In 2007,  Fuku-Bonsai introduced the Introductory Workshop Package (IWP-8) which was the long sought "Bonsai Educational Holy Grail"  needed to teach True Indoor Bonsai to isolated interested individuals with no one available to help teach them. They had a daunting challenge!  If they read bonsai books and got interested,  they could not get the plants, soils, wire, and other items described.  But the major problem was that every plant requires a different set of information! By reading a book that talks about many different plants that can grow in many different climatic zones, such books tend to create  confusion and if a person really wants to learn and religiously reads many such books, it becomes a hopeless situation!  So they don't even try, or try and fail repeatedly. 

                Some starter plants with a pot, soil and instruction sheets may be available.  But too often, to keep the cost down, the plants are in the form of seeds of famous bonsai plants like pines or maples that just will not grow except outdoors in only some plant zones.  Many purchase "mall bonsai" that comes with limited information that are really outdoor plants that are labeled "INDOOR BONSAI" that need much more light than available in average homes and offices and most of these die within a year without ever improving. Too many who take a bonsai class given by bonsai clubs fail because they are given outdoor trees while not having the ability to grow the trees. 

                Fuku-Bonsai's Introductory Workshop Package (IWP-8) was a transformational break-through and since it was introduced six years ago,  thousands have been shipped.  Each year we tried to make improvements without increasing the price and it is clearly now a loss-leader with price adjustment scheduled for 2014. 


               More than any other criteria,  we needed to create a high-success kit and to a very large extent, we succeeded.  Unfortunately, there were too many failures when those experienced with outdoor bonsai used the IWP-8 in their beginner bonsai classes and taught the beginners how to grow True Indoor Bonsai based upon their outdoor bonsai experience.  They advised the students not to follow our printed cultural sheets and to water a lot more often.  But when grown indoors, that resulted in plants dying from over-watering.  An autopsy quickly show that the roots died first, then the trunk started to rot and you could peel off the bark (even though there may still be surviving green leaves)!

               Many never contacted us and it took a lot of time and effort to get the word out that if you do not see healthy white root tips, that the plant is not growing well and you should contact us as soon as possible!  Fortunately, many did contact us and slowly the word spread and there's less problems now.  But many still believe that they live in an area that is extremely dry due to heating and air conditioning and most plants are still killed by over-watering or improper watering. 

              Another problem was under-watering where the trunks and branches shrivel,  develop small vertical creases, and completely dehydrate due to improper or under-watering. We advised soaking the plant in water and placing the bowl with plant in the water in a clear plastic bag. The combination of humidity and the water allows the plant to rehydrate in 3 to 6 days.  The trunks become firm and round and new leaves develop!  Under-watering is more successfully addressed than overwatering.  

              The second criteria for success teaches original innovative techniques and providing all components.  It is very labor intensive to properly prepare each of the components and to package such small amounts.  The cultural sheet expanded and will be improved again.  We teach the "coarse bottom hill protected by a plastic separator" system rather than spreading the coarse bottom evenly then placing the body mix directly on it as this results in poor drainage.  The tie-down wire is in the "X-style" as it is a lot more successful than using a single string. We include an accent rock to help develop the student's "bonsai vision" and teach the use of aluminum foil to help preserve moisture when potting high to create impressive rootage. Plants were killed by giving the wrong kind of fertilizer, too much fertilizer, or no fertilizer at all. Success increased after we provides a packet of non-water soluble Nutrient Granules™ that is generally not available (but which is ideal for houseplant bonsai) with every plant we ship.

              But the primary reason for success is the properly pre-trained Dwarf Schefflera in 2" nursery pot.  From experience,  we know that the success rate dramatically increases if the plant is at least 2-3 years old and having survive a dramatic reduction. There needs to be character within one inch of the soil-line and a shallow compact root system within 1/2" of that soil-line. 

              All of this was accomplished with the criteria of keeping the price as low as possible.  There was an attractive price when you purchased one with our flat rate $12 FedEx US shipping.  When three of more was sent to the same address, shipping was free.  When 8 or more was sent to the same address, shipping was free and there was a 25% discount.  When 16 or more was sent to the same address, shipping was free and there was a 50% discount!  Further, to support individuals or clubs who wanted "over-grown" plants to allow them to teach pruning and making cuttings, we selected and grew-out plants at the time the pre-paid order was made and held them for a few extra months at no additional charge!  SO HOW CAN THIS BE IMPROVED?


             At Fuku-Bonsai, plants are trained from both seeds and cuttings using a full range of techniques and this explains the wide range of styling of our plants.  Although it is not the most efficient strategy it produces both the highest quality and diversity of styling potential.  By the time plants are 2-3 years old,  they have been drastically pruned at least once followed by more conservative pruning.  They have gone through 2-3 cycles of our rainy season (in which all plants may not be watered at all for sometimes 3-4 months) and our stress-dry seasons where they get minimal watering. This is just one strategy as we try to make our plants "customer-proof!"

            We're not ashamed to say that plants die, but we believe we are killing and culling out the weak trees! We grow tough trees with methods that few if any hobbyist would employ.  In addition, at 2-3 years, there is a major culling and many plants are set aside to be used in our most popular Small Size Hawaiian Lava Planting or for Introductory Workshop Packages.  Those that do not meet our standards are thrown out and destroyed and this culling session is the key to our quality control. In 2007,  we had amassed enough high-quality 2-3 year plants to meet our production schedule for Small Size Hawaiian Lava Plantings to be able to introduce and offer the Introductory Workshop Packages.

          Those plants that exceed the standard for use in Small Size Lava Plantings and Introductory Workshop Packages are separated and after another year or so, are used for creating Desk Size Lava Plantings or up-potted to become are larger, older bonsai products. Initially we had a hard time producing these older higher quality plants that are used to create our Desk Size Hawaiian Lava Plantings to a point that we stopped selling or limited the desk size to most of our Fuku-Bonsai Hawaii Authorized Retailers. These higher grade plants are needed for desk size, but also to be up-potted to create all larger Fuku-Bonsai products.

           We found that these older higher grade more developed trees have superior qualities and begin a faster growth rate as they reach four to five years old. Perhaps that's why there's a significant quality gap between our small and desk size lava plantings. By the start of 2014, we will have enough inventory to allocate some of these older superior plants to begin offering a Premium Introductory Workshop Package!

                  The above photo shows 16 plants that will be used for the Premium Introductory Workshop Package (PIWP-8) that were taken out of their 2" nursery pots to show the more developed heavier roots.  These are older much stronger plants than used in the original Introductory Workshop Package (IWP-8).  They are higher grade plants with more character,  heavier trunks, multiple trunks, and strong low branches.  They will be part of the a basic PIWP-8  that will be very suitable to learn "SUMO" or "ROOTS" styling and include an 8" diameter x 2" round pot, coarse bottom, body media, fine top dressing, X-tie down wire, plastic separator, accent rock, Nutrient Granules, and cultural information. 

                  It is likely that there will also be another "Root-Over-Rock Premium Workshop Package (RORWP-8) that will have a completed sculptured rock with saddle, root trail crevasses, drilled through tie-down hole, along with other components in PIWP-8 as well as additional items used in root-over-rock plantings. 

                  Like the popular IWP-8,  a single unit can be sent with a $12 FedEx US shipping fee.  When 3 of more are sent to one address,  the shipping will be free.  When 8 or more are sent to one address, shipping will be free and there will be a 25% discount.  When 16 of more are sent to one address, shipping will be free and there will be a 50% discount.  IWP-8, PIWP-8, and RORWP-8 can be mixed to earn the discounts.  These workshops are net priced as our contribution to teaching bonsai and therefore have special quantity discounts.  This discount will be only for these units and cannot be combined with purchase of other Fuku-Bonsai products.  If there are questions or you want to reserve,  please email

                  Because each plant is unique, reasonable variation must be expected. The following photos collectively constitute the standards of plants to be shipped as part of the Premium Introductory Workshop Package (PIWP-8) or the Root-Over-Rock Workshop Package (RORWP-8). FUKU-BONSAI'S LIMITED 10-DAY WARRANTY:  "Fuku-Bonsai guarantees satisfaction and safe arrival of all plants shipped directly from the nursery and if plants arrive in damaged or unsatisfactory condition, immediately contact Fuku-Bonsai for instructions for return via prepaid postal air mail for refund or replacement."


          The above photo of 16 plants show the range of styling with bulk orders. These are usually ordered by clubs or individual teachers and the plants are only available as part of complete kits.

          This photo on the right shows 8 of the 16 plants in the photo above. 8 units are often ordered by members of our study group and part of the assistance they receive is how to prepare them for larger future bonsai using different containers and Sumo and Roots techniques.      

           This photo shows the other 8 of the 16 plants in the photo above to show the minimum and maximum standards that our staff uses to select plants for these workshops.  If you compare them to the plants in the Introductory Workshop Package article  (go to:,  you'll quickly see the difference!

          The large photos below more clearly show details of these 8 premium plants.

         The top two of those in the 8 plant photo above show two with heavy trunks, multiple trunks, low branches and strong root systems with most of the character within 2" of the soil-line!  Such high quality plants that can grow for anyone, anywhere who can grow houseplants is not available anywhere else at any price!

         With such high-potential trees, even beginners can produce nice bonsai!

        These three are on the lower left of the 8-tree photo above.  They are the type we like to use in our Desk Size Hawaiian Lava Plantings so you can see why that item is very popular for gifts by our repeat customers.  If you plant a seed or a seedling into a rock, it is very unlikely that you can ever train the tree to this standard and that's the difference between Fuku-Bonsai and others who try to produce "Lava Bonsai!" 
          These three are at the center right in the 8-tree photo above and show the maximum and minimum standards.  The center tree has a buried 1/2" thick trunk that has had three heavy reductions to produce a nice tapering trunk with a complimenting trunk developing and is the minimum standard. The left and right trees have trunks almost 3/4" across with character, multiple trunks, low branches and very high potential! 

              There really are no secrets to creating high quality bonsai. It requires setting a high professional standard and a rigid quality control that includes consistent culling of sub-standard plants. It requires learning to grow plants at optimum health and vigorous growth so they will strongly regrow when dramatically pruned. It begins with growing the smallest size that can develop lower trunk character within one inch of the soil level. At this 2 to 3 year old stage, the trees are still young but getting stronger. To be able to offer the IWP-8 at an economical price, we use such high-potential younger trees.

              The primary strategy is to first create high-quality small bonsai, then keep them small with disciplined pruning for another 2 years or so. At this point, if you up-pot it, the Premium Introductory Workshop Package will produce high-quality medium size bonsai.  In a similar manner, if a slightly older 4LL8 small potted bonsai is up-potted, it will be well along in developing into our #8LS8 medium potted bonsai which are the highest quality bonsai in its price range. In a similar manner, Advanced Workshop III takes an 8LS8 Potted Bonsai with a #17 Conversion Kit into the potential to match trees in our older larger Custom Collection.

              Those in the study groups who will become Fuku-Bonsai Associates are increasing visiting us for hands-on personal training to learn these techniques. I try to identify their weak areas and set standards higher. In the past year with the issuing of the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai, we've made a giant step towards creating a national Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai Community. The partnership of Fuku-Bonsai and the 501(3)(c) Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation has created the first major vertically integrated organization the will be a major educational resource with the website, Journal, and future publications, videos, etc. We will supply a full range of high quality plants for gifts or to be grown-on to become more developed bonsai. But I am most excited about developing the ability to assist individuals or groups and the study group membership is the beginning stages of becoming a Fuku-Bonsai Associate. I invite those who are willing and able to consider teaching others to join in our effort. Please contact me if more information is needed. ~~~David (

***  Go to the article: "First Premium Introductory Workshop Trial"
***  Return to the October 2013 issue of Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
***  Go to Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website
***  Go to Fuku-Bonsai website
        ©  Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2013