How to Grow and Care for a Bonsai Tree – Planted Perfect
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How to Grow and Care for a Bonsai Tree

How to Grow and Care for a Bonsai Tree

Of all the types and varieties of plants and greenery that gardeners have taking to cultivating throughout the ages, few if any rival the mysterious miniature bonsai tree when it comes to perceived skill and artistic beauty. And as gardeners, many of us secretly dream of raising bonsai for ourselves, so let’s look at these simple elegant bonsai trees and explore what really goes into raising your own.

In this article , we're going to cover on the most common questions from a bonsai enthusiasts or any beginner that wanted to start a simple bonsai tree care right now as example:

  • How to keep and raise a bonsai tree
  • How to take care of your bonsai tree
  • Names of different species of bonsai trees
  • What trees can you bonsai from easy to a perfect bonsai tree care
  • How do they make and raise a bonsai tree
  • Caring for your bonsai plant with a simple tree care
  • How do you grow bonsai trees

bonsai tree growing season

What is a Bonsai Tree?

One of the biggest and most pervading misconceptions surrounding bonsai trees are their origin. Bon Sai, the Asian art of tree keeping is a practice that has been around for centuries and is the mindful cultivation and shaping of full sized trees to miniature scales. In other words, bonsai form from the same seeds as any other trees and their minute scale is merely a result of careful trimming and shaping by an experienced gardener to create these miniature works of art, sculpting nature to the beauty and scale desired.

The 3 Types of Bonsai Trees

Before worrying about proper care and maintenance, we need at least a have a basic understanding of the various species of bonsai. Contrary to popular belief, bonsai trees are actually quite diverse and unfortunately when deciding which is right for you, aesthetics and wow factor aren’t always the deciding factor on the bonsai type trees species you raise. This is a plant we’re talking about, and as with any plant, climate and locale play a crucial role in the health and happiness so it’s best to choose a bonsai native to your region.

Here are the Bonsai Tree Types list

Deciduous Bonsai Trees

For North American gardeners, deciduous trees are nothing new. Plants that shed their leaves come autumn and begin a new the following spring are the deciduous species so common to the US and are a great choice for the beginner bonsai enthusiasts.

These include the vast majority of native species such as oaks, elms, magnolias and even crabapple trees and are ideal for homeowners seeking to grow their outdoor bonsai tree types.

One of the great things on bonsai tree care outdoor types, it is very easy to maintain since it will get a natural sunlight to grow.

different species of bonsai trees

Tropical Bonsai Trees

Many bonsai gardeners prefer raising their trees indoors. Doing so allows for more diversity when choosing your species as the climate can be kept relatively consistent and of course seeing this spectacle daily as it grows and matures is invigorating.

For growers in the tropics or warmer regions or those wishing to raise a bonsai indoors, tropical varieties are a must. Several of the prettier tropical species of bonsai include Ficus, Jade, Sweet Plum and Fukien Tea varieties.

Also, be warned that trees which thrive upon moderate or cooler climates are should be kept outdoors because they require a changing of the seasons and a period of dormancy during the winter to thrive come next growing season.

If you're looking after a bonsai tree indoors, then this should be your type species that you should look for.

perfect bonsai tree

Coniferous Bonsai Trees

The last species of bonsai are of course the conifers and evergreens. Choose a coniferous species if needles and never ending greenery appeal to your inner bonsai beauty. Of course, the conifer bonsai best include pines, junipers, and spruces, all of which are breathtaking to behold, especially in the miniature.

You must be wondering on how to care for conifers? Well, it depends on your soil type, a slightly acid soil and a well drained is the most ideal. Most conifers grow best in full sunlight, and with a bit of shade during the afternoon is one of the best ways to grow a dwarf conifer, assuming you are living in hot southern zones. Ideally for Hemlock, plum yew and yew.

baby bonsai tree care

Planting Your Bonsai Tree

Part of both the joy and prestige of the bonsai tree is the consistency required for true beauty. As a bonsai owner, you’ll grow and care for your tree, from seed through to maturity as it ages and evolves right there with you over the years. And, unlike other plants you devote time and love to, bonsai trees are scaled to be easily portable - moving doesn’t mean losing a part of you or your garden love anymore! Here is the bonsai tree planting guide from us.

Because the experience of raising your bonsai is such a long and enjoyable journey, we’d recommend the harder but more rewarding route of planting from seeds and slowly growing your tree along with your own skill. You will likely find the effort and experience more than makes up for the added weight as your tree matures.

After choosing your desired species and buying a packet of seeds at your local nursery, the seeds are relatively easy to plant. Prepare the seeds by soaking them overnight in room temperature water and the following day (be sure to mark this in the calendar as you’ll want to know your bonsai’s “birthday” as it grows and matures) plant them in an inexpensive container (not ceramic to begin with) filled with high quality, nutrient rich soil. Adding organic fertilizer or even composted soil can be hugely beneficial to your tree as it begins to grow and as a potted plant, your bonsai will require frequent fertilizer.

Best Practices as Your Bonsai Grows

Because bonsai trees are typically more delicate than most other varieties of cultivated plants, it’s important to provide proper care and maintenance to let them thrive in order to get a full-size bonsai tree. These are relatively simple but should be practiced regularly for health, beauty, and longevity.

How long for a bonsai tree to grow?

Depending on the kind of bonsai species that you would like to grow, sometimes this could take up to five years. Although it's a slow process, but it is totally worth it since the bonsai seeds are so inexpensive and you'll be able to control the growth at every stage.

Watering Bonsai Trees

You must be thinking; how often should you water bonsai trees or how to take care of a bonsai tree? Taking care of a bonsai is so easy as long as you know how to treat it as our guide on simple bonsai care as below.

First and foremost, your bonsai needs water to thrive. Whenever the soil appears or feels dry it’s past time to water. Don’t allow your bonsai’s soil to dry out and whenever possible try to water at least daily (especially if in direct sunlight). That said, of course, the size and location of your bonsai and the potted container it calls home will play a big role in how often you’re filling her up.

And because bonsai trees are quite delicate and small, watering should be a pretty peaceful affair involving pour over water cans or a lightly dispensing sprayer hose. Overpowered sprayers can disrupt your tree, damage the soil and hurt a growing bonsai considerably.

One trick getting started is to use a moisture meter to easily monitor whether or not your tree is getting enough water. After a while, you’ll begin to understand exactly how often is ideal to help your plant grow and will likely no longer need the monitor.

Where to Put Bonsai Trees and What About Sunlight?

Do bonsai trees need direct sunlight? When in doubt, do as Mother Nature intended. Despite their miniature scale and artistic beauty, bonsai trees are more or less the same as they’re enormous cousins. They have similar requirements for sunlight and temperature to thrive so the best bet on positioning your growing tree is to find what others of the species need.

We mentioned previously the differences between indoor and outdoor bonsai's; some need cooling and dormancy while others thrive on warmth...both, however, need lots of suns. Make sure your indoor plants find themselves around southern facing windows and the outdoor ones enjoy enough early morning rays with some afternoon shade. This is more or less ideal for your bonsai.

Using Fertilizer for Bonsai Growth

In this section, we're going to discuss on bonsai tree nutrients. Because bonsai are potted plants, they lack much of the needed nutrients of the natural soil. To compensate for this, a bonsai owner must be on top of adding fertilizer. With such small pots, it’s generally best to apply fertilizer at least monthly to prevent these potential deficiencies which could derail your bonsai.

How to grow your own bonsai trees from seed?

Regarding the type of fertilizer that’s best for your bonsai, there are certain bonsai focused plant fertilizers available, but any multi-purpose liquid fertilizer from your local nursery should be okay. And when in doubt, ask a plant specialist there for their expert opinion, chances are they’ll  have worked primarily with your species and possibly be able to add some insight. Plus you will make their day by letting them feel important :)

Training and Shaping - The Art of Bonsai

How to Prune a Bonsai Tree?

Bonsai is an undeniably pure, simple form of natural art of shaping trees. It's quiet simplicity is actually quite complex and challenging and is the basis of the entire art of bonsai tree cultivation. It is this training in the infancy stages of the plant’s growth which contribute not only to its miniature nature but also a bonsai’s often intricate, seemingly unnatural twists and shapes.

These beautiful, more exotic shapings are much of what wow and excite aspiring bonsai gardeners but can take years of practice to accomplish on the art of tree shaping. Most seem to recommend tuning the style and substance of your tree to that of its original form, at least when getting started.

Pruning the Perfect Bonsai Tree

As an accomplished gardener, you know your way around a set of pruning shears. You’ve been gardening for who knows how long, but DON’T SKIP THIS SECTION as this section are not only for pruning bonsai trees for beginners. Pruning a bonsai and shaping an exquisite, vibrant rose bush are entirely different challenges. Your bonsai needs special care to flourish and with bonsai trees, there are two different types and purposes of pruning: shaping pruning and maintenance pruning.

How to trim bonsai tree?

Trees, bonsai trees included have a tendency to expand and grow up and outward as they mature. This is generally counterproductive to the bonsai owner as a miniature plant must maintain miniature proportions to be enjoyed. Because of this, the vast majority of your pruning and shaping will be concentrated on the top and outermost areas of your bonsai as you allow densely, lower hanging branches to grow and prosper.

how to raise a bonsai tree

Shaping Your Bonsai

Bonsai pruning is very much a seasonal thing. Your tree NEEDS to be shaped at just the right time as it grows. And in shaping lies the art and beauty of your bonsai. As the master and architect, you control which branches grow, which are stopped short and the direction and aesthetics of it all.

This is shaping, pruning for beauty and it is best performed immediately before or after a growing cycle (early spring or late fall typically) to minimize damage and allow enough of a recovery to thrive. Lastly, bonsai roots must be trimmed in proportions to the branches else they grow more roots and work to regrow the previously pruned branches. This would create a rather unsightly, counterproductive issue for your bonsai.

Maintenance Pruning

Unlike shaping, bonsai tree maintenance pruning can be performed anytime even you are complete beginners, throughout the growth cycle to keep things in check. You’ll want to perform pinching and trimming consistently to contain growth while focusing on removal of the top and outer areas. Doing this in addition to removing dead or damaged portions of your tree help it to focus growth and energy into the limbs and regions most in need.

Bonsai Pruning Tools

Because of their miniature nature and precise shaping, bonsai trees require several special tools to maintain. For pruning and trimming, bonsai owners prefer micro tip pruning snips for highly detailed, accurate cuts to closely shape and sculpt as they see fit. The smaller, more precise snips minimize damage and accidental cuts to the tree, promoting health and beauty and make bonsai pruning a whole lot easier.

But pruning snips are barely the beginning of tools bonsai owners simply must have to master bonsai. The other tools of the trade include aluminum or copper wiring to shape and mold, mini soil rakes to scrape and refine, larger cutters for bigger, more established branches, bonsai turntables to make twisting and cutting easier and even trunk benders for more skilled, intricate owners.

Bonsai Wire Training

Wiring is one of the most important crafting methods of bonsai masterpieces. With wrapped metal wiring, bonsai owners quite literally sculpt and control the growth and direction of their tree. This is the secret behind the many intricate bonsai works of art which likely inspired you to take up bonsai in the beginning.

But with great power comes great responsibility right….When wiring and wrapping your bonsai, it’s important to slowly, gently shape the branches to avoid harm. Forcing the tree to grow into unnatural shapes takes time and too abrupt a change can have devastating consequence. Be sure to check regularly on progress and growth. This is especially important during peak growing times where branches will be growing and expanding rapidly and wires, if not loosened, will cut in, resulting in damaging, ugly scars as the branches are compressed. But with vigilance, wiring can be safely performed year round and when proper monitored to provides incredible shaping results.

Repotting a Bonsai

As your bonsai grows and matures, it’s important to regularly repot or transplant to keep up with growing needs. Doing so will prevent your bonsai from becoming root bound and starving to death which after years of careful training and care would be devastating.

How often your bonsai needs to be repotted will largely depend on the type of tree, container size, how you prune and shape and the speed by which it grows.Usually it’s time for an upgrade as the root systems begin growing out of control and encircling themselves. In general, look to repot every two years (possibly more frequently) or so as the bonsai quickly comes of age in its youth and start to slow to once every 3-5 years after having reached maturity (for a most detailed guide on the exact repotting procedure, check out this article).

outdoor bonsai tree types

To maximize the beauty and enjoy of your bonsai, be sure to choose a container which fits not only the scale but style of your bonsai. This is your baby, you’ve worked years shaping and perfecting a living work of is the time to enjoy and proudly display it!

Congratulations! You’re Now Official a Bonsai Enthusiast

And there you have it, the demystification of the   and simply beautiful bonsai, arguably one of the great wonders of the gardening world. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this, I know I certainly have. Are you a bonsai convert, going to begin growing and caring for your miniature masterpiece or simply enjoy exploring the art of bonsai? Whatever your reason for reading, thanks for taking the time and if you’ve your own bonsai or begin the art of crafting your own, we’d love to hear about it. Please be social and share this if you enjoyed it and would like to let other gardeners in on the excitement that is bonsai!