Bonsai is a Japanese art form using miniature trees grown in containers.
“Bonsai” is a Japanese pronunciation of the earlier Chinese term penzai. A “bon” is a tray-like pot typically used in bonsai culture. The word bonsai is often used in English as an umbrella term for all miniature trees in containers or pots, but this article focuses on bonsai as defined in the Japanese tradition.
The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation (for the viewer) and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity (for the grower).
A bonsai is created beginning with a specimen of source material. This may be a cutting, seedling, or small tree of a species suitable for bonsai development. Bonsai can be created from nearly any perennial woody-stemmed tree or shrub species that produces true branches and can be cultivated to remain small through pot confinement with crown and root pruning. Some species are popular as bonsai material because they have characteristics, such as small leaves or needles, that make them appropriate for the compact visual scope of bonsai.
CARE AND INFORMATION GUIDELINE
Bonsai have been known to be passed from generation to generation for many years and can live indefinitely if proper care and attention is given to them.
Light + Watering + Fertilizer = Strong Growth
• Most Bonsai specimens need to acclimate to their new environment and may go thru some physical change before stabilizing.
• Bonsai need good lighting with a mix of full light and sun recommended.
• Although many species can handle full sun, it is recommended to avoid the prolonged intensity of full summer sun. We have found that a mix of full and filtered or partial sun works the best.
• An ordinary room can offer adequate warmth but nor the light or humidity levels required for strong growth.
• The recommended way to enjoy indoor Bonsai that are developed out doors is to bring them inside to display for a few days at a time then return them to their out door environment.
• The most important single factor in cultivating Bonsai is its watering routine.
• Due to the shallow pots and a shallow root system, Bonsai need frequent watering so they don’t totally dry out between watering.
• The smaller the pot, the more frequently your Bonsai must be watered.
• Bonsai need more frequent watering during the growing season from spring to autumn.
• Indoor placement of Bonsai, require less watering than out door placement.
• Bonsai that are not fed can survive but may not thrive.
• For best results, apply a balance of a fertilizer from spring thru autumn.
• Granules are a good choice as they take 3-4 weeks to break down.
• Use only as directed.
• All fertilizers show their analysis listed on the packaging with a ratio of the 3 main elements of essential plant nutrition.
The essential elements of plant nutrition listed in order as they ate shown on the packaging:
• 1st Number is Nitrogen (N) Promotes above grown growth
• 2nd Number is Phosphorus (P) Root development, Flowering trees, shrubs, bushes
• 3rd Number is Potassium (K) Encourages new growth
• Suitable requirement for a potting soil is that it should have good drainage to prevent root rot or waterlogged soil and its texture needs to be sufficiently loose to allow oxygen to circulate.
• It is not recommended to use store bough potting soil.
• Most suitable mixtures include mulch, pine bark, sand and loam, which is decomposed organic mater.
MAINTENANCE, PRUNING, SHAPING & TRIMMING
• Once you have managed the skills of keeping a Bonsai healthy, it will need to be shaped and groomed as it shows.
• These processes maintain the existing form but provide the opportunity to adjust, improve and refine the shape of the tree.
• The upper branches generally grow the most vigorously.
• Trimming the new shoots of upper branches help fatten the trunks of developing Bonsai.
• Allow the lower branches to extend somewhat before pruning until they develop the required thickness or shape.
• This combination of techniques, result in a tree with a more delicate crown or top and strong lower branches.
• The most important point to remember when grooming Bonsai is that scissors are use to cut stems, not the foliage.
• Cut or trim shoots that grow vertical, upward or downward and maintain horizontal growth, the preferred style of Bonsai.
REPOTTING AND ROOT PRUNING
• Varies from 1 to 5 years depending on the size and age of the Bonsai.
• Check annually.
• If the root ball consists of long circular roots, forming a dense mass coiled in the shape of the pot base, its time to prune the roots.
• Comb out the roots and cut back a third to make space for more potting soil that allows free growth to resume.
• Place back in the same container or increase the pot size and inch or two at a time.
• The best time to do heavy root or branch pruning is in the spring. The longer days and warmer nights encourage strong renewed growth.
PESTS AND DISEASE
• Most Bonsai are hardy trees or shrubs not particularly susceptible to pest and diseases but if a problem occurs, it is important that you can recognize it in order to apply an effective remedy.
Fukien Tea Tree
The Fukien Tea is a perfect tree for the beginning bonsai artist. It is a fast growing hardy tree. With it’s small leaves, delicate white flower, and gnarled trunk it is one of the most interesting bonsai trees available. We will be happy to get you started with one. Let me know if interested.
This tree is one of the most beautiful of all bonsai because of its delicate white flower and its vibrant leaf color.
I have added a beautiful Bougainvillea we have in the balcony. If interested in having one, let me know.
These are the most popular evergreen in the U.S. These impressive, trouble-free evergreens are an excellent choice for the beginner.
Here are some pictures of the Juniper Bonsai my Husband has planted and cared for. If interested in having my Husband plant a Bonsai tree for yourself, let me know.
These type of trees are usually simply nursery stock from garden centers. My husband mostly uses these type of trees to create our Bonsai Trees and these do not need to be actual trees. Shrubs and even vines can work just as good for bonsai starter trees. One can even dig up a tree in the wild! Any tree or shrub that has a good Bonsai potential can get you started.
Let me know if you are interested in growing bonsai trees and my husband can get you started and make a beautiful Bonsai for you, planted in a pre-selected Bonsai pot sized specifically to your tree of choice. This could easily become your next hobby.
Please check out my page on Bonsai to read more and see more pictures of our Bonsai collection.
Let’s Talk Bonsai – Part 2
There are so many things to consider when choosing a Bonsai Pot, like the length, the depth, and the width of the pot. All these considerations play an important role when planting a Bonsai tree. I have even read books that contain all kinds of rules and guidelines for specific pot shapes and what shape tree should be planted in each.
In our experience (mine and my husband’s), we have discovered that although it helps to keep in mind certain guidelines, one should ultimately follow one’s own set of rules when choosing the right pot for your Bonsai. Simply go with what feels and looks right to YOU, and keep in mind the health of your Bonsai comes first.
Let’s Talk Bonsai – Part 3
A Bonsai’s main elements:
The trunk, perhaps the most important element of a bonsai since it tells us more about the plant’s age than any other. It’s ruggedness should be allowed to develop naturally. Generally speaking, the greater the girth of the trunk, the older the tree.
It’s foliage, should have small leaves or needles. Examples of plants/trees with small leaves are Pomegranate, certain maples and oaks and most species of pine and spruce. The picture above clearly shows details of both trunk and foliage elements.
The roots, when exposed, lend age to the tree. Nursery plants most of the times have good looking roots. See example below.
In this picture, Bonsai creation by Bonsai sensei Masahiko Kimura one can admire the details of all three elements.
Let’s Talk Bonsai – Part 4
Wiring and Bending –
These are Bonsai training methods used to create striking forms for your miniature tree. To accomplish a successful Bonsai training, familiarize yourself with it, how it grows, why some branches grow in a certain direction and others do not, how do rocks, soil, wind, affect it’s growth? Once you find your answers and have studied the trunk and decided and even more importantly visualized how you want your Bonsai to look, then approach it with tools, try to see your plant as you want it to look a year or several years from now before you start transforming it. Ask yourself if you want it to have exposed roots, grow out of a rock; do you want it upright, cascaded or slanted? Is the planting to be a single tree or several?
Potting and Repotting
The best way to learn is to practice. Start with an inexpensive 1 gallon nursery plant (such as a juniper).
Have everything at hand. Work away from direct sun and out of any wind, both of which tend to dry out exposed roots. If you plan on repotting a nursery plant immediately, have the nurseryman cut the can. Otherwise, leave it uncut, since roots will dry out quickly.
Have your tools and materials handy: pruning shears, couple of chopsticks, bucket half full of water, your new container, with a piece of broken pottery over the drain hole, and about a third of soil mix; extra soil mix to fill container once plant is in, sprinkling can with spray nozzle, moss, rocks or whatever you plan to use around the base of the plant.
Inspect the root ball carefully. If you see only a few roots on the side and bottom of the ball, treat it gently. If the ball is webbed, treat it boldly, since there are probably more roots than soil. If there are large roots circling the ball, unwind them first and snip them off entirely! Otherwise they will eventually cripple the tree.