Bonsai trees originated in China, but the Japanese popularized them. Buddhist monks brought bonsai trees to Japan in the Heijan period. Initially, only Japanese nobles enjoyed bonsai trees. They grew in popularity in the West after World War I. Now available to people of all social statures worldwide, Japanese bonsai trees continue in popularity.
A deciduous outdoor bonsai, the Japanese zelkova has leaves that look similar to American and English elms, only smaller. Related to the elm, the Japanese zelkova resists diseases common to elms.
Small green, lightly fragrant flowers bloom in the spring. The leaves turn from yellow to bronze in the fall. The straight, smooth trunk of the Japanese zelkova bonsai goes from green to gray as the tree matures.
This plant requires well-drained, fertile soil. When young, it needs re-potting annually in the spring, but after the first few years, the need to re-pot decreases to every two to four years.
The Japanese zelkova resist frost but prefers shelter when temperatures drop to freezing. In the winter, avoid allowing the roots of the plant to stand in water. Native to China and Japan, the Japanese zelkova has favored status among Japanese bonsai gardeners.
One of the easiest bonsai species to grow, the Japanese juniper grows indoors and out. Whether indoors or out, the Japanese juniper thrives in a cool habitat in winter months. The cool environment provides the natural rest period for the Japanese juniper.
Allow the soil of the juniper bonsai tree to dry out between watering. Stick your finger in the soil to check for moisture and water only when the soil is dry. To water your Japanese juniper, place it in a sink or tub of water and let it soak up water for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and let the water drain from your bonsai tree.
Expose your Japanese juniper bonsai tree to filtered sunlight. Protect it from direct sunlight particularly in the afternoon. Feed your juniper bonsai every two weeks in the spring with an organic fertilizer. The first few years, re-pot your juniper every year in the spring. Once the tree matures, re-pot every two to four years.
A member of the rhododendron family, the Japanese satsuki azalea produces beautiful blossoms. Avoid putting the satsuki azalea in direct sunlight as that strips the color out of, and in some cases, kills the flowers. Keep the Japanese satsuki azalea in the shade. Protect this bonsai tree in the winter, but leave it outdoors.
Rainwater produces optimal growth, but watering monthly with a mixture of 1 tsp. white vinegar added to a gallon of water acts as a good substitute for rainwater. Feed this bonsai every two weeks prior to blossoming. After blooming ceases, feed the bonsai tree once a month. Do not feed the bonsai tree with rapid grow fertilizers. Prune the Japanese satsuki azalea after flowering. Remove all dead blossoms.
Japanese bonsai trees have ancient Chinese origins and became popular in the west after World War I. The Japanese zelkova, Japanese juniper Japanese satsuki azalea are three popular bonsai tree species.