Japanese Greybark Elm


Japanese Greybark Elm (Zelkova)

The Japanese Greybark Elm has been a popular species of Bonsai for centuries. Naturally lending itself to the broom style design, some credit this species for being the originator of the broom style. With its signature grey bark and green leaves that turn to yellow, orange, red and even purple in the fall, the Japanese Greybark Elm makes a beautiful specimen— prized for its vigorous growth as well as its natural ability to create good ramification. 

Japanese Greybark Elms are often shown during their dormancy stage in the fall and winter and are highly regarded for their ramification, which is why the Japanese Greybark Elm is a species that is admired year-round. 


Watering: moderate watering, making sure the soil does not completely dry out in the summer. In the winter, while dormant, very little water is needed. 

Training: When grown in containers, the Japanese Greybark Elm will consistently reduce foliage size naturally. Let new shoots grow out to at least six leaves, before pruning back to two leaves. Japanese Greybark Elm is often styled in a broom design but can also be trained to create fascinating trunk movement if training begins early. 

Pruning: usually performed in the fall, winter or early spring, before new leaves emerge. 

Repotting: it is recommended to repot every two to three years when young, older trees can wait four to six years before repotting. 


YOUNG: 18" - 24" tall, comes in a 6" grower's pot.

These are not seeds - But an Actual Living Bonsai Tree.

Please see our Choosing a Bonsai page for the age and dimensions regarding the different stages of our Bonsai (Baby, Young, & Mature).

Soil (Substrate)

Bonsai soils are usually a mixture of organic potting compost (Pine Bark or Forest Floor), Akadamapumice, lava rock in varying amounts. 

It is important for the soil have good water retention while also draining well, along with very good aeration. The quality of the soil directly affects the health, size and growth of your tree. One of the worst things you can do to your tree is plant it in regular garden soil. Garden soil hardens when it drys and can often lead to a disadvantage when growing a Bonsai. 

Soil mixtures can be purchased here, but given their weight and cost of shipping, you can also easily make your own. 


Depending on the type of Bonsai you're growing, here are the general formulas for successful mixtures. 

Deciduous Tree (Leafy and looses leafs in the fall)

50% Akadama

20% Pumice

20% Lava Rock

10% Potting Compost


Coniferous Tree (Evergreen like Juniper, Cedar)

1/3 Akadama

1/3 Pumice

1/3 Lava Rock


If you are not able to check on your Bonsai's moisture levels daily, add more Akadama to the mix. 

Given how these soils erode over time, repotting every 2-3 years is required. 


Here are some suitable replacements if you cannot find the recommended types of soil.

  • Akadama - fine fired or baked clays, some even recommend cat litter as a substitute. 
  • Pumice - fine crushed aggregates, expanded shale and vermiculite.
  • Lava Rock - This can be replaced with fine gravel or you can also look into purchasing a larger lava rock at a hardware or gardening centre and crushing it. 



One of the best and easiest ways to fertilize your Bonsai, is to add a liquid fertilizer mix when water your Bonsai's once a month during the spring/summer. If your Bonsai looses leaves in the winter there is no need to fertilize it then. If you have a coniferous tree, fertilizing the tree once in the beginning of winter and once in the middle of winter should be sufficient.


Customer Reviews

Based on 4 reviews
Mike Carbe (Aurora, CA)
Japanese Grey Bark Elm good size

It is winter and the tree is in dormancy so it’s hard to evaluate but it’s a good size so I am confident I will be happy with it

Joan Chan (Toronto, CA)

Japanese Greybark Elm

Michael O'Leary (Abbotsford, CA)
update on my gray bark elm

sent you guys an email.. the elm is dong great.. almost 30 " now and many new leaves. Im going into the winter confident it will do fine. thanks for all the advice , you guys are great.


Michael O'Leary (Abbotsford, CA)
gray bark elm

my gray bark elm arrived a month ago.. It has been suffering ever since and is only now showing one or two new leave that might survive. the crew at Bonsai store have been great and given me advice a few times regarding the leaves that are dropping , drying out and falling. Im still hopeful that this is simply a bad case of shock and stress from the shipping. I am in British Columbia on the coast so leaves wont start falling in nature for a few weeks yet. My hope is that it will survive the winter in my unheated greenhouse.

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