Bonsais require patience, skill, and dedication to create a tree that resembles a natural tree in every aspect, but in a small size. While it is true that anyone can start growing a bonsai tree, it is not an easy task. It takes years to develop the necessary skills to grow and care for a bonsai tree. Bonsai trees are living organisms that require constant attention, care, and maintenance to thrive. In this guide, we’ll cover some of the key factors you need to consider when growing a bonsai tree and provide you with some tips on how to make your journey successful.
The Art of Bonsai
Bonsai is a living art form that originated from the Chinese Empire around 700 AD, known as ‘pun-sai’, which focused on cultivating dwarf trees in containers using special techniques such as shallow planting, pruning, defoliation, grafting, and root reduction (source). The art of bonsai takes years of careful maintenance, care, and patience, which can make it challenging for beginners (source).
Creating a beautiful bonsai requires mastering various techniques such as pruning to shape the tree’s trunk and branches. Trunks are wired into desired shapes that mimic the appearance of a mature tree in miniature(source). In addition, proper watering and repotting practices are essential to ensure the health of the tree and prevent it from becoming pot-bound (source).
When growing a bonsai tree indoors, it is crucial to maintain a temperature between 75°-80°F (24°-27°C) and provide bright light without direct sunlight as it can cause the leaves to dry out (source). These factors contribute to the complexity of growing bonsai trees, but with dedication and proper care, one can create a stunning piece of living art.
Choosing the Right Plant
When starting a bonsai journey, selecting the appropriate plant is essential for success. Different tree species require diverse care techniques and can affect the difficulty of growing and maintaining a bonsai tree. Beginners may want to consider low-care varieties, such as ficus and jade, to help ease the learning process.
When choosing a plant, consider factors such as climate, available sunlight, and your ability to provide the specialized care needed by each species. Certain types, like deciduous, sub-tropical, or tropical bonsai trees, might need different levels of attention. Morning sun and afternoon shade are typically ideal for light requirements, but it’s crucial to research the specific needs of your chosen plant source.
To further assist in selecting the right bonsai, take note of these key factors:
- Soil mixture: Choose a suitable soil blend based on the tree species to ensure optimal growth source.
- Re-potting frequency: Most bonsai trees require re-potting every two years to maintain healthy roots and prevent the tree from becoming pot-bound source.
- Fertilizing: Fertilizing practices vary by tree type, but generally, bonsai trees should be fertilized throughout their growing season (early spring to mid-fall) source.
Armed with this knowledge, beginners can more effectively choose a bonsai tree species that suits their environment and skill level.
Time and Patience: The Bonsai Growth Process
Growing a bonsai tree requires substantial time and dedication, especially for beginners. When starting from scratch by planting a seed, it might take approximately 10 to 15 years before the plant fully matures and becomes a bonsai(source).
During the initial growth period, bonsai enthusiasts should expect to spend around five to ten years nurturing the tree before it is ready for stylistic training and shaping. This process is challenging for new growers(source). However, selecting an already established specimen may save time and ease the process for newcomers.
Maintaining a bonsai tree includes regular repotting, ideally every two years, to prevent the tree from becoming pot-bound and to facilitate proper water uptake and storage(source). Watering frequency depends on various factors, such as the climate and soil type. It is essential to monitor the tree and its soil conditions, adjusting watering schedules accordingly instead of sticking to a routine(source).
Creating the Ideal Environment
Potting and Soil
Bonsai trees require a well-draining soil mixture to ensure proper growth and health. This typically involves a combination of organic and inorganic materials in the right proportions, such as Akadama, lava rock, and pine bark
The frequency of repotting and root pruning can vary depending on the species, age, and size of the bonsai, but most need to be repotted every 2 years to prevent them from becoming pot-bound which makes it harder for them to soak up and store water (Bonsai Empire).
Proper watering is crucial for the health of a bonsai tree, as it has a reduced rootball. It is important to water based on the needs of the tree, rather than following a strict schedule. To do this, regularly feel the soil and water it when it feels dry just below the surface (The Old Farmer’s Almanac).
Water the bonsai using a hose sprayer until the soil is saturated, or submerge the entire pot in water up to the rim to ensure proper hydration.
Light and Temperature
Bonsai trees thrive in an environment with plenty of natural light. However, it is important to avoid direct sunlight, which can dry out their leaves (The Bonsai Master). Aim for bright, indirect light to encourage healthy growth.
Indoors, maintain a temperature between 75° – 80°F (24°-27°C) in order to keep the bonsai tree healthy. Different species may have specific requirements, so research the individual needs of the tree you are growing to ensure its success (Bonsai Tonight).
Care and Maintenance
Pruning and Shaping
Pruning and shaping are essential aspects of bonsai tree care. They involve trimming the branches and leaves to maintain the desired shape and promote healthy growth. It’s important to use sharp, clean tools and to prune the tree during the appropriate season based on the tree species. Beginners should follow proper techniques to avoid damaging the tree or stunting its growth. (source)
Feeding your bonsai tree with the right nutrients is crucial for its overall health and growth. Bonsai trees typically require a balanced fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which can be applied during the growing season. It’s important to follow the feeding instructions specific to the bonsai species and adjust the feeding frequency based on various factors like climate, soil-type, and age of the tree. (source)
Pest and Disease Control
Keeping a bonsai tree healthy and free from pests and diseases requires regular monitoring and appropriate preventive measures. Regularly inspect the tree for signs of infestations, such as discolored leaves or visible pests. In case of any issues, it’s crucial to promptly treat the tree with appropriate insecticides or fungicides, following the product’s instructions and safety guidelines. Also, maintain proper cleanliness and hygiene around the tree to prevent the recurrence of pests and diseases. (source)
Common Challenges and Solutions
Growing a bonsai tree can be a rewarding but challenging endeavor. Beginner growers may find it difficult to maintain the constant care and patience required for the tree’s development. In this section, we will discuss some common challenges encountered while growing bonsai trees and their potential solutions.
One significant challenge is pruning and maintaining the tree’s shape. It is crucial to prune your bonsai tree every month or two to keep it healthy and maintain its desired form (source). To avoid over-pruning, which can lead to an unhealthy tree, use sharp pruning shears to remove dead leaves and branches carefully.
Feeding the bonsai tree adequately is also vital. Using a balanced fertilizer made specifically for bonsai trees will provide the necessary nutrients for growth (source). Consistently monitoring the tree’s health and adjusting its feeding schedule based on its needs will prevent under or overfeeding.
Repotting is another crucial aspect of bonsai tree care. Most bonsai trees need to be repotted every two years to avoid becoming pot-bound, which can make it difficult for the tree to soak up and store water (source). To repot the tree, carefully remove dead roots and any large roots that may interfere with potting. Place the tree in a new pot and fill the surrounding area with soil, finishing with a layer of gravel or moss on top.
Lastly, finding the right environment is essential; for example, in Arizona, bonsai trees require bright light, low humidity, and moderate temperatures, but should not be placed in direct sunlight (source). Paying close attention to the specific needs of your bonsai tree and adjusting its environment accordingly will promote healthy growth.
My name is Daniel Elrod, and I have been houseplant love ever since I was 17. I love how much joy they bring to any room in the home. I’ve always been amazed at how a few pots of flowing leaves can turn a drab and sterile office into an inviting place where people love to work at.