The 10 Most Expensive Bonsai Trees and Why


10-Most-Expensive-Bonsai-Trees

People have been cultivating bonsai trees for centuries. In fact, several bonsai trees throughout the world are more than a thousand years old!

The most expensive bonsai tree is the priceless Yamaki Pine. It’s several hundred years old was one of the only trees that survived the bombing of Hiroshima. However, an Old Juniper bonsai sold for $2,000,000 in 1981. Accounting for inflation, that would be about $6,000,000 today.

Let’s delve deeper to discover the priciest tiny trees! We’ll also explore the reasons why bonsai trees are so expensive. If you’ve been looking to get into bonsai landscaping, any of our top-tanked trees are bound to be a wise investment.

Why Are Some Bonsai Trees Expensive?

Before we reveal the costliest bonsai trees in the world, it’s crucial to take a moment and consider the reasons why bonsai trees are so expensive.

Generally, the three most significant factors that influence a bonsai tree’s price are:

  • Age
  • Size
  • Skill Level

How do these aspects contribute to cost? Let’s take a closer look to find out.

Age

Many of the world’s most famous bonsai trees are hundreds and sometimes thousands of years old. As a result, these trees have outlived countless keepers, making them a timeless treasure.

Owning a centuries-old bonsai is like owning a significant piece of history. It’s also a form of legacy, as well-cared-for bonsai trees are likely to outlive their new owners, potentially surviving for many more generations.

As you might imagine, the ability to add your name to a historical plant’s list of keepers isn’t an inexpensive feat. For that reason, the most expensive bonsai trees tend to be hundreds of years old. These trees can also be much larger than the average bonsai.

Size

Bonsai trees grow incredibly slowly, with some species only adding about two inches of height each year. For this reason, a bonsai tree’s size often influences its price.

The larger the bonsai, the older it’s bound to be. And as we mentioned above, age is one of the most crucial factors influencing the price of a bonsai tree.

Massive bonsai trees also tend to be prized for their aesthetic beauty. They make an unforgettable addition to any home or well-manicured garden.

Similarly, some of the most expensive goldfish in the world are also priced based on their size. But a larger-than-average bonsai tree’s price doesn’t only come down to its age and heft.

After all, these trees rarely ever reach a decent size without constant maintenance and care.

Skill Level

Caring for a bonsai tree can be a lifelong process. Not only can bonsai trees live for hundreds (and potentially thousands) of years, but they’re susceptible to environmental changes.

Ensuring that a bonsai tree remains healthy requires in-depth gardening knowledge and a delicate hand. Many bonsai tree enthusiasts may unintentionally kill their prized trees when transferring them to a larger container.

These trees also require daily watering and occasional pruning. The most prized bonsai trees receive both maintenance pruning and structural pruning.

Some of the most expensive bonsai trees are also the result of extensive grafting, allowing them to express characteristics of multiple bonsai plants. But the grafting process is particularly time-consuming and can potentially damage an otherwise healthy bonsai tree.

The skill level required to care for a bonsai tree is incredible. Many of the world’s most dedicated bonsai experts have spent their entire lives cultivating and maintaining these ornamental trees, improving their craft along the way.

Some bonsai trees are even passed along through multiple generations. Consequently, these plants aren’t the best choice for beginner-level gardeners.

The amount of time and energy poured into producing a particular bonsai also contributes to its overall cost. For example, a multi-century bonsai that’s expertly pruned might cost between $5,000 and $1,000,000.

Compare this to a relatively new bonsai (seven years old or less) without artistic pruning, like a simple Miniature Spruce bonsai. This plant typically only costs between $30 and $50.

Most Expensive Bonsai Tree: Summary List

  1. Yamaki Pine Bonsai
  2. Old Juniper Bonsai
  3. Old Pine Bonsai
  4. Five-Needle Pine Bonsai
  5. Shimpaku Juniper Bonsai
  6. Ginseng Ficus Bonsai
  7. Trident Maple Bonsai
  8. Dwarf Hinoki Cypress Bonsai
  9. Flowering Chinzan Azalea Bonsai
  10. Japanese Black Pine Bonsai

10. Japanese Black Pine Bonsai

Japanese-Black-Pine-Bonsai

The Japanese Black Pine bonsai tree might not be the most aesthetically-pleasing bonsai, but it is one of the priciest. This twig-like tree has a curvy trunk and bright green needles, making it a distinctive bonsai tree.

Older Japanese Black Pine bonsai trees have a refined look you won’t find in younger specimens. While more immature plants might sell for $1,600, older trees can sell for far more.

Why It’s Expensive

Due to age and cultural significance, the Japanese Black Pine bonsai can be pricey. However, these trees can also grow to more than 20 feet tall, making larger specimens incredibly expensive.

9. Flowering Chinzan Azalea Bonsai

Flowering-Chinzan-Azalea-Bonsai

Did you know that bonsai trees can produce tiny flowers? Flowering bonsai trees are popular, especially among intermediate-level bonsai gardeners.

But the Flowering Chinzan Azalea bonsai might be the priciest flowering bonsai tree. It produces vibrant pink flowers that bloom during the summer. Still, don’t be surprised to find these trees selling for $2,500 or more!

Why It’s Expensive

This bonsai tree might not grow to a large size, but it is one of the most beautiful types of flowering bonsai. Additionally, well-maintained Flowering Chinzan Azalea bonsai trees can live for centuries, making them worthwhile investments for any discerning gardener.

8. Dwarf Hinoki Cypress Bonsai

Dwarf-Hinoki-Cypress-Bonsai

Have you ever dreamed of having a conifer tree on your patio table? If so, you might instantly fall in love with the Dwarf Hinoki Cypress bonsai tree.

The greenish-blue foliage of this bonsai plant is undeniably captivating. The Dwarf Hinoki Cypress bonsai is also one of the most uncommon bonsai tree types, making it relatively expensive. These trees often sell for between $2,000 and $4,000.

Why It’s Expensive

The primary reason the Dwarf Hinoki Cypress bonsai is so costly is its rarity. Though this tree is somewhat common throughout Southern Japan, it’s virtually absent from the rest of the world.

The uniquely shaped and colored foliage also contributes to this bonsai tree’s high price.

7. Trident Maple Bonsai

Trident-Maple-Bonsai

Like full-sized maple trees, the Trident Maple bonsai tree has foliage that changes colors as the seasons change! Naturally, this bonsai does best when kept outdoors.

The Trident Maple bonsai is prized among bonsai gardeners and enthusiasts due to its color-changing leaves, multi-shaded trunk, and natural drought-resistant properties. But this bonsai is pricier than the world’s most expensive train rides, with a standard listed price of $15,000 or more.

Why It’s Expensive

Bonsai gardeners are always looking for unique, high-value trees to add to their garden. And the Trident Maple bonsai tree is one of the most distinctive and extraordinary options.

Its color-changing, soft leaves make it a natural treasure for anyone passionate about bonsai trees. The most expensive Trident Maple trees also feature umbrella-shaped tops and no low-hanging branches.

6. Ginseng Ficus Bonsai

Ginseng-Ficus-Bonsai

Ficus trees might be a common indoor plant, but the Ginseng Ficus bonsai is unique. One of the most stunning features of this tree is its root system.

Unlike other bonsai trees, the Ginseng Ficus tree’s roots grow above the soil, resulting in finger-like structures that elevate the tree. As a result, these plants are considered some of the most beautiful types of bonsai trees. They often sell for $60,000 or more.

Why It’s Expensive

This bonsai tree’s price primarily stems from its aesthetic beauty and unique growing habits. However, age and size can also contribute to a specific Ginseng Ficus bonsai tree’s price tag.

5. Shimpaku Juniper Bonsai

Shimpaku-Juniper

Bonsai trees grown outdoors or in the wild tend to fetch higher prices than those cultivated in indoor environments. The Shimpaku Juniper bonsai thrives in outdoor gardens, which is one of the many aspects that makes it one of the priciest bonsai trees.

These delicate plants require near-daily needle pinching, a technique that helps the foliage develop. They also require constant misting to remain healthy.

These bonsai trees can sell for as little as $30 when they’re young and unkempt. But older, artistically pruned Shimpaku Juniper bonsai trees can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Why It’s Expensive

The Shimpaku Juniper is one of the costliest bonsai trees due to the care required to grow one. Cultivators must tend to this tree’s needs every day, sometimes several times a day, to keep it healthy and help it flourish.

Additionally, these bonsai trees can continue growing for hundreds of years. Like other types of bonsai trees, the oldest Shimpaku Juniper bonsai trees can fetch jaw-droppingly high prices.

4. Five-Needle Pine Bonsai

Five-Needle-Pine-Bonsai

Many of the world’s most expensive bonsai trees are Japanese white pine trees, called five-needle pines. The five-needle pine is one of the fastest-growing bonsai trees in the world, with an average annual height gain of about two feet.

As a result, these trees tend to grow into some of the tallest bonsai trees, a feature that contributes to its high price tag. Many five-needle bonsai trees are decades (or centuries) old, and it’s not unusual to find one selling at auction for $600,000 or more.

Why It’s Expensive

The five-needle pine bonsai is one of the costliest bonsai trees due to its fast-growing nature. These trees can grow up to six feet in height!

However, age and cultivation practices also contribute to the price of these plants. Many of the oldest and well-pruned five-needle pine bonsai trees sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars!

3. Old Pine Bonsai

The-1.3M-Bonsai-in-Takamatsu
photo source: Setouchi Explorer

In 2012, the city of Takamatsu hosted the International Bonsai Convention. One of the trees displayed during this convention was an Old Pine bonsai (technically a five-needles pine).

This massive bonsai tree is approximately 300 years old and stood about three feet tall when Seiji Morimae sold it. It has a thick, twisted trunk and delicately pruned branches covered with tiny ball-like tufts of needles.

This tree is considered one of the most expensive plants in the world due to its ¥100,000,000 (about $870,000 based on USD to JPY exchange rate today. If we use the average USD to JPY exchange rate in 2012: 79.9608, it’s equivalent to 1.3 million dollars in 2012) price tag.

Why It’s Expensive

Like other pricey bonsai trees, the Old Pine bonsai is expensive due to its age and size. However, another reason why this tree sold for thousands of yen is its history of maintenance.

While some long-lived bonsai trees spent most of their lives growing in the wild, this particular bonsai has enjoyed centuries of dedicated care. It was passed down from one expert-level caretaker to another for several generations, resulting in a high-quality tree that’s truly one-of-a-kind.

2. Old Juniper Bonsai

Unfortunately, there’s not much information about the most expensive Old Juniper bonsai. We know that it sold in 1981 for $2,000,000 (more than $6,000,000 today), but apart from that, the buyer seems to be keeping things private.

This tree was about 250 years old at the time of its sale. Depending on its pruning and cultivation, this tree could stand between three and six feet tall and spread to three feet in width.

Why It’s Expensive

It’s challenging to determine the precise reason why the Old Juniper bonsai sold for such a high price. After all, there aren’t any publically-available pictures of this tree, and the buyer’s information is also unavailable.

However, we can make a few guesses about why this tree is so expensive. Firstly, the Old Juniper bonsai is a few centuries old, making it rarer than younger bonsai trees.

Secondly, Juniper bonsai trees can grow to fantastic sizes and exhibit unique trunk formations. The buyer who snapped up this tree back in 1981 may have been impressed by its size and appearance.

Still, this tree’s story will remain a mystery until the buyer decides to share their story.

1. Yamaki Pine Bonsai

The-Yamaki-Pine-Bonsai-Survived-Hiroshima
photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Though some bonsai trees are expensive due to their size and age, others a priceless due to their cultural and historical significance. A fantastic example of this is the Yamaki Pine bonsai.

This tree sits inside the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington, D.C., but it originates from Japan. Masaru Yamaki, a Japanese bonsai gardener, donated the tree to the museum in the 1970s.

The Yamaki Pine bonsai is a Japanese white pine, but its bark is darker than an average five-needle pine tree. This darker coloration is a lasting reminder of the Yamaki Pine bonsai’s incredible history.

Though Yamaki didn’t sell the tree to the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, its worth is almost incalculable, making it the world’s most priceless bonsai tree.

Why It’s Expensive

The Yamaki Pine is one of the most potentially expensive bonsai trees in the world, so much so that it’s considered priceless. This high value partially stems from the tree’s age, as the Yakami Pine is almost 400 years old.

However, the most significant reason the Yakamki Pine bonsai might be the most expensive tree in the world is that it’s historically important.

On August 6, 1945, at 8:16 in the morning, the Enola Gay (a U.S. bomber plane) dropped an atomic bomb over Hiroshima. This bomb decimated the Japanese city, killing approximately 80,000 people in mere seconds.

The bomb also destroyed about 67% of the city’s buildings and most of its foliage, leaving blackened ruins and raging fires behind in its wake. But the centuries-old Yamaki Pine survived the blast, one of the few living creatures to do so.

Considering how sensitive bonsai trees are to environmental changes, this tree’s survival is astounding. Today, it’s lovingly maintained and occasionally repotted to ensure its roots remain healthy.

Choose a Highly Valued Bonsai Tree

The most expensive bonsai tree might not be for sale, you that doesn’t mean you can’t own a highly valued bonsai tree. The best way to find famous bonsai trees for sale is to visit bonsai conventions, particularly those held in Japan.

Of course, you can also shop online from reputable retailers like Bonsai Boy and Eastern Leaf. But, of course, you’ll need a few hundred (or several thousand) dollars available to purchase a top-notch bonsai!

Would you like to learn more about the world’s most expensive items? Feel free to browse our blog right now!

Eric Lyons

Eric is a subject-matter expert on the world's most expensive luxuries and collectibles. He has explored thousands of luxuries and collectibles over the past few years and now brings them to readers around the world.

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