Contrary to popular belief, Bonsai Gardening isn’t difficult. Some trees are more less difficult than others, but there’s nothing to be intimated by.
Initially, The Two most important things to Consider are:
- Are you interested in an Indoor & Outdoor tree?
- Water and Light. Your tree is going to love them and need them.
- If you keep your bonsai where it needs to be to get adequate sun (or artificial light) and water it appropriately, your tree will thrive and you can begin to learn about the rest. So, as you enter the world of bonsai, relax and enjoy.
What type is the easiest to care for?
We usually respond to this by telling people that it is possible to kill anything, but given that, here are a few helpful facts: If you are just starting out and planning on keeping your bonsai inside most of the time you need a tropical tree. A succulent, like Mini Jade is good to start with. Other good varieties include Arboricola, Brazilian Rain Tree and Chinese elm.
Should I put it in direct sun?
If you know where the tree has come from and if it is acclimated to sun, then by all means. If you are not sure you can start it out in bright light.
After a week or so, try to give it at least TWO to THREE HOURS of direct sun a day.
Remember bonsai are trees and trees are native to the outdoors where they get good sun, and good air circulation.
Whether it is a tropical tree or a very winter hardy tree it will thrive in its natural environment.
The big difference is the bonsai is in a pot, not growing in the ground. So this must be considered.
But it doesn’t look like bonsai!
It’s true we associate bonsai with a windswept juniper look. This is the archetypal ‘oriental’ look that comes to mind. Indeed these trees evoke classic bonsai. Nothing wrong with that. However since bonsai is simply tree in a tray, keep in mind that there are almost endless varieties we can work with .
Imagine a stately elm, sprawling banyan tree, wild crabapple…
As long as you like the shape, it’s OK.
The important thing is to keep the tree healthy and strong.
Junipers are really better outside. and when people are starting out they usually want to have them inside. Think tree, not houseplant.
Do I have to put it outside?
You do if it is a winter hardy tree, a tree that is inherently cold hardy and needs to experience a dormancy.
You do not if it is a tropical, but you can put it out in the summer. Remember, nothing would prefer to be inside when it could be out.
HOWEVER, acclimatization is important. Slowly ease the bonsai into any new environment.
Should I leave it outside all winter?
The hardy bonsai need protection once the temperatures go below freezing , and as a rule, Tropicals come inside when temps start to drop below 60 degrees.
There are many trees that are in between these two categories. Find out what the natural environment is for your particular bonsai.
Do I water every day ?
BUT, you should feel the soil every day. and water as needed. The general rule of thumb is to whatever when the soil feels somewhat dry. NEVER BONE DRY is your mantra. But obviously you don’t want it soaked constantly, either.
How do I keep the shape?
Depending on how fast the tree grows, you will need to prune it at least a few times a year, probably more.
Bonsai is an art and a craft. It takes practice and study, so don’t expect to know how to prune it right away. With time and practice (and help fom YouTube videos) you will get better at it.
What if it starts dying?
In our experience, most health issues come down to Water & Light. Too light or too much of either is usually the main culprit, and if you need guidance we’d happy to help, so please give a call or shoot us an email and we’ll do everything we can to guide you on nursing your tree back to health.
How can I tell if I am over-watering or under-watering?
Unfortunately it is impossible to list the symptoms of either in a concise manner.
Very generally speaking, if the roots collapse from lack of water you are likely to see a ‘freeze dried’ look to the leaves or needles. This will happen quite soon after the roots get too dry. Usually within a day or matter of a few days.
Over watering usually takes longer and results in a slower decline but both should be avoided.
Trust your instincts and review your habits, and remember, trees are trees and will grow leaves and drop leaves ( or needles) naturally, so some seasonal dropping of foliage is normal.
Can it stay in this pot forever?
No, you will need to transplant it. Usually every one to three years is the norm.
Do I just take it out of this pot and put it in another one? Can I put it back in the same pot?
Keep in mind that bonsai is a harmony between pot and tree . Chances are after 1 to 3 years the pot it’s in is too small, the tree will look better and probably be healthier in a slightly larger pot.
What about when I go on vacation?
Depending on the length of the vacation, you’ll most likely need to find someone to take care of your bonsai while you’re gone. If you’re local to NEBG, we offer very reasonable tree sitting services.
Some Words of Advice
Find a mentor
It’s awesome to be able to watch YouTube videos about how to candle pinch, needle pluck, etc., but finding people to work with who share the passion is infinitely more rewarding.
We suggest seeking out an experienced practitioner, preferable someone local who’s knowledgeable about the particulars of growing, training and wintering Bonsai in your area. We also suggest joining a local club or bonsai study group.
Remember….. It’s A lifelong journey
Bonsai are pieces of Living Art, and will grow, develop and evolve alongside you for as long as you maintain their health.No hobby produces anything as beautiful, teaches patience better or is more rewarding than Bonsai (in our opinion anyway, but for the record…our opinion is correct).