Bonsai or Mallsai?

Recently over at’s forums, someone lamented about the poor conditions of the bonsai at a Home Depot store that were dried out and uncared for.  Routinely, these are called “mallsai” because they are packaged for uneducated buyers to take home a tree from The Karate Kid.  Here’s my response to this and there are several other good responses in the thread:

The “mallsai” problem is really not a problem with the vendors. It’s uneducated people buying a tree when they know nothing about bonsai. If they didn’t buy, the vendors wouldn’t be there. A real bonsai nursery must not be able to keep up with the volume or price point, because Home Depot is not opposed to better quality at the same price.

So, basically, mallsai is a cheap test for every bonsai owner. Do you want to learn about this? Or is an ornament for your desk. There has to be vendors out there that would satisfy the ornament on your desk customers. And I wouldn’t want that to pre-bonsai trees raised with care. For the people that really want to learn about bonsai, it was a cheap entry fee into a world that is a lot more complex than they initially thought.

So, the system works. The main thing any real bonsai artist should be concerned about is easy access to good information. Books, online articles, etc. This should be one of the main objectives of any bonsai society that is struggling.

Ohh, anytime I see that someone “rescued a mallsai” I wince. You just promoted more poor quality bonsai trees to be put on the market. This is not unlike the pet world where people buy puppies at pet stores that usually get their puppies from puppy farms. Caring dog owner forums complain about these puppy farm sales all the time. It’s heartbreaking to see the conditions of these places. Just like I’m sure it’s heartbreaking to see the conditions that these bonsai are sold at.

Here is a link to the thread:

Here is another good post on the importance of research before buying:

The sad thing is, if your reading this, then you probably are researching or you have already bought a mallsai and are now researching how to care for it.  I still think it’s important that when you start thinking about getting a second or third tree, that you do not buy these mallsai to “rescue” them or because they are cheap and readily available.  Buy from a bonsai nursery or step over to the nursery section at that Home Depot and buy nursery stock that you intend to develop into a bonsai over time.

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