- What is a Bonsai Tree?
- Bonsai Tree Care
- Bonsai Tree Care: A Quick Guide
What is a Bonsai Tree?
A bonsai tree is a miniature tree that is planted within a container. In fact, the term “bonsai” literally means “planted in a container” in Japanese.
Bonsai refers to the art of cultivating these small trees and is an integral part of Japanese culture dating back to the early 14th century. Once enjoyed by only the wealthiest aristocrats and high-ranking members of Japanese society, bonsai is now an art form that is enjoyed by people from all around the world.
Bonsai Tree Care
Caring for a bonsai tree might seem intimidating at first. Here are a few tips to show you how to take care of a bonsai tree with ease. We also created a handy guide featuring quick tips for easy reference.
How to Position Your Bonsai Tree
To determine the best location to display your bonsai, you’ll need to know what type of tree it is and whether or not it’s an indoor or outdoor plant.
Most common types of bonsai such as juniper, pine and spruce trees are outdoor plants and should be exposed to the seasons like their larger counterparts. Outdoor bonsai also include deciduous trees, meaning that their leaves change with the seasons. These include maple, elms and gingko.
Indoor bonsai trees are typically subtropical species which thrive off of stable temperatures throughout the year. These include jade plants, Hawaiian umbrella trees, and ficus trees.
Once you’ve figured out what type of bonsai tree you have, the rest is fairly simple. Here are some general tips on bonsai tree positioning that typically apply to all types of bonsai trees.
- Positioning: Your bonsai should be kept away from direct heat or draft.
- Lighting: Keep your bonsai in area with plenty of sunlight.
- Humidity: Bonsais need humidity in order to keep their soil moist.
Watering Your Bonsai Tree
The number one cause of most bonsai tree deaths is under-watering. Because the soil layer is so shallow, it is prone to drying out very quickly. Bonsai trees should be watered right when the top layer of soil appears dry. Depending on the type and size of your tree, as well as the type of soil you use, the frequency of watering can differ and can even be once a day. Therefore, it’s best to water each of your bonsai plants individually, instead of sticking to a routine.
When watering your bonsai tree, the main goal is to fully saturate the root system with water. To ensure proper saturation, keep watering until water escapes through the draining holes. To allow for proper draining, many bonsai trees come with a tray to collect excess water.
Overwatering can also be detrimental for your bonsai tree. Symptoms of an overwatered bonsai include: yellowing of leaves and the shriveling of smaller branches. If a bonsai is overwatered, its roots are drowning in water and are deprived of oxygen which prevents further growth to support the tree. Overwatering can also result from poor-draining soil.
To ensure that you are watering your bonsai properly, you’ll need to assess your bonsai tree daily. The rule of thumb is to water as soon as the soil appears dry.
Pruning and Shaping Your Bonsai Tree
Pruning is essential for keeping bonsai trees small and for maintaining their compact shape. There are two main types of pruning: maintenance pruning and structural pruning.
Maintenance pruning strengthens the tree by encouraging new growth. By cutting away young shoots and leaves it exposes the leaves underneath to air and sunlight which further strengthens the tree and benefits its overall health.
Areas that require maintenance pruning include the branches, buds, and leaves. Pruning away branches encourages the growth of smaller branches and allows you to control the shape of your tree. Pruning buds away from branches produces a more compact leaf growth which encourages the growth of smaller leaves.
Typically, you should prune your bonsai tree when you see new growth that’s starting to morph the shape of your tree in an undesirable manner. For flowering bonsais, pruning should take place during the spring to encourage more flowers to grow the following year.
Structural pruning is a more advanced technique that should only be done when the tree is dormant. It involves the removal of the tree’s primary structural branches and requires the skills of a professional to ensure that the tree can recover.
Another way to properly shape your bonsai tree is to wire its branches. You can control the shape and growth pattern of certain branches by wrapping a thin wire around them. Wiring is best done during winter when the leaves of the bonsai tree have fallen off. Be sure to keep an eye on the branch’s growth and remove the wire when necessary. If the branch grows too fast, it can grow into the wire and cause scarring.
Choosing the Right Soil For Your Bonsai
The key to choosing the right soil for your bonsai is to choose one that offers proper drainage. Add large particles to your soil mixture, such as volcanic rock or stones, to improve drainage and to introduce air into the soil. The ideal soil mixture should also be able to hold water which can be improved by adding clay.
Fertilizing your bonsai ensures that it receives the proper amount of nutrients it needs to stay healthy. A balanced bonsai fertilizer contains equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Before you fertilize, make sure that you’ve watered your tree thoroughly as it is harmful to fertilize the plant while the soil is dry. Be sure to read the instructions on the fertilizer to avoid overfertilizing.
Repotting Your Bonsai
Repotting is a key factor in maintaining the health of your bonsai tree. The purpose of repotting is to remove excess roots which can cause the tree to starve, or not receive enough nutrients for its mass. Repotting also ensures that your tree can continue to thrive within a small pot. Bonsai trees should be repotted once every two to five years, depending on how quickly your bonsai tree grows.
Here are the basic steps to repotting your bonsai tree:
- Carefully remove the tree from its pot.
- Using sharp shears, trim away the outer layer of roots.
- Inspect the root mass for areas of rot trim away as needed. These areas can indicate where the bonsai is not getting enough drainage.
- Clean the pot itself and remove any brown or green spots.
- Place mesh squares over the drainage holes to prevent soil from falling out.
- Layer the bottom of the pot with soil and place the tree on top.
- Fill the remaining holes and gaps where the root used to exist with soil.
Bonsai Tree Care: A Quick Guide
They say that bonsai isn’t just a plant, it’s a way of life. Bonsai trees require regular care and maintenance. Just follow our tips on how to care for a bonsai tree and soon you’ll be on your way to becoming a true bonsai pro!
For beginners, Juniper bonsai trees are the easiest to care for so they’re perfect for novice bonsai enthusiasts. Flowering bonsai like the gardenia bonsai are great for adding variety (and fragrance) to your bonsai collection.
To help you remember bonsai care essentials, we created a handy reference guide below with quick tips for each stage.
Have you ever admired other people’s plants and gardens and wondered: How do they manage to get their plants looking so beautiful and flourishing? Wonder no more—in this blog, we’ll show you how to easily care for a bonsai tree.
“The more you learn about the art, the more interesting the bonsai can be—many find the art of bonsai very meditative and great
The bonsai is a delightful and fun plant to have around the home or office. Though it does need proper care and attention, don’t let that intimidate you. ProFlowers Merchandising Product Designer Nikki Kinowski says, “Our juniper bonsai (outdoor option) and our golden gate ficus (indoor option) are the most forgiving options for beginners.” ProFlowers also offers a kit just for beginners, which includes an outdoor juniper bonsai, a humidity tray and pebbles,
an instruction booklet and a pair of bonsai clippers.
Here are some tips on how to care for your bonsai:
Water your bonsai!
You may think this is a no-brainer, but the bonsai has very specific watering requirements. Approximately once a week or so (when the topsoil feels completely dry) immerse the entire bonsai plant in a bucket or basin of water. Once the air bubbles have risen to the top, the bonsai has absorbed enough water.
Humidity is also an important consideration for the health of the bonsai. All ProFlowers bonsais come with humidity trays and bag of pebbles. The humidity tray is unwrapped by the recipient, covered with the provided pebbles, and then the pebbles are covered with a little water. This will increase the humidity level for the tree, in addition to protecting the desk or table surface on which it is placed.
Where to put the bonsai
The bonsai brings a natural and peaceful feel to any living space. Since it’s not technically a plant, but a tree, it makes a unique and enchanting addition to a room or outdoor space. Just make sure it gets plenty of direct sunlight, so place it either outside or indoors near a window.
Since the bonsai is known for its tranquility, we like the idea of placing it in an office space. Dad or a coworker would love a bonsai to spruce up their workplace. According to ProFlowers Director of Merchandise, Megan Matanzo, “The jade bonsai is a fairly easy indoor bonsai choice,
and does well in an office environment.”
Prune your bonsai
First, take a deep breath. One of the greatest attractions of a bonsai is the calming effect of simply trimming this miniature tree. The goal with pruning is to maintain its shape as it grows. Plus, cleaning up the top growth ensures growth elsewhere on the plant.
Use bonsai clippers (not scissors!) to remove any dead branches. Then decide which branches to trim in order to maintain the desired design. Bonsai pruning is considered an art form, which is why this little tree makes such a great gift for creative friends. Matanzo says, “The more you learn about the art, the more interesting the bonsai can be—many find the art of bonsai very meditative and great for stress-reduction.”
The right bonsai soil
Not just any soil will do for your bonsai. The goal is to find a soil that drains quickly, but still manages to retain its water. It also needs to contain small particles to ensure proper aeration, allowing oxygen to reach the roots. Luckily, we’ve done some research for you!
There are specialty soils on the market made just for bonsais (the easy route), or you can mix your own (if you’re feeling ambitious). It is also imperative to add fertilizer to your soil during growth season (typically early spring to mid fall).
Connect with other bonsai enthusiasts
Find other plant and bonsai lovers in your community to learn more tricks and tips. Go to your local botanical garden or nursery and sign up for a class. This is a fun way to meet new people and also perhaps pick up a new and exciting hobby.
Looking for a great gift for Dad this Father’s Day? Or perhaps you want to treat a good friend to a unique and relaxing gift. The bonsai is unique, beautiful and something to be cherished for a long time with proper care—our smallest bonsai is likely five years old and the larger ones can easily be 10 to 20 years old! Check out more care tips and get started shopping for just the right bonsai tree for someone special, or for yourself!