How To Take Proper Care Of your Outdoor Bonsai Tree
Bonsai is the reproduction of natural tree forms in miniature. This art form has
its origin in Japan and China where it has been practiced for centuries. Bonsai
are grown in pots and are totally dependent on you for their care.
With proper care, your bonsai will remain healthy, beautiful and miniature
for many years to come. Since your bonsai is a living miniature tree, it will
increase in beauty as it matures through the years. The instructions below are
just the basics and, therefore, I recommend that you purchase one of the many
fine books available on the subject.
A bonsai is a living miniature tree and not a house plant; therefore, your bonsai
must be maintained in a cool/cold environment during the winter season. As a
guide, around Thanksgiving Day it is time to prepare your bonsai for its winter
dormancy period which should last approximately three (3) months. This can be
accomplished in several ways. One method is to bury your tree in the ground
(preferably without the pot) up to the rim of the container and then mulch up
to the first branch. It is best to choose a location that is protected from
wind and sun, but not rain or snow. A second method which is also common is
to place your tree(s) in an unheated garage or shed. During this time, your
tree does not require light because it is in a dormant state; however, it will
require watering approximately every two weeks. Throughout the spring, summer
and fall your bonsai should be placed outside, such as on a patio, balcony,
terrace, or in a garden. Once outside, your bonsai should be positioned where
it will receive sufficient sun – morning sun and afternoon shade is best.
A bonsai can be viewed best when it is placed approximately three to four feet
high (eye level), such as on a table, wall or bench. A bonsai can and should
be brought into the house on special occasions and displayed in a prominent
place. Your bonsai should not remain inside for more than a few days at a time,
as the atmosphere is detrimental to the health of your tree.
The watering of your bonsai must never be neglected. Apply water when the soil
appears dry -- never allow the soil to become completely dry. If your bonsai
is receiving full sun, it may be necessary to water once a day. This schedule
may vary with the size pot, type of soil and type of bonsai tree you own. Evaluate
each tree's water requirements and adjust your watering schedule to accommodate
it. It is a good idea to use a moisture meter until you get to know the requirements
of your bonsai tree. Watering should be done with a watering can or hose attachment
which should dispense the water in a soft enough manner as not to disturb the
soil. Water should be applied until it begins running out of the holes in the
bottom of your pot. A good rain is usually a sufficient watering.
Fertilizing is also necessary if your bonsai is to remain healthy and beautiful.
Since your bonsai is growing in such a small amount of soil it is necessary
to replenish the soil's supply of nutrients periodically. Any general-purpose
liquid fertilizer will do fine and is available at most garden centers. We suggest
that fertilizers be used at half their recommended strength. Fertilizer should
be applied at least once a month except during the winter. Your bonsai will
also respond well to foliar feeding, with a water-soluble fertilizer applied
every other month as a spray.
This brief explanation of basic care does not cover training. Training deals
with the art of bonsai and should be thoroughly understood before undertaking
-- or left to a professional. However, most of the true bonsai trees you find
have already been through their training period, thus requiring only periodic
trimming and pinching to remain miniature.
TRIMMING & PINCHING
Trimming and pinching keep your tree miniature. Pinch and trim back the new
growth to the farthest safe point. Never should all of the new growth be removed.
A little should be left to sustain the health of the tree. Tropical and sub-tropical
trees used for bonsai will require periodic pinching and trimming throughout
the year. Since different trees grow at different rates, it is necessary to
evaluate each tree’s rate of growth and adjust your trimming and pinching
to accommodate it.
Repotting must be performed periodically on all bonsai when their root system
has filled the pot. The reasons for repotting are to supply your tree with fresh
soil, and to encourage a more compact root system. As a rule, most deciduous
trees require repotting every two or three years, while evergreens only need
to be repotted every four or five years. Since trees grow at different rates,
this schedule will not always hold true, therefore, you should examine your
tree's root system each year to determine if it has become pot-bound. In most
cases, the potting process is easy and safe if performed properly and at the
right time of the year. Repotting should be done in mid-summer. The tree, along
with all of its soil, should be removed from the pot. The outer and bottom most
fourth of the tree's root mass should be removed. This is done by raking the
soil away then pruning back the roots. In most cases it is not good to prune
back more than one fourth of the tree's root mass. After this, the tree can
be placed back in its original pot or into another. The pot should have screen
placed over the drainage holes. Then, a thin layer of small gravel is placed
in the bottom of the pot for drainage purposes. On top of this gravel is placed
the new fresh soil. Place a layer of well-draining soil which is sufficient
enough to elevate the tree to its previous height in the pot. After placing
the tree back in the pot, the area left vacant by the pruned root mass should
be filled in with fresh soil. This fresh soil should be worked in around and
under the root mass in such a manner as to avoid leaving any air pockets. After
repotting, your bonsai should be thoroughly water. This can be achieved by submerging
the entire pot in a tub of water. Moss or other ground covers can be used to
cover the surface of the pot to help prevent soil erosion when watering.
INSECTS & DISEASES
Since your bonsai is a normal tree, only miniature, it can be treated for insects
and diseases the same as any other tree. If you discover any insects or diseases,
our website contains several products which will help you eliminate the problem.