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 How to Grow Bonsai Trees

 By Erik A. Olsen

Bonsai originated in China about 1,000 years ago but was later developed by the Japanese. This particular style of growing trees has become popular in many parts of the world, being both a spiritual and artistic form. Bonsai, pronounced as “bone-sigh” is a Japanese word meaning “tray-planted” or “tree in a pot”, which refers to dwarf trees or to the art of training and growing the miniaturized trees in containers. By simply placing a tree in a tiny pot does not make it a bonsai tree. Instead, the overall artistic effect is of great significance in growing bonsai trees. Bonsai are dwarfed through pruning the roots and branches, wiring the trunk and branches, and using other techniques to make the tree take on the look of a mature tree. Achieving a perfected bonsai is considered a great accomplishment.

The goal of a bonsai tree is to achieve the desired shape while balancing the above ground growth as well as the root growth. Shaping should begin while the tree is very young, continuing as it matures. Using copper wire on the trunk and branches, the shape of the tree is controlled. However, it is crucial that the any wire used be cut prior to it digging into the tree, resulting in scarring. The entire tree must be kept proportional in size, to include the leaves, needles, flowers, and/or fruit, as well as the container in which it grows. Bonsai can be obtained in a variety of sizes such as miniature, small, medium, and average. The miniature bonsai grow to just two inches in height, maturing around five years. The small bonsai grows between two and six inches, requiring about seven years to train, the medium size grow from six to twelve inches, and the average bonsai reaches upwards of two feel tall, maturing in about three years.

You can grow bonsai from seeds or cuttings. When growing from seeds, you would find it very rewarding, starting with nothing and turning it into a magnificent piece of art. Using cuttings can take some time to mature but is also rewarding. With cuttings, there are two types for growing bonsai trees - hardwood and softwood (semi-ripe). Hardwood cuttings are usually taken at the end of the current year’s growing season but with a growth beginning the following season. Softwood cuttings are usually taken in the summer from the current year’s growth but in this case, they should be left alone until new growth appears at which time the trees can be placed in individual pots. Keep in mind that most trees used for bonsai would be taken from cuttings with the exception of pines.

It is important to know how to grow bonsai trees because of the small container and small amount of soil in which they grow. For instance, be sure the roots of the bonsai tree are never over-watered. To keep your bonsai as healthy as possible, always use special bonsai soil, which is designed to dry out easier than standard houseplant soil. Even so, remember that because there is so little soil, bonsai trees require frequent small watering. Bonsai must also be fed nitrogen, phosphoric acid, and potash in the spring and fall. When looking for good fertilizer, try to find one that has chelated iron in it. In addition, it is wise to rotate fertilizer brands since there is a difference in the trace elements.

A few more suggestions about how to grow bonsai trees is the knowing that they enjoy humidity. For this reason, it is recommended that the bonsai be put in a shallow tray with water. That way, the water can evaporate from the tray, resulting in added humidity to the air surrounding the tree. Then, you should use a flat rock or pebbles in the tray under the pot, giving the bonsai tree something to sit on, up out of the water. Bonsai trees also require sunlight, except when they have just undergone pruning or repotting. If the tree cannot get direct sun from a south, east, or west window, place it outside for several hours each day or select a bonsai tree that can grow in less sunlight.
Growing bonsai trees is a challenging but rewarding hobby. For someone who enjoys being creative and who has a lot of patience, learning how to grow bonsai trees is an exceptional hobby.

 
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