By learning care for a bonsai it can be a joyous experience that can last for a lifetime.
Maybe you have just purchased your first bonsai or even received one as a gift, it looks healthy and happy for now, so how are you going to keep it alive?
Here are a few simple steps to help you keep your new addition looking its best!
When you first get your beautiful little tree home, the first instinct is to put it inside where you can admire it. Although this can be done periodically it is not wise to keep it inside long term.
Where your little bonsai tree is going to live is the first thing we need to consider if we are going to have our tree around to admire for a long time.
Bonsai are trees grown in small pots, trained to resemble old mature trees growing in nature. As a bonsai is a tree, it requires the same elements as any other tree, such as air, wind, rain and lots of natural light. They are outdoor plants and placing them inside for long periods is detrimental to the health of the tree. Bonsai should spend no more than 1 week indoors and at least 3 weeks back outside before bringing inside again. Do not place your tree back into direct sunlight if it has been inside for a week. Place it in a shaded area at first, gradually moving it back to its original position over the period of a week.
The watering of your bonsai is one of the most important factors to the life of your tree. Too much water can cause the roots to rot and eventually kill your tree, and not enough water will certainly cause it a sudden demise. Finding the balance between too much water and not enough water is crucial to the survival of your bonsai.
Watering requirements vary with tree varieties, but usually watering once a day (preferably morning), in summer and every second day in winter is sufficient.
The goal is to maintain moist, not dry or soggy soil.
The way I check the if my trees need water is to scratch just below the surface of the soil with my index finger, if the soil at this depth is moist, this is good and doesn’t require watering at this time.
If the soil is soggy, do not water and you may need to consider repositioning your tree if this condition continues for too many days.
If the soil is dry, I recommend placing your bonsai in a tray of water until air bubbles stop rising to the surface. This should sufficiently soak the soil. If your tree continues to dry out you may need to consider changing its position to a more shaded area.
Bonsai purchased from most reputable bonsai nurseries will usually have been planted with a slow release fertiliser in the soil. These fertilisers can last from 3 months to a year depending on the brand used. If you are unsure wait until its next growth spurt, then follow the normal feeding guidelines.
During the growing season feeding fortnightly with Phostrogen, Seasol or fish emulsion is recommended. Avoid using chemical fertilisers as this can burn delicate feeder roots, cause too much foliage growth without promoting root growth and this imbalance may be harmful to your bonsai.
Your new bonsai may have aluminium or copper wire wrapped around the trunk or branches, this is for shaping purposes and can be removed once the limb has set in place (this varies with different varieties).
Best thing to do is check carefully, once a week, for signs of the wire cutting into the bark. As soon as you see this beginning to happen, remove the wire immediately. Using wire cutters to cut the wire off is safer than trying to unwind it.
Depending on the pot size and age of the tree, most bonsai need re-potting every one to two years. Most commercial potting mixes are unsuitable unless made specifically for bonsai. Re-pot using good quality bonsai mixes available at good nurseries. If you are not confident with re potting some local nurseries or bonsai growers offer this service for a small fee or can even show you how to do it yourself if you take a bonsai course
Regularly prune the foliage to maintain compact growth. Forming clouds or pads of foliage with your tree resembling a triangular shape over all is ideal.
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