I received the above two photos in an email that began:  "I  purchased two juniper bonsai trees about 2 months ago. I was assured by the seller that these trees would thrive indoors. It seems as if both have gotten worst with each passing day. I’ve tried several different combo’s of watering and sun light exposure to no avail .  .  . "

        Such emails have always been common and I'm really, really ashamed and angry at my fellow bonsai professionals who are unethically preying on those who want to experience bonsai! I finally got angry enough to write the following article with the hope that it can begin to stop "indoor bonsai" fraud!  ~~~David

By David W. Fukumoto,  Fuku-Bonsai president & founder (david.f@fukubonsai.com)

            INDOOR BONSAI FRAUD has been present even as bonsai was becoming known!  It continues today and I request everyone who reads this to help stop "INDOOR BONSAI" fraud. 

            When I began bonsai in 1962, there was very little information about bonsai and ads in major national magazines sold imported Japanese bonsai (including expensive old juniper bonsai).  The ads promoted them as attractive prestigious interior decorations.  That was really blatant fraud. The American Bonsai Society led the battle and that notorious company was out of business in a year or two.

           But there continues to be widespread variations that preys on the attractiveness of bonsai and desire to own one. As a bonsai professional,  I've done all that I could to provide information to try to stop what I consider extremely unethical and borderline fraud! If you Google "INDOOR BONSAI"  you'll see what constitutes various levels of "indoor bonsai" fraud.  SHOULDN'T THIS BE STOPPED?

          There are different claims and because someone somewhere was successful growing a juniper bonsai indoors,  some venders (and Google) believe that junipers are "indoor bonsai."  ISN'T THAT A FORM OF FRAUD?

           Like President Bill Clinton defended,  it depends upon your definition.  SO WHAT DOES "INDOOR BONSAI" MEAN? 

            Most believe that INDOOR BONSAI will grow indoors.  THEY'RE WRONG AND THEY ARE BEING SCAMMED! It's time for organizations like the American Bonsai Society and companies like Google to provide ethical leadership to not condone or participate in INDOOR BONSAI FRAUD.


            Upon receiving the first photos and information that he had purchased what appeared to be a high quality light unit that is normally used for production of fresh greens in homes. I asked him to try it,  watering the bonsai by submerging the pot up to the rim in water for 30 minutes weekly and placing it on the unit's humidity tray. Two weeks later I received four photos and the following:

           "Although it has been a very slow process, one of the Bonsai appears to have gained some color back in the foliage. The leaves were at one time very brown, brittle and dry to the touch. The foliage would fall off when disturbed. The leaves that were starting to turn brown now appear to be recovering in some areas.  I have noticed this with the taller bonsai; it is closer to the light fixture. The grow light system I purchased has a self-watering feature. Although this would not directly water the bonsai while planted within the pots, I hoped that the saturated mat that resides within the chamber would promote humidity for the root system."

             If any reader has any experience in growing juniper bonsai indoors (not just wintering over indoors), please contact me as soon as possible.           ______________________________________________________________________


            We really don't want to have anything to do with those who promote and condone the unethical use of "INDOOR BONSAI."  But we have a problem.  Should we quit the American Bonsai Society and Bonsai Clubs International or shall we continue to support and assist them in spite of them condoning and participating in the misleading use of "INDOOR BONSAI"?

            We have the highest respect for Google as they led all search engines in trying to list websites based upon the validity of the content. www.fukubonsai.com clearly is the most valid "indoor bonsai." But when you Google "INDOOR BONSAI"  the Fuku-Bonsai website now does not show up until page 3.  If Google looks at each of the websites that are listed before Fuku-Bonsai, they should recognize that they have a problem and they are not being true to their content validity commitment.

            If you click on GOOGLE IMAGES for INDOOR BONSAI,  the first photos of individuals are David Fukumoto of Fuku-Bonsai from our website along with other photos from our website and those of our associates who are authorized to use our copywrited photos.  Apparently Google feels its okay to use our copywrited photos but they can play it fast and loose in applying their own definition of INDOOR BONSAI. 

            We have the highest respect for Google and in early days, their commitment to content validity put us on the first page.  HAS GOOGLE ABANDONED THEIR COMMITMENT TO CONTENT VALIDITY?  HOW DO WE BRING THIS TO THEIR ATTENTION?  IS THERE ANYONE OUT THERE WHO CAN HELP?

            We believe the improper use of the term "INDOOR BONSAI" is what is holding back people from successfully growing bonsai.  We believe most want to grow bonsai in ordinary homes and offices without any additional supplemental lights as they currently do now when they grow houseplants. 

           JUNIPER BONSAI ARE AMONGST THE MOST BLATANT INDOOR BONSAI FRAUDS.  Junipers are clearly outdoor shrubs and trees.  It is extremely doubtful that any ethical person would go on record that junipers could become "houseplants."  If there is such a person, I publically challenge them to state their case and rebut this article.  THOSE WHO PROMOTE JUNIPER BONSAI AS INDOOR BONSAI ARE AMONGST THE WORST OF INDOOR BONSAI FRAUD AND SHOULD BE CHALLENGED FIRST!


           We don't want anything to do with those who are unethically promoting INDOOR BONSAI and trademarked "TRUE INDOOR BONSAI"  to differentiate.  This has produced heated exchanges with unethical bonsai venders who objected to my trademarked term.  They asked:  Are you implying that they are selling "False Indoor Bonsai"? 

            If they are selling Juniper Bonsai as indoor bonsai, the answer is "YES!"  If they are selling plants that are not ever shown in any houseplant magazine or reference book the answer is still "YES!"

            So what about FICUS that are shown in houseplant magazines?  At one time we believed that ficus bonsai would become our specialty.  We researched over 200 ficus species, varieties and clones as a research affiliate of the Harold Lyon Arboretum of the University of Hawaii at Manoa who have one of the largest ficus collections in the world.  In 1979, in three quarterly issues of the American Bonsai Society Journal, I published a series of papers of our study titled: "FICUS; An Inspiration for Bonsai for Indoors." I concluded that ficus requires much more light than is available in most ordinary homes and offices and that supplemental light is needed and recommended to grow it as bonsai indoors. 

            That recommendation holds true today and I am very proud that Jerry Meislik took over where I left off and is now the leading FICUS BONSAI authority and author of FICUS; THE EXOTIC BONSAI.  I am especially proud that he is a contributing editor of the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai and that he allows our readers to contact him at  jerry@bonsaihunk.us if they have questions about ficus bonsai.


       1.    Contact Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Ebay, Wikipedia and all other pubic organizations to ask them to establish an exemplary ethical definition for "INDOOR BONSAI" and to point out that the term is very commonly and unethically misused in a deceptive manner. 

       2.    Contact every possible vender who advertises "INDOOR BONSAI" to require them to justify their use of that term in a borderline fraudulent and misleading manner.  Shouldn't every bonsai vender subscribe to the highest ethical standards?

       3.    Join Fuku-Bonsai's effort to stop unethical use of "INDOOR BONSAI."


              I recognize that I am creating controversy but that it is a necessary way to stop unethical sales that consistently lead to failure. 

              Should search engines participate and condone the unethical and deceptive use of the term INDOOR BONSAI including showing Juniper Bonsai in Google Images? 

              Shouldn't Amazon, Ebay, and all venders establish a higher ethical standard or be chastised for participating in misrepresentation? 

               Shouldn't honorable resources such as Wikipedia improve their presentation on "INDOOR BONSAI?"

               I will do what I can to continue my long battle and remain committed to trying to help everyone to successfully grow bonsai.  Please contact me at david.f@fukubonsai.com if you have comments on this article or ideas to improve the situation.  ~~~David W. Fukumoto

*** Return to the August 2014 issue of Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
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© Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2014