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 Outdoor Bonsai Tree

 By Erik A. Olsen

In addition to growing miniature bonsai for indoor enjoyment, some people prefer the miniature or larger outdoor bonsai tree. With this, you are still growing the same species of tree, using the same preferred style, but on a much larger scale or in a different environment. For indoor bonsai, you would commonly use tropical trees, which work well in an indoor environment or if you prefer, can be placed outdoors during the late spring or summer. The outdoor bonsai tree would generally fall within two categories – evergreen trees, which would include pine and juniper, or deciduous trees, which are trees that lose their leaves in the fall and then become dormant, followed by springtime rebudding such as elm. With outdoor species, you can plant them directly in the ground or keep them in containers.

Outdoor bonsai trees do not do well indoors for a long period and when grown or placed outdoors, they need to be protected from freezing. When growing outdoor bonsai, proper watering is probably the most important aspect to success. For example, with outdoor bonsai, top soil might appear dry but just below the surface it is still moist. Many times, outdoor trees will go through different stages after buying so allow your tree to become acclimated to its new environment for several weeks before making any major changes. At first, the tree’s leaves may become yellow and fall off but this is just temporary and nothing to fear.

After the tree is planted, you can check the water level by poking your finger down in the soil about an inch. If the soil is dry, water thoroughly so the water flows out from under the container. Typically, the water level would only need to be measured every two weeks. Then as the warmer summer months approach, the frequency of watering would likely increase whereas during the colder winter months, you would water less. Just remember that for your outdoor bonsai tree to survive in the winter months, you should only water when temperatures are 45 or above. Anything less could damage or kill the tree.

In addition to water, you need to fertilize your outdoor bonsai tree. For this, the frequency would depend on the type of fertilizer you are using since some are more potent than others are. You can check with your local nursery or gardening center to see what type of fertilizer they recommend. Then, during the tree’s growing season, you would fertilize every two weeks but keep in mind that for outdoor bonsai trees, you never want to fertilizer at all during the winter. Typically, the best application would be to the foliage, allowing the liquid fertilizer to run down into the soil. In addition to fertilizer, hormone and vitamin supplements are recommended to keep your tree strong and healthy.

Your outdoor bonsai tree will also need to be trimmed and pruned, the top elements of growing bonsai. For this, any excess growth would be trimmed away using special trimmers or sharp shears for deciduous and tropical trees. The best option is to cut at an angle just above the leaf. To trim evergreen trees, you would simply pinch back any excess foliage growth. Finally, outdoor bonsai trees need to be pruned and repotted. The roots of your bonsai tree will need to be pruned and the tree repotted only after the roots have filled the pot, having nowhere else to grow. When this happens, the soil will become packed and dry, making it impossible to water effectively. In most cases, the outdoor bonsai tree will need to be repotted about every two to three years although this will vary depending on the species and the speed at which your tree is growing. Remember, this is a quick and easy process but extremely necessary. Simply remove about one-third of the root ball, placing the tree back in the container with fresh bonsai soil.
 
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