and increase its lifespan.

This is especially true during the growing season when nutrition is rapidly being required and consumed to facilitate the plant’s growth. 

During spring, you can use an N.P.K. formulation having high nitrogen content, 10:6:6. During summer, a 6:6:6 ratio is suitable.

You can drop the nitrogen content to 3:6:6 during the winter months when growth is halted. 

Fast-Growing Trees — Which Bonsai Grows the Fastest? 

fast growing bonsai tree with white and brown trunk and green leaves growing in shallow container

The following table summarizes the annual growth rate and years until maturity of a few popular species of long bonsai trees. 

Bonsai Species Average Annual Growth Rate Years to Maturity 
Chinese Elm 12 to 36 inches 3
Japanese Maples12 to 36 inches 3
Ficus 12 to 36 inches 3
Japanese Black Pine 12 to 36 inches 3
Chinese Juniper5-12 inches 4
Fukien Tree 2-5 inches 5
Azalea 2-5 inches 5

How to Make the Most Out of the Bonsai Growing Season

bonsai tree with green leaves and pinkish blossoms growing on moss

The growing season is the make-or-break time for your bonsai’s overall health. The following list will help you make the most of it. 

  1. If you’re planning to start your bonsai journey during the growing season, it’s best to get yourself a sapling rather than starting from scratch with seeds. 
  2. Opt for fast-growing trees. 
  3. The thicker the trunk, the better. 
  4. Balanced fertilizer is the way to go. 
  5. Give your bonsai more space to breathe by repotting it in a larger pot. 
  6. Treat pests and diseases ASAP. 

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