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 Types of Bonsai Trees

 By Erik A. Olsen

Bonsai, pronounced bone-sigh, can be defined by breaking the word into two parts - bon, meaning tray, and sai, which means tree. Bonsai is a tree planted in a tray, also called a living miniature tree that increases in beauty and value as it matures over the years. There are many different styles of bonsai, including formal upright, informal upright, cascade, semi-cascade, raft, and literati. Bonsai trees range in size from miniature, small, medium, to average, and can either be small-flowered or small-fruit, but there are only two main types indoor and outdoor. Even though there are two main types, there are still many different varieties. Having some knowledge about the indoor and outdoor bonsai will hopefully help you in choosing what is best for your lifestyle and enjoyment.

Probably the easiest types of bonsai trees to grow indoors, which requires about the same amount of care of a house plant, would be the tropical and subtropical trees. These trees should be in a location where they can get morning sun and afternoon shade. Some bonsai will survive in full sun, but it is best to use caution if you are uncertain whether your tree will be able to take the full sun or not. The indoor bonsai can also be set outdoors in late spring and summer, then brought back indoors in the fall when nighttime temperatures drop below 55 degrees.

The best type of bonsai trees that can be used indoors include Hawaiian umbrella trees, ficus, and baby jade, just to name a few. These trees are great for the beginner or as a gift to a boss or coworker. Other varieties of indoor bonsai trees, including sago palms, serissa, fukien tea, schefflera, aralias, money tree, brush cherry, bougainvillea, gardenias, and some elms are also easily adapted to most homes. The other types of bonsai trees are the outdoor species, which fall into two categories evergreen trees such as junipers and pines, and deciduous trees such as maples, ginko, and elms. Evergreen bonsai trees maintain their foliage throughout the seasons. With this type of bonsai trees, you would find junipers, boxwoods, azaleas, and most pines. The Juniper is the most popular bonsai tree because of its good looks and its excellent ability to be trained. Most evergreen bonsai require a winter dormancy period, or rest period in order to maintain their ongoing health. Generally, during this dormancy period the bonsai would show a dull green or yellowish tint to the foliage.

Deciduous trees are those that lose their leaves in the fall and go into a dormant stage, but will re-bud in the springtime. Some of these types of bonsai trees include maple, larch, crabapple, apricot, hornbeam, gingko, and many elm species. One of the more challenging outdoor trees includes the Japanese maple. These types are known for their spring and fall foliage color changes, which typically range from yellow to oranges to deep reds. Keep in mind that deciduous bonsai go dormant in the winter, thereby not being suitable for growing indoors unless they are placed in a garage, near a cool window sill, or even in a shed. They require water every few days and fertilizer every few weeks but not too much sunlight during the winter months.

Some of the more mature and larger bonsai trees include the one of a kind and Aged Specimen, which make excellent gifts for bonsai enthusiasts, Other excellent types of bonsai trees for the outdoors include the Japanese juniper, Chinese elm, Chinese fringe flower, azaleas, Japanese red maple, blue moss cypress, star cypress, soft touch holly, and flowering. Remember that all outdoor bonsai trees must be treated with respect. They should always be properly protected in the winter to guard against freezing. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you use plastic humidity trays with a layer of pebbles kept in water for both interior and exterior bonsai. With this, each type of bonsai tree would be provided the necessary humidity. The beauty and elegance of bonsai trees is quite a work of art. As lives become busier and people have less time to garden, the opportunity to grow and train miniature trees is exciting and satisfying.

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