Golden rules for growing indoor bonsai

Bonsai is not just indoor or garden plants. These are objects of art, living sculptures, the embodiment of a whole philosophy that cannot be measured by the same yardsticks with ordinary plants and even the rarest collectible crops. The approach to bonsai cultivation should also be special. After all, these plants require completely non-standard handling. They not only embody philosophy, but also demand dedication and peace from their masters. Taking care of a bonsai is not easy, but it is a very special pleasure.

Bonsai. Farmer Claire Vannette

Bonsai art

Bonsai is not a plant for everyone. They open up a new philosophy to their owners and reveal the essence of oriental worldviews, and most importantly, they force them to take a fresh look at communication with wildlife and the relationship between humans and plants. To purchase a bonsai, you need not only to decide, but to weigh all the pros and cons. After all, they are not suitable for those flower growers who are often on the road or who like simple care. Bonsai need to be dealt with constantly, sometimes for proper care you have to look for a creative approach, and some procedures are very specific. With such a pet, you will have to give up the rush and fuss. And when they say that for bonsai you need to grow spiritually yourself, they are not exaggerating at all. But if even a small bonsai was presented to you or you, succumbing to a temporary impulse, became its owner almost by accident, most likely the plants will open up a completely new world for you and make you love yourself with all your heart and forever.

Bonsai is not only the art of creating a reduced copy of nature, the use of age-old traditions of the special formation of trees and bushes, but also the special art of caring for plants. Treating bonsai like any other houseplant is simply impossible. You will not only fail to achieve success, but also nullify many years of work with your traditional appeal to him. Bonsai differ in the complexity of the required care and in fact need an individual approach no less than any other indoor culture. But personalization of care is the only thing that bonsai cultivation has in common with regular indoor floriculture.

The most unassuming and easiest to grow are bonsai from olive trees and testudinaria. Complicated care, if possible, growing plants in ordinary living rooms will require a tea tree and elms. The rest of the plants – carmona, euonymus, podocarp, ficuses, ligustrum, etc. – need an obligatory place in the fresh air during the warm season.

When purchasing a bonsai, be prepared for a lot to learn. Most of the care procedures require special skills, training, listening to the inner voice. With bonsai, you need to trust your intuition – and constantly explore the world of this amazing art. If you want to be successful, educate yourself more often, attend master classes, do not hesitate to ask the experts.

Bonsai. Farmer Cindy Black

Comfortable conditions and the need for fresh air

About some one, comfortable for all bonsai conditions, we can only speak conditionally. After all, each type of tree and shrub used to create bonsai partially retains its individual preferences. The most comfortable for these living works of art is considered to be the average, moderate temperature from 18 to 25 degrees Celsius during the active growth phase. Almost all bonsai trees need cooler maintenance in winter. If you keep the usual room temperatures and do not lower their value by at least 2-3 degrees, reducing the light will lead to problems with their health. The minimum temperature is limited to 10 degrees for conifers and 12-14 degrees for other types of bonsai.

Lighting for these plants is selected purely individually. Most bonsai thrive in diffused bright light, but the ability to grow in full sun or partial shade is worth checking for each plant separately. In winter, bonsai of any kind will not give up on bright lighting, and if you compensate for the seasonal conditions, you can achieve amazing results.

Among bonsai, there are many varieties that are sold mainly as purely indoor plants. Still, most of these living art objects prefer fresh air and are much less comfortable indoors. Noble and expensive plants in the warm season will only respond with gratitude to being placed on a balcony, terrace or in a recreation area – where they can “breathe” enough. When buying a bonsai, be sure to check if the plant is used to this summer regime and how it relates to airing and drafts. But for most bonsai, you still need to find sheltered locations and more stable conditions.

Watering and air humidity

The vast majority of woody plants used for bonsai production are sensitive to air humidity. It will be very difficult to maintain the attractiveness of forms and greenery in these plants without measures to increase air humidity. The installation of special humidifier devices is ideal, but you can increase the humidity of the air by placing bowls with water and spraying (the tolerance to the latter should be checked for each type of plant separately).

Watering for bonsai requires much more effort than for ordinary plants. The flat shape of the containers dictates the schedule of more frequent procedures. Bonsai plants do not have general requirements for watering and their frequency, but it is important not to forget about one rule: drying out of the roots for bonsai should not be allowed in any case. Drought is harmful to these valuable plants. But soil acidification is also unacceptable. Stable light to moderate humidity is the environment most bonsai will feel comfortable in. For the cold season, watering is reduced (for deciduous bonsai, it is made minimal, and for evergreens, the moisture content of the substrate is halved), all also preventing the substrate from drying out completely.

Bonsai is most often watered using the classic “top” method. But there is one “but”: such plants prefer watering with a spray nozzle. It is necessary to resort to dispersing water so that the water is distributed more evenly over a wide container. An alternative method of irrigation is to immerse a container with a larger container of water to saturate the substrate, followed by a complete drainage of the “free” water.

Watering bonsai
Watering bonsai

Bonsai food

The feeding regime must be specified when buying a plant. The scheme with the introduction of fertilizers only during the stage of active growing season with a frequency of 1 time in 2 weeks is considered classic. In the middle of summer, you can make a “pass” to stop the growth of shoots and improve lignification. Top dressing is not stopped in winter (only for evergreen bonsai), but fertilizers are applied at a frequency of 1 every 6 weeks and halving the usual dosage.

For bonsai, special fertilizers are selected (they are produced by firms specialized in this art, and the best well-known manufacturers of fertilizers with a wide range of preparations).

Pruning and shaping bonsai

While regular pruning and shaping is rarely considered a prerequisite for growing for most indoor plants, pruning is vital for bonsai to maintain attractiveness. In order for a living work of art to remain as such, it is necessary to periodically shorten the branches, remove unnecessary shoots, pinch and carry out other formation. Each type of bonsai has its own pruning requirements, but in general, the pruning strategy is directly related to the growth rate. Slow-growing plants are gently cleaned once or twice a year to keep them in shape. Fast growing ones need to be controlled and formed much more often, every few weeks, from spring to autumn.

Bonsai pruning rules are very simple. In such plants, as a rule, they try to leave only up to 6 pairs of leaves on each shoot, ruthlessly removing all excess. The upper part of the bonsai is always pruned harder, remembering, like any other indoor plant, to remove all damaged, dry, growing downward or inward, overly elongated branches. For bonsai, it is important to thin out too densely growing leaves in a timely manner. But just doing the cropping is only possible in words. Miniature plants require such a special approach, they are so difficult to cut that they require considerable skills and imagination. And mistakes are much easier to make than to succeed. For the first time, it is better to contact a specialist and visit a master class, find out all the necessary information in specialized centers. Only after obtaining the skills and mastering the technique, decide to start pruning.

Formation of shoots and trunks, giving them “artificial” curvatures and directions is a difficult and extraordinary task. For bonsai, the formation is carried out thanks to the wire (use anodized copper or aluminum, always thick wire). With its help, the turns of the trunk or branches are fixed, giving them shape, direction and angles. The formation is carried out by winding the wire from the bottom up, literally rewinding the trunk and branches with it, and then directing their growth. But finding a balance between sufficient compression and non-trauma is very difficult. And you need to remove the wire in a timely manner: after the plant “goes” in a given direction, but not before the film starts growing into the bark.

When working with bonsai, you need to use disinfected sharp tools. For the treatment of wounds, it is advisable to purchase special wound balm. A set of special tools suitable for each type of pruning and specific work with bonsai can be found today in flower shops and specialized resources. Miniature loppers and scissors of various shapes, brushes and miniature tweezers, pitchforks and tweezers help to do almost jewelry work. If there are no special tools, try new and sanitized manicure tools.

On sale, you can also find special means for artificial aging, decoration, changing the color of the bark, etc. With their help, they enhance the attractiveness of the plant and achieve greater expressiveness.

Bonsai feeding
Top dressing bonsai. Farmer Jonas Dupuich

Transplant, containers and substrate

Bonsai are grown in special flat bowls, which have a depth many times less than their width. When choosing, you need to pay attention to the fact that the volume of the container should exceed the volume of the roots, and most often there should be at least one hole for the outflow of water. There is not very much soil in such a bowl, especially since a large percentage of free space in the container is occupied by drainage and mulch. And accordingly, bonsai have to be transplanted much more often than we would like – once every 1-2 years.

Bonsai, like all indoor trees and shrubs, is best transplanted at the beginning of the active growth stage – in the spring. But there are certain types of plants, for example, large-leaved podocarp, which prefers transplanting not in spring, but in autumn. Please check all information carefully before purchasing.

The correct choice of substrate is critical for these plants. For bonsai, use a special commercially available substrate with a permeable structure, a high content of clay and sand. It is difficult to independently check the water permeability and air permeability of the soil, so we recommend using a special soil for bonsai.

Just as the aerial part of the plants was formed in a special way, its rhizome, which is restrained and cut off, is quite amazingly formed. When transplanting, root shortening is usually carried out to prevent overgrowth and free up space in a small container. Rhizome pruning optimizes nutrient absorption and thickens the crown. A layer of large drainage must be laid at the bottom of the container. The substrate is completely replaced with new and fresh one, and the plant is gently strengthened by lightly pressing in the soil and applying stones or pebbles to stabilize as needed.

Bonsai is almost never grown with bare soil. For these plants, the method of decorative mulching is actively used: the substrate is covered with pebbles, stone chips, sphagnum or other decorative materials. Such a coating is selected so as to achieve the greatest decorative effect and expressiveness.

Preparing for a transplant
Preparing for a transplant

Prevention is indispensable

Healthy, perfectly shaped, capable of blooming or delighting with luxurious leaves, bonsai, as we see it in stores and bring home, needs constant prevention. It is much easier to prevent both diseases and the spread of pests than to fight them on these special plants. Reduces the risk of bonsai damage by using only disinfected tools, maintaining comfortable temperatures and lighting, and controlling air humidity. Watering and fertilization should not be excessive or scarce, and plants that prefer fresh air should receive it as much as possible. But the main key to success is constant examinations. It is necessary to monitor the leaves and branches, check them for signs of unwanted problems, immediately remove damaged and diseased leaves and shoots, and check the condition of the roots.


Anna Evans

Author âś“ Farmer

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