Anyone wanting to learn how to grow a bonsai will need a few helpful tips to be successful. Some say that you either have it or you don't when it comes to caring for these intricate little trees but that's not entirely true. If you take the time to become educated on bonsai tree care, there's a good chance you will be rewarded with an exceptional display.
Below are 8 bonsai care and growing tips to reference when you are ready to get started or if you need to do a little troubleshooting with the bonsai tree you may already have:
- Light - Many people don't realize that bonsai trees are meant to be grown outdoors. Sure, since the 1990s, they are grown more inside than outside but that doesn't change the fact that these are trees! If yours doesn't receive enough light, it will die. Keep in mind that sun that comes through a window is reflective. A fluorescent bulb left on above the tree will help significantly. It is also important to note that there will be some species that requires less light. Make sure you know the lighting requirements of your bonsai.
- Water - This is one of the most difficult elements to master in the art of bonsai growing. Unlike other plants, watering on a set schedule just won't do. There are a few methods to use to determine if your bonsai tree needs water or not. First, you can go by weight. When picked up, a thirsty plant will weigh less. The second way is to simply scratch at the soil to feel if it's moist or not. Lastly, you can keep a wooden skewer like a chopstick in the pot. When you need to determine if the tree is dry, pull out the skewer and look for moisture.
- Air Circulation - Bonsai trees hate stale air, probably more than their humans do. They need air circulation to be happy and healthy. Open a window for your tree or move it outside on the patio on nice days. When weather is less than desirable and opening your window is not an option, keep a small desk top fan on by the tree. An osculating one is ideal so there's not a constant stream of wind blowing on it all the time.
- Fertilize - Bonsai trees are hungry. Unlike watering, fertilization is something that can be done on a schedule. Water-soluble fertilizers usually recommend feeding your plants every other week. There is a common misconception that you should fertilize bonsai at half-strength, this is not true. Simply use the fertilizer according to the manufacturer's guidelines.
- Dormant Period - Once again, understand that your bonsai is a tree. If it is grown outdoors, it would receive a dormant period of cold weather, bonsai trees need at least a six to eight week break of low temperatures. You don't necessarily have to move yours outside, you can relocate it to the basement or a lightly heated garage in the winter. If you don't offer a dormant period, your bonsai tree will eventually become stressed after a couple years and go dormant when it chooses.
- Clean - Bonsai trees are not like your other household plants that may have a layer of dust accumulating up on their leaves, they need to be cleaned. You also need to clean the debris off of the soil once your brush off the tree. Don't leave it there, it's not food and sure isn't decorative.
- Humidity - You know how your skin and throat get dry and itchy from being indoors with the heat and air conditioning? Well, your bonsai tree feels exactly the same way. These trees need humidity. While you can mist your plant, it's much better to place stones in a large tray of water and set the pot on top so it's not actually touching the water. This will provide a constant supply of humidity.
- Diseases and Insects - One of the most important things you can do when you're learning how to care for bonsai is become familiar with and able to identify diseases and insects. The quicker you recognize a problem, the better chance you have at saving your tree.