How to Make Formal Upright Bonsai Tree?

Creating bonsai is a living art project. Though no two bonsai look exactly the same, some definite styles are common among different bonsai. In this article, we will discuss what is a formal upright style of bonsai and how to make one.

Basic Bonsai Styles:

There are many wonderful bonsai styles, but all of the styles are basically divided into two types:

  1. Formal style or Koten
  2. Informal style or Bunjin

For any formal style of bonsai, the tree trunk is wider at the base and tapered towards the top. Whereas in the informal styles of bonsais tree trunk is tapered at the bottom and it gradually becomes wider at the top.

The formal style is generally easier to master between the two.

What Is Upright Bonsai?

An upright bonsai is a style where the main stem or the trunk of the bonsai remains more or less straight and pointed upwards. In this style, the apex of the bonsai and base remains in a vertical straight line.

The upright bonsai can be of two types: 

  • Upright formal bonsai (Or Chokkan), and 
  • Upright informal bonsai (or Moyogi)  

What Is A Formal Upright Bonsai Tree?

This is an upright bonsai with vertical trunk and branches that go smaller as they grow upwards. The total shape is somewhat pyramidal and it resembles a giant conifer.

The formal upright style is the easiest of styles for a bonsai. You don’t have to experiment very much with formal upright bonsai. The idea of this style is to mimic the growth of a tree when it is under perfect natural growing conditions.

Here are some of the formal upright bonsai rules That you need to maintain:

  • The trunk of the bonsai should be perfectly straight.
  • It (trunk) should be tapering evenly and naturally from base to top.
  • The space between the branches of the bonsai should be symmetrically spaced.
  • The total structure should look balanced when you see it from any direction.

It is not that hard to do, and the results are stunning.

Difference With The Informal Upright Bonsai.

The informal upright bonsai or moyogi is also a very popular bonsai style. The basic difference between a formal upright bonsai and the informal upright bonsai is that in the latter type the trunk is not as perfectly straight as a chokkan and has some bend in it.

The trunk in informal upright will angle or snake its way skywards, but the top of the tree stays directly over the point where the tree enters the soil.

Best Plants For Formal Upright Bonsai Tree:

The best way to select a tree for any type of bonsai is to look at their natural habitat and see how the tree grows naturally. It’s simply not a wise decision to take a 180-degree change in the way to grow in nature.

Deciduous trees are not very suitable for creating a formal upright bonsai. Coniferous species generally work best with this style.

Some of the most popular species for Formal upright bonsai style are:

  • Junipers
  • Spruces 
  • Pines 
  • Yew
  • Maple
  • Cypress 

Plants That Are Not Ideal For A Formal Upright Bonsai: 

Not all plants do well in a formal upright bonsai style. This is because not all of them grow in a formal upright style in nature.

So if you try any of these trees you will have to battle against their instinct and end up with an ugly looking bonsai.

Some of the trees you should avoid for formal upright or chokkan style are:

  • Pyracantha 
  • Crab Apple 
  • Cherry 

How to Make Formal Upright Bonsai Tree:

Creating a formal upright bonsai tree is not very hard. You can follow these steps to make your own chokkan.

Select The Tree Sample:

The first step in creating your formal upright bonsai is to choose your plant. Here are some basic points to consider:

  • Select an ideal conifer of your liking. 
  • Avoid deciduous trees as far as possible 
  • The tree should not have a lot of thin roots.  

If you want to select a nursery sapling, choose the one whose trunk rises up from the ground in a fairly straight line. Make sure it doesn’t have any bend or fork in its line of growth. 

Trim off the twigs or small branches that are near the main stem, they are unnecessary distractions for a formal upright bonsai.

Choose An Ideal Bonsai Pot:

There is a direct relation between the style of the bonsai and the style of the pot. As your bonsai is a formal upright style choose a rectangular pot for growing the bonsai. It will look best in this.

Work On The Roots Of The Bonsai:

As this style represents big giant trees you need to show a good root system to hold on to the structure.

To make the root system visible, trim the parts of the deeper roots when you repot your bonsai. This will make the surface roots grow more and become easily visible.

Don’t forget to give water and fertilizers from time to time to ensure proper growth of the roots.

Work On The Trunk. How To Get A Tapper :

The taper is a very distinctive feature of formal upright style bonsai. To get a taper cut off the growing tip of either branch or trunk.

Then, wire up the new branch into the desired position so that it can form the apex.

Work on The Branches:

Remove all the small twigs at the bottom 1/3rd of the tree. This area needs to be free of any branches.

The first branch will come after the 1/3rd area of the trunk. This branch will be the most developed branch of the bonsai. It also should be the thickest branch.

You will need some trimming and wiring to make this happen.

Also, make sure the branches of the bonsai should not point towards the viewer. The ideal way is to be out to the sides.

To make them look more natural the branches at the bottom should be pointed a little bit downwards. Whereas the branches at the top should point upwards. This is what a tree grown in nature looks like.

A little bit of help from wiring will easily achieve this.

The best part of creating a formal upright bonsai style is that it is easy enough for a beginner to start, and also challenging enough for experts so that they don’t get bored.