Have you ever asked the question: How to care for a bonsai tree? If so, you are not alone.
Bonsai trees can be a bit more complex to take care of than other plants, but learning these few basic rules can teach almost anyone how to take care of them properly. Here’s 5 ways that you can care for your bonsai to keep it healthy and growing. Let’s begin…
How to care for a bonsai tree
- Putting your bonsai in the right place is one of the most important parts of caring for you bonsai. Most outdoor trees belong in a cheerful, bright spot that gets direct sunlight around half the day and is sheltered from the wind. Indoor trees also like bright spots, but some species favor half sunlight while others like half shade. They should be placed somewhere where the temperature is constant.
- Make sure you’re giving your bonsai that live-giving liquid it needs the most – water. How often you need to water your bonsai depends on several things. For example, bonsai of different species and size have different watering needs. Environmental factors also come into play here in a big way. That means that the pot size, soil, climate, and even the time of year can all dictate how much you should be watering your bonsai! While watering routines can be a great way to make sure you’re not neglecting your plants, with bonsai, following a watering routine can actually be counter-productive! That’s because each of your bonsai have individual watering needs due to all of those different factors (size, species, pot size, etc.) So beginners, check each of your trees individually, and water accordingly until you’re sure that you’ve got watering down pat. Since there are so many factors involved, we can’t give you a specific guideline tailored to your particular bonsai, but we can teach you how to figure it out yourself holistically. By looking at context clues (by using techniques like the one below) you’ll find yourself developing that sixth sense in no time!
- The first thing you need to know about watering is that bonsai trees need their roots to be soaked with water so that the entire root system gets wet. That means you should keep pouring until water comes out of the drainage holes, and possibly even water your tree again a couple of minutes later. However, you shouldn’t water your tree while the soil is still soaked. Wait until it the soil has dried slightly, and then water your bonsai again. Test the water levels by sticking a finger into the soil about one-centimeter deep. If the soil feels like it has dried slightly, that’s your cue to give your bonsai the water it craves. The soil should never be completely dry at any point.
- Repotting – You’ll need to repot your tree regularly to keep it from getting trapped in a pot that it’s outgrown. This is a vital part of bonsai maintenance, since if you don’t repot your trees when they need it, your tree could starve to death! The good news is that most bonsai only need repotting every 2-5 years, depending on species and size. Most bonsai species can only be repotted during a small period of time during early spring. That’s the only time when the roots can be disturbed while keeping damage to a minimum, since the trees are still in dormancy from the winter. Carefully check your bonsai every year to see if it needs to be repotted. If you see that the roots are still contained in soil, your bonsai is fine and can wait another year. If you can see the roots circling around the inside of the pot, your bonsai is ready to be repotted.
When you repot your bonsai, you’ll want to choose a soil mixture that will drain enough water to avoid rotting the roots, but retain enough water for your tree to take in. The following is the ideal soil mixture for most trees – A mix of Akadama, pumice, and lava rock in a ratio of 2:1:1.
- Fertilization is crucial for your bonsai tree’s health and growth, and should be done throughout the growing seasons (spring, summer, and early fall). So what exactly is in fertilizer, and why is it important that you know about the components? Fertilizer is made up of three elements – Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. The Nitrogen promotes leaf and stem growth above ground, while the Phosphorous increases root growth below ground. Potassium encourages fruit and flower growth in some bonsai, and promotes overall plant health. The reason it’s important to understand the makeup of fertilizer is because bonsai require different ingredients in their fertilizer in different seasons. During early spring, you should be using a fertilizer with a much higher Nitrogen content than usual to stimulate growth. In the summer, level out the playing field with an even ratio of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. During fall season, use much less Nitrogen than usual to toughen up the tree and get it ready for the chilly winter. Here are some approximations of ratios that would work:
Early spring – NPK 12:6:6
Summer – NPK 10:10:10
Fall – NPK 3:10:10
There are a couple of exceptions to the rule. For instance, sick trees should not be fertilized. Also, if you want your trees to flower (assuming it’s the kind of tree that can) use a fertilizer with lots of Phosphorous (like NPK 6:10:6) and watch your tree burst into colorful bloom.
Some general fertilization tips: Watch out for over-fertilization, which could harm your tree.
After you repot your bonsai, some suggest that you wait to fertilize it again for about a month.
You can use special bonsai fertilizer, but you can also use a regular fertilizer if you wish.
Older trees can’t handle as much fertilizer as young, growing trees can. You can either reduce the amount of fertilizer you use, or use fertilizer with slightly lower Nitrogen levels.
Final thoughts on how to care for a bonsai tree…
By following these tips, you’ll be able to keep your “green thumb” on the pulse of your bonsai tree’s needs. Remember that not all bonsai are the same, and that each different species of trees has specific needs. The tips in this article are meant to provide general rules for bonsai care, but not all of these tips may work for your tree. Be sure to do research on each of your tree’s species to ensure that you’re caring for them properly.