It is the art of dwarfing trees or plants and developing them into an aesthetically appealing shape by growing, pruning and training them in containers according to prescribed techniques. Container-grown plants, including trees and many other kinds of plants, have a history stretching back at least to the early times of Egyptian culture – Pharaoh Ramesses III donated gardens consisting of potted olives, date palms, and other plants to hundreds of temples. Pre-Common-Era India used container-grown trees for medicine and food.
A tree planted in a small pot is not a bonsai until it has been pruned, shaped, and trained into the desired shape. Bonsai are kept small by careful control of the plant’s growing conditions. Only branches important to the bonsai’s overall design are allowed to remain and unwanted growth is pruned away. Roots are confined to a pot and are periodically clipped. And bonsai may live to be hundreds of years old.