Hawthorns belong to the Roseacea family and are a hardy set of thorns, which are highly adaptable and thrive in a variety of locations. They are tolerant of wet and dry conditions and can be pruned hard to encourage new growth. IMG_8323

They have small white fragrant flowers in May and vibrant red fruits (Haws) in autumn. They can be collected as yamadori and there is a wide range of thorns to choose from including the native Common Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna also known as the Quick thorn or May thorn to name but a few.

Here are a few examples of Hawthorn bonsai…

Here is a brief list of the most common Hawthorn species used in bonsai

  • Crataegus crus-galli (Cockspur thorn)
  • Crataegus cuneata (Japanese hawthorn)
  • Crataegus laciniata (Cut leaved form)
  • Crataegus lavigata (Midland thorn)
  • Crataegus lavigata ‘Pauls scarlet’ (Double pink flowers)
Red Hawthorn
  • Crataegus mollis (Red haw)
  • Crataegus nitida (Thornless form)
  • Crataegus x persimilis ‘Prunifolia’
  • Crataegus monogyna ‘Pendula Rosea’ (Pink flowers)
  • Crataegus monogyna ‘Variegata’ (Mottled creamy white leaves)

Typical styles for Hawthorn as bonsai include most styles with the exception of broom and formal uprights.


Pruning hints would include to pinch out the terminal shoots in spring or reduce the length of the shoot by ¾ but avoid doing this too soon as you may loose the flowers.

3rd place Hawthorn_PB

One interesting fact is that the buds of hawthorn are not determined. Conditions will determine whether the buds turn into flowers, thorns or leaves. Therefore, if you heavily prune or root prune a hawthorn, buds that were going to turn into flowers will come out as new leaves.


Hawthorns tend to be top dominant so prune the crown more heavily than the lower branches. Prune close to buds and seal wounds to avoid moisture loss and aid with sealing of the wounds.


For structural pruning, prune the branches after flowering or after leaf fall and if you use wire remember to wire the new growth before this hardens and check it to avoid wire marks forming.


Hawthorns do respond well to the clip and grow technique though and need to be worked hard to develop good ramification and they also back bud on old wood.


Things to watch out for are knuckle formation on branches so prune out branches from the same points.