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 Things to Know When Buying a Bonsai Tree

 By Erik A. Olsen

Overall, growing bonsai is a great interest, hobby, or even a profession to undertake. It is the art of dwarfing trees or plants and then developing them into an aesthetically appealing shape by growing, pruning, and training them while growing in containers. It is not enough just to plant a tree in a pot and allow nature to take its course, with bonsai every branch and twig is shaped or eliminated until the chosen image is achieved. From then on, the image is maintained and improved by pruning and trimming. To get started in creating your very own bonsai, there are some basic things to know when choosing and buying the right bonsai tree. Although you can buy bonsai at a number of places, we highly recommend you work with a professional bonsai nursery. Starting with a cheap bonsai with glued on rocks from shopping malls or a sickly plant will only lead to major problems.

Now to begin and the most important question to ask yourself is whether you want to buy a tropical (indoors) or hardy (outdoors) species of bonsai. You need to understand that many bonsai are outdoor trees and while some can tolerate being kept indoors for a short amount of time, they will eventually weaken and die. Therefore, it is a good idea to ask a specialist supplier whether the tree you are interested in is an indoor or an outdoor species. Let us start by talking about the five basic styles to consider when buying a bonsai tree. These include the formal upright, informal upright, slanting (or windswept), semi-cascade, and cascade.

Each has its own beauty and serenity and by studying the way trees grow in nature, it is possible to design a bonsai without knowing the names of these styles. It is not necessary to stick to the precise rules of your chosen style, simply create them to suit a tree’s natural habitat. When buying a bonsai tree, look carefully at its natural characteristics to help you discern which style it would be most suitable for. Often you can train a plant into a certain style, even if it is basically upright or slender. Even if one style only really suits a particular plant, you still can interpret this in many different ways. Once you have decided on the style you want, you are ready to start shopping for that specific bonsai. Take into consideration that plants can vary widely in costs, typically ranging anywhere from $8 all the way up to $30 or more, if the bonsai is already trained.

After you have decided which species of bonsai you want, look for freshness throughout the shop. In other words, do the plants have healthy needles and crisp green foliage, do they look like they have been over-watered or left begging for a drink, are the plants in clean pots or are they in dirty containers? If the soil is damp, check for over-watering by looking for browning needles or leaves. On the other hand, if the soil is dry, you would look for needles and leaves that are dried up and wrinkled, which is a sign of dehydration. Additionally, you want to remember that it is important to look for deep wire marks or bruises caused by wiring being left to dig into the bark’s flesh. Be ready to ask questions when buying a bonsai tree, such as, what weather conditions does the tree require, what kind of maintenance does it need, and what guarantees are offered if the tree should die within the first few months? In addition, ask about repotting, winter or holiday care, discounts. Make sure you retain your receipt as proof of purchase just in case something should go wrong.

Finally, every bonsai enthusiast, whether a beginner or experienced, has their own personal idea of what bonsai is to them and what factors they find appealing. The key to buying and growing bonsai is to learn as much about bonsai as possible before you walk out the door to buy so you can get the most from your bonsai. Just be careful to not get drawn into the trap of buying from someone that is not a specialist. You want to make sure you get a healthy start with your bonsai so you can enjoy it for a lifetime.

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