Patrick Kilcoyne first figured out how to grow weed in small spaces back in college. A snowboarding accident had left him with plenty of free time and in considerable pain, which he didn’t want to treat with pharmaceuticals. And so, the 32-year-old attempted to simultaneously fill his day and ease his agony by learning to grow weed in a “stealth grow box.” “The size limitations of that box forced me to learn how to grow in a small pot while still keeping the plant happy,” he says.
Fast-forward to quarantine, yet another moment in his life when he was in need of a major distraction. But instead of a small, stealth grow box, he turned to an empty bonsai pot previously buried and forgotten at the back of his garden in San Diego. “When I found it, I figured, ‘What the heck?’”
With some “Blue Gorilla autoflower seeds on hand,” Kilcoyne decided to create a bonsai tree from marijuana. Or as those in the community call it, cannabonsai (or bongsai, depending on who you ask). His first bongsai tree went pretty smoothly, but he’s since “been humbled several times by Mother Nature.” “Growing in such a small pot has its setbacks,” he explains. “But learning how to dance with the plant and get around those speed bumps is half the fun.”
Kilcoyne posts his progress, giving pointers to the growing number of other people who are getting into the hobby, on his YouTube channel Zen Cannabonsai.
“Google Trends never lies, and cannabonsai seems like it’s gaining popularity somewhat exponentially,” says Kilcoyne, who works in social media marketing and is planning to launch his own cannabonsai website later this month.
Besides legality issues, people tend to shy away from growing marijuana at home due to how technical and sophisticated the practice can be. But Kilcoyne is adamant that anyone can learn to grow a cannabonsai. “Beginners don’t need a 4×4 tent or crazy equipment to grow a cannabonsai,” he says, “You just need some soil, a pot, a few autoflower seeds, a light source, a little creativity and a little grit to keep learning and improving if it doesn’t go exactly as planned.”
“There are countless tutorials online about growing cannabis with all kinds of methods for learning the basics,” he continues, “but my number one takeaway from these projects is learning to balance planning with the understanding that nature is chaos and sometimes you simply must go with the flow. I call this ‘dancing with nature.’”
Kilcoyne’s fellow cannabonsai enthusiasts swear this dance has been key to helping them remain calm over the last few highly tumultuous months. “Learning to grow cannabonsai has been more therapeutic than smoking it,” Grozark, a cannabonsai YouTuber, tells me. “I can spend hours getting lost in my plants to ease my mind, which has helped me focus on my mental health and learn to be more patient and deal with unexpected problems in a healthier manner.”
Along those lines, when Kilcoyne needs an escape from a hectic workday, he tends to his cannabonsai. “I spend an inordinate amount of time on screens, and I think any hobby that allows for moving mediation that’s screenless is nothing but positive for the mind and body,” he says. “When I pop in my headphones and work on my plants, it calms and focuses me in a positive way that I really appreciate.”
“Of course,” he laughs, “smoking dank nugs from a weed sculpture you created from nothing is a plus, too.”