EPCOT Bonsai Show Entry Application


EPCOT Bonsai Show Entry Application

Epcot 2024 Entry Application

Welcome and history overview

  • Since the beginning of the Flower and Garden Festival in 1997, Bonsai Societies of Florida (BSF) has partnered with Walt Disney World (WDW) to display Bonsai in the Japanese Pavilion at Epcot. However, this is no ordinary display and by no means is it the usual process for creating an exhibit.   What looks to a Disney ticket holder as perhaps just another exhibit among the thousands of plants and flowers, took months of planning to have the trees on their stands.  

Purpose of this display

  • As per the BSF By-Laws, the purpose of BSF, in part, is to:
    • To advance the education of its members and the general public in the aesthetic, historical, scientific, technical skills, business, and social features of the art of bonsai.
    • To promote the knowledge, interest, appreciation, and enjoyment of the art of bonsai on the part of its members and the general public.
  • The annual exhibit at Epcot is in line with these goals. Additionally, WDW equally benefits with a world-class Bonsai display during their Flower and Garden Festival.

Criteria and order of preference 


  • WDW and BSF have stipulated the minimum heights (pot and tree) of the two tree categories.
  • Large trees must not be less than 30. ˝
  • Smaller trees must not be less than 20˝
  • These height requirements are adhered to strictly.
  • Trees must have “visual mass” which could be a large trunk or a very full canopy. This is required due to the large-scale setting they will be displayed in.  Small trees would be visually lost against such a grand background at the WDW Japanese Pavilion


  • Trees are displayed from early March through the beginning of July and must be able to tolerate the seasonal and temperature changes.
  • On occasion, the BSF Selecting Committee receives a number of the same species and styles. Although all of very high quality, the committee would only select 1 or 2 of these trees in order to provide more variety to the exhibit. 
  • Cold hardiness and light tolerance are very important, especially at the beginning of the show, so the committee will tend toward trees initially that will survive the entire show in good health.
  • Trees that flower are desirable to be part of the display since they attract WDW guests’ attention.
  • High tree values are a concern, and trees that have a high declared value by their owner will be considered on the potential risk of loss during the show.

Application and photo process

  • Every year the process begins with the collection of entries submitted by Bonsai artists from all parts of Florida. Participants must be a member of BSF in good standing, and dues current.  On average, over seventy trees are submitted for consideration for display during the festival.  The deadline for submitting a tree is December 31st of the year prior to the actual show. 

Review and selection process

  • During the second week of January, the Committee schedules their meeting with Epcot to discuss the proposed Bonsai for display. However, it is not until the committee arrives at Disney that the selection begins.  The Chairman spreads out all the applications on a table showing only the photos.  All information about the tree and the tree’s owners is not shown during selection.  No one on the committee except the chair knows the details of the tree and owner.  Information about tree size, value, and dimension may be provided to assist with decision-making.  By doing this, bonsai selections are based upon the best trees while not being persuaded by the owner.
  • Over the years we have found that it is easier to make a first wave through the photos and eliminate those that are truly not ready for exhibit. Those that are familiar with the Display at Epcot, will know that these trees have to be well developed, established, and healthy.  The best way to have a tree eliminated in the first round is to submit it before it is ready.  Trees that are showing just a basic initial styling, or lack any styling, are quickly removed from the selection pool.  As Bonsai artists ourselves we recognize the potential of bonsai material but know if it has reached an acceptable level of refinement. 
  • The selection of Bonsai continues several more passes through the collection finding “must-haves” or “unusual material done very well”. Since the show started to begin in early March the committee is looking for more cold hardy bonsai as part of the display.  This continues until we have the 18 trees needed for the display.  After this point, we consider which trees would lend themselves better to the 3 different locations at the Japanese Pavilion which include the Torri Gate, Walkway, and the Zen Garden. 
  • Later that same morning we meet with the Disney staff to review the selected trees and discuss any challenges or changes for the upcoming show. This is a good time to go over the previous year’s challenges and successes to better prepare for the next show.

Acceptance and reward

  • Once the work of the selection committee is over, e-mails are sent to the selected exhibitors which provide basic information regarding the actions that we need them to perform. Alternatively, notification e-mails are sent to the non-selected entries.  However, instead of simply saying the tree was not selected, the board tries to offer suggestions on improvements, or reasons why the tree was not accepted. 
  • Since the trees are set up before the park opens, exhibitors and committee members stay on WDW property so that they can be certain to be on time. These rooms are provided by WDW as part of this event. 
  • WDW provides a limited amount of park passes so that exhibitors and volunteers may see the display as a guest. Tickets and rooms are negotiated each year based upon participation and are not guaranteed for exhibitors/committee or volunteers.

Preparation for show

  • There is quite of bit of preparation to prepare for the Epcot display, and that includes preparing the tree, but just as importantly, preparing yourself.


  • INSECTS: Your tree must be pest-free when bringing your tree to the show.  If pests are found on your tree it will not be accepted for the show.  Please apply an insecticidal spray followed by a systemic pesticide to be sure your tree will not transfer insects to the park and will remain healthy during the show.
  • WIRING IN: For the show, your tree MUST be wired into the pot.  This is done by looping wire up through the drain holes of the pot through and over the roots and then twisted together tightly so that the tree cannot be blown or knocked out of its pot.  A wire gauge of 1.5mm – 2.5mm will generally work for this purpose and no wire may be visible above the soil line.
  • MOSSING: Your tree MUST be mossed to cover the surface of all soil of the tree.  The moss should be fresh and green and must be secure enough that it will not blow away or be washed away during heavy rain or watering.  All weeds must be removed and we strongly suggest adding a weed pre-emergent herbicide to prevent weeds from growing during the show.
  • CLEANING POT: The pot for the tree MUST be cleaned to remove all water stains, iron stains, dirt, calcium deposits, etc. that indicate neglect of the pot cleanliness prior to the show.  Pots may be oiled in order to enhance the pot’s color, detail, and shine, however, heavy oils should not be used for this purpose.
  • TREE WIRE: Your tree may be wired during the show but the wire must be all copper or aluminum (not mixed) and the wiring must be done neatly.  Maintenance will be performed during the event by local bonsai artists and the exhibitor will likely be notified if the wire is cutting in or causing damage to the tree at which time the exhibitor may give permission to have the wire removed.
  • FERTILIZER: Your tree should be fertilized prior to the show and we recommend adding a time-release fertilizer under the moss layer to provide additional feeding during the show.  Weekly reports will be e-mailed to exhibitors which may indicate fertilizer should be added.  At that time the exhibitor may recommend a type of fertilizer to apply.  No fertilizer will be added to your tree during the show unless the exhibitor instructs it to be done.
  • WATERING: Your tree will be watered during the show by WDW employees.  During drier times of the festival, morning and evening watering will be performed.  However, on rainy days, the trees will be watered once daily.


  • Prior to and during the show, you will receive a lot of information regarding room reservations, important dates and times, and information about your tree. It is recommended that you thoroughly read this information so that you will arrive on time, at the correct location.  Please keep in mind that at all times you are representing Bonsai Societies of Florida and should act in a professional manner (but have fun too).
  • ACCOMMODATIONS: You may receive a room reservation as the exhibitor for the night prior to the setup and load out.  You may have a guest in your room but you are ultimately responsible for the room. 
  • If you cannot use the room either because you have made arrangements to have your tree brought by someone else or will deliver your tree the following morning then you MUST cancel the room reservation by calling WDW or letting the Committee Chairman know the day of the reservation. Otherwise, BSF will be charged for the room.
  • TICKETS: If offered, tickets will generally be distributed the night before the Setup.  Please be sure to make the Epcot Chairman aware of your arrival at the hotel so we can get the tickets to you.  These tickets are valid for 1 year and can be used for a single park by you or a friend. 


  • The morning after you arrive at the hotel, you must meet inside the security gate at Epcot at 4:30 am with your tree. DO NOT BRING ANYONE WITH YOU that you have not made prior arrangements or notifications with the Committee Chairmen ahead of time.  NO CHILDREN UNDER 16 MAY ENTER THROUGH THE BACK GATE OR ATTEND THE SETUP.  The address for entering will be provided to you before you arrive at the Hotel.  Additionally, instructions will be given once all exhibitors arrive inside the security gate at EPCOT.  Do not go to the Japan Pavilion unless told to do so.
  • LOAD OUT PROCEDURE: Similar to the Set-Up you will arrive at the hotel the night before the  load out to recover your tree.  You will not need a ticket for access.  Please do not bring anyone with you that has not been given approval prior to the event.  We will meet just inside the security gate at the parking lot to your left.  Once all exhibitors have arrived, further information will be provided on when to proceed and how to pick up your tree.  Do not go to the Japan Pavilion without instruction to do so.

Tree set up and placement

  • The first major event that occurs is the day of the setup. It takes place at 4:30 am on the morning of the opening day of the festival.  Exhibitors generally arrive the night before and check into their hotel rooms.
  • No photography/video of any kind may be done while backstage at WDW. No behind scenes may be shared on social media or any other format.

Maintenance during show / Volunteers

  • Throughout the show, we have weekly volunteers that go in to trim the trees to keep them looking as good if not better than when they went in. We provide reports to the exhibitors so that they know the condition of their tree, and if something needs to be done (fertilized, wire removed, pesticide, etc.) they can make an informed decision.
  • If the tree begins to show signs of failing health, pests, or damage, the committee will inform the exhibitor and a decision will be made whether to pull the tree from the show or to monitor the situation. If the tree is pulled from the show, it will be held at a volunteer’s home until it can get back to the owner. 
  • If available, single-day tickets can be distributed as a thank you for helping the program. Any member of BSF can volunteer to help with weekly maintenance but will be escorted by a volunteer with previous experience so that the process may be taught to the new volunteer.  This list fills up very quickly so please reach out to the Committee Chair for available spots on the list. 

BSF Epcot Committee make up

  • Making the decisions on which trees are selected is the BSF Epcot Committee. The committee itself is made up of the Committee Chairman, the BSF president, the Central Florida Bonsai Club president, KAWA Bonsai Club President, and the Bonsai Society of Brevard President.  Many of the committee members have performed these roles many times over the years, whereas others are new to the process.
  • In 2023, the BSF Board voted on a new rule that will  allow any club president, or themself, to have their tree selected if they are on the selecting committee with the following conditions. As BSF members in good standing, the Epcot Committee member may submit trees for consideration for display during the Flower and Garden Festival.  However they may not identify their tree to other committee members, and may not influence the section of, nor select their own tree(s).

BSF limit liability and insurance

  • WDW Requires liability insurance for participants of the Epcot Exhibit, however, trees are not covered for loss for any reason, and neither WDW of BSF may be held liable for these losses.

What is NOT included

  • Meals, fuel, tolls, trailer/car rentals, or any other out-of-pocket expenses.

The entry form must be completed for each tree (maximum of 3 entries) being submitted for Epcot Display consideration.   A photo of the tree must be included in the form or E-mailed separately to Epcot@Bonsai-BSF.com.