Bonsai Plants are artificially dwarfed varieties of trees and shrubs in shallow pots mostly grown for ornamental purposes. The plants are miniaturized to give a more realistic appearance of them in their natural state while keeping them in contained environments. Most commonly kept within the height of 4 Feet, Bonsai can be created with almost any tree species.
"This art form is derived from an ancient Chinese horticultural practice, part of which was then redeveloped under the influence of Japanese Zen Buddhism."
An art that has been studied and refined for centuries, might look a little intimidating. But don't let that scare you off from getting yourself a magnificent Bonsai to adorn your home. With proper guidance, you too can take care of your Bonsai plant, even if you are not a green thumb. Though these are not your oh-so-typical plants, a few standard rules will ensure that your plant thrives and branches well without you hovering over the health every minute.
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CHOOSING THE RIGHT PLANT
Bonsai comes in various varieties- the most popular among them are the Juniper and Ficus varieties. Choosing the right bonsai for the climate zone that you live in solves half your problems since the plant will already be adapted to the existing climate of your area.
BONSAI CARE GUIDE
Keeping a plant alive is not the first hurdle you will face in general. But keeping Bonsai alive needs some textbook rules. With the minimal root space for water and nutrient intake, Bonsai will need plenty of everything- light, water, and fertilizer to keep the plant growing well.
PLACEMENT FOR LIGHT
Choosing an optimal location for the Bonsai is important to carefully consider all possible environmental conditions.
A south-facing window is a prime spot for your plant since these varieties like to soak up lots of bright light. Low-intensity light leads to a lag in growth, ultimately killing your Bonsai.
Sub-tropical Bonsai varieties such as Ficus species grow best in high humidity zones. If you are keeping your plant at an indoor location, then a humidity tray is greatly beneficial. You can also opt for a humidifier to maintain the humidity level around the plant. Make sure to keep it in a space where the environmental conditions do not go too extreme.
If placed outdoors, then make sure to learn about your plant's annual growing cycle to avoid over-protecting your plant. Often, we tend to go overboard when it comes to these expensive and sophisticated varieties. But these hardened plants need to go through their natural cycle to grow well. Protect the plant from the hot afternoon sun by placing it in shade and if there is frost during the nights, then keep the plant indoors.
WATERING YOUR BONSAI
Watering makes or breaks your Bonsai. Quite Literally.
Watering is one of the most essential care parts of Bonsai. Watering also depends on many factors and hence, there is no textbook rule that you can follow. Water the plant judging the soil dryness and most importantly, your instincts.
Make sure to water the plant when the soil is semi-dry to avoid root rot. Dip your hand about 1 centimeter in the soil to judge its dryness. If it's slightly dry, then it's good to go for watering. Over time, you will be able to see the dryness and water based on that. This goes without saying that there is no hard and fast rule on the watering schedule and neither can you put a finger on the time span between two watering sessions. As and when the climate dries the soil, water your plant.
SUPPLEMENT WITH FERTILIZERS
A right soil mix with adequate nutrition ensures a long-living Bonsai.
Most Bonsai plants grow best on a mixture of akadama, pumice, and lava rock with a ratio of ½ to ¼ to ¼. However, if regular watering is not possible for you, you can use a mixture that retains more water by using more akadama or even using compost in your potting.
Fertilizing the plant during its growing season is crucial for its survival and growth. NPK fertilizers are best for these plants - with Nitrogen aiding in foliar and stem growth, Phosphorus ensuring proper root growth, and Potassium helping with the overall plant health. Use a high Nitrogen mix fertilizer during the growing season preferably and then gradually decrease it as the dormant months come by.
For outdoor Bonsai 10:6:6 ratio of NPK is suggested during the growing season of spring. As summers roll by, shift to a reduced quantity like 6:7:6 ratio ones, and then finally during the colder months, shift to a 3:6:6.
STYLING AND SHAPING YOUR BONSAI
Now that we know how to care for our plants, let's shift to the fun part of styling and shape a Bonsai. Beginner styling includes pruning and wiring to get your desired shape. Advanced styling, however, includes the creation of deadwood. These methods not only keep the plant in good shape but are good manipulation techniques to turn the plant into the desired shape with a realistic appearance.
Though Pruning techniques are long and detailed and often need expert guidance, some simple tricks help ensure a happy pruned plant. Maintenance pruning can be done during the growing season of spring-summer time (Between March to September).
- Prune Bonsai right before the growing season starts so that the climate favours new growth.
- Prune the branches that have outgrown themselves from your desired canopy look. It is okay to prune regularly since you will need to force your plant to look the way you want it to look.
- Make sure to cut off the stems so that the foliage is distributed evenly.
- Use tools like scissors, cutters, and shears to cut off dead parts or non-uniformed stems.
- If your bonsai is a deciduous variety (aka. a plant that sheds its leaves yearly), then practice defoliation that includes trimming the plant in summer to force new growth during the cooler months. It is known to bring down the tree size and increase ramifications (aka subdivisions or branches).
Wiring trains your plant and styles it the way you want it to look. It is one of the most important styling techniques when it comes to Bonsai. Wiring repositions your plant stems and creates the desired canopy. Most plant stems can be wired at any time of the year, but during off seasons due to low foliage, wiring is easier.
- Select two branches of the same thickness that you want to wire. Start the wiring from the trunk and then proceed to the tip of the branch, wrapping the wire around the stem at least twice for proper support. Bend the plant area upward or downwards as per your requirement while you wire the plant. This is called double wiring.
Just like double-wiring, during single-branch wiring, make sure you cut off enough wire to wrap around the trunk twice, and account for enough wire to wrap around the branch from base to tip at a 45-degree angle. When multiple wires are applied to the same part of the trunk or branch try to place them neatly together without crossing them to avoid breakage. Now continue wiring the branch for the desired canopy.
Please note: Pruning and Wiring shapes your Bonsai and if you are a beginner then we highly recommend you do a course from Bonsai Experts so that as your plant grows, so does your expertize while handling these species.
Keep the plant in shaded areas and continue with your care guide. Keep an eye on the wires to make sure that your plant does not get the wiring mark. Remove the wires as soon as you see a wiring mark appearing. Branches grow anytime between 2-4 months around the wire, depending on how fast the tree grows. Cut the wires when removing them. Do not unwind to recycle the wires as unwinding causes more harm to the plant.
And there it is. An easy peasy Bonsai tutorial for your next plant. There are various online courses that provide expert solutions to maintain these plants. If you are a Bonsai enthusiast or are planning to get a lot of them, we suggest you enroll in these courses to master the art of keeping a Bonsai.
BRING A BONSAI HOME
If you have any questions about your plants, you can chat with our Plant Experts to assist you with the same! (PS. you can reach out to our Plant Experts for pretty much any query related to your plants 😉)