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 Caring for Bonsai

 By Erik A. Olsen

While growing and training bonsai does take some knowledge, skill, and patience, too often people shy away from even trying their hand at this art form, believing that caring for bonsai is much too difficult. In truth, once you understand the fundamentals for care and training, you will be surprised at how much easier it is than initially thought. As more and more people discover what bonsai really, entails, we see the popularity increasing. If you are just getting started, or perhaps a friend gave you a bonsai as a gift and you find yourself completely clueless, the first thing you need to do is determine if your plant is a tropical or subtropical species. This will help you determine if the plant is an indoor plant or one that should be grown outdoors, typically, the hardier option.

The reason this is important when learning about caring for bonsai is that the two are cared for differently. As an example, an indoor plant will do better if grown as a standard houseplant with an occasional trip outdoors for some fresh air and sunlight. On the other hand, an outdoor plant will grow best in natural conditions, being brought indoors only for brief periods of display. Once you know the type of plant you are working with, you can learn more about the details of caring for the bonsai.

First, whether the plant is indoors or outdoors, you need to make sure it gets adequate lighting. In most cases, an outdoor plant is going to require a good deal of natural light. For instance, most will do very well with full morning sun and afternoon shade although junipers and pines are able to withstand full sun all day. For your indoor bonsai plant, they too need adequate lighting with most preferring southern or eastern exposure. Next on the list of caring for bonsai is the watering, just as important as the lighting. Remember, bonsai are small plants or trees so they tend to dry out quickly. For this, you want to water the bonsai daily during the spring, summer, and fall months. In addition, during the summer when you have extra hot days, you may need to water once in the morning and then again in the afternoon.

The best option when watering is to use a good mister that will not wash the soil out of the container while still giving the plant enough water. However, if you do find that water runs out of the bottom of the container or out from the top, one of two things has happened. First, you have over watered and second, the bonsaiís soil may have been too dry, causing it to pull away from the container. In this case, you would need to soak the pot to help rehydrate the soil. Just remember when caring for bonsai that moist soil is best so if you can maintain the soil so it is not too wet or dry, you will have a happier and healthier plant or tree.

Finally, caring for bonsai means fertilizing, trimming, and pruning. Even though bonsai are small, they still need a good fertilizer but only when needed. The purpose of fertilizer is to help the plant produce new leaves while keeping the roots healthy and strong. When the bonsai is growing, use a 20-20-20, water soluble fertilizer, preferably one that is time-released and liquid. Then, regular trimming and pruning is required to keep the bonsai small, which is the whole concept of this style of tree or plant in the first place. For this, any vigorous new growth seen in the springtime would need to be removed, periodically through the growing season as well. However, make sure you keep just enough leaves the plantís vigor is maintained. You can purchase any number of books on the various styles of bonsai. Keep in mind that certain styles work best with certain tree or plant species so choose wisely. However, the trimming and pruning is considered an art form, training the bonsai to grow into the desired shape. As far as caring for bonsai, these are the basics. While there are a few other things, you can see the process is not difficult but actually enjoyable and very, self-gratifying.

See Also:
  • Caring for Bonsai
  • Caring for Bonsai

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