Bonsai trees overall symbolism represents life. This symbolism comes from the trees always being in constant balance, whether you have one tree, or 10 trees, they are always in harmony. The growing of these trees is an ancient tradition. Originating in China, then moving through Japan, the meaning of bonsai is literally “potted plant”. These plants are often associated with Buddhism as well.
If you plan to grow one of these trees, you should be creative, while constantly giving it attention, and care. Bonsai tree growing is not a race, but a marathon to constantly keeps the balance of your tree. Learning how to properly prune and wire a bonsai tree is not difficult, but mastering the art can take years of practice. That’s why bonsai growing is such a popular and rewarding hobby.
Choosing Your Bonsai
The first step is deciding which type of bonsai tree you want to grow. Different trees will thrive in different conditions, so it’s important to pick one that fits the area you’re growing in.
In general, bonsai trees are separated into two main groups, indoor and outdoors trees. Depending on where you want to grow, start with one of these broad categories and then drill down. Also, keep in mind the environment you live in before selecting a plant. Growing an outdoor plant is great, but if you experience harsh winters you’ll need to come up with a plan to overwinter the plant. Many outdoor bonsai trees won’t survive indoors well without having a special grow space, so take that additional work into account when selecting a plant.
For beginners, the Ficus Bonsai is generally considered a good choice. The Ficus is an indoor Bonsai, although it can be placed outside in warmer weather. Frost will unfortunately kill the plant. This gives is a good mix of ease of care and flexibility, making it a solid choice for first timers. Don’t feel like this is your only choice though, as there are a lot of other types out there.
The Ficus, as we’ve already touched on, is but one type of Bonsai plant. So those looking to get creative have more than enough to work with. We’ll also be posting articles on some of the more popular indoor varieties to help you choose. Below find some general tips regardless of which breed you pick.
Another thing you are going to want to take into consideration when making your choice, is the size of your tree. Bonsai trees can be as small as 6 inches when their full grown, and get as big as 3 feet tall as well. Proper shaping can also help keep your plant’s size in check, but will require more work on your part. You’ll want to pick a plant that lines up with your desired grow space as well as the level of effort you want to put into your plant’s care.
Always take into account the location as well, as many varieties need full sunlight in order to thrive. Following general planting techniques for placement is always a smart bet, and Bonsai trees are no exception. It’s always wise to do a bit of research before you begin to figure out if a particular plant is suitable for how you intend to grow it.
Planting Your Tree
Wen getting started you have two options, using a pre-grown plant or starting from a seed. In most cases, it’s recommend that you choose a healthy looking plant, and grow it from there. Starting from a seed requires a lot more control over the grow space as well as up to 5 years before you’ll have a viable plant. This makes it only good for those looking for a challenging multi-year project.
When choosing a pot pick one that is big enough to house your plant as the size of it will dictate maximum plant growth. This is easier to do once you have a variety in mind, and an idea of how big you want it to grow. Make sure to choose a pot that is well draining, or drill in some drainage holes in the bottom.
Before you start the transition of moving the plant into your own container, you will want to make sure the base of your pot has a level of fresh soil on the bottom, leveled off to the height you would like for your tree. You will want the soil in the bottom to be more of a coarse, grainy soil. Then next layer of soil, you will need some finer, and looser growing soil. You will want this soil to be able to handle water well, and, can drain the water proficiently too. Regular soil from your garden is not a good fit for bonsai trees, as they hold too much water.
After repotting your tree, you will want to leave it in a spot that is semi-shaded, for 2-3 weeks, as well as keep it out of the way of wind, rain, and direct sunlight. You can use fertilizer with bonsai trees, but not until the roots have adapted to their new environment and are secure within the new dirt.
Fertilizing your Bonsai tree is crucial for its growth and overall look.
With their location inside the pot or container you picked, their new home does not have many nutrients or resources that will promote its healthy growth. You will want to regularly fertilize the tree during its growth season, with the amounts and times varying for all plants. You are going to want to use less fertilizer than you would out in your garden, however. For indoor plants, you’ll also want to water and fertilize less during the winter months as most plants will experience a time of dormancy then.
Styling and Shaping
When you have a bonsai tree, you need to be somewhat artistic and creative with it. This part can prove to be fun, but it is also a bit challenging and difficult. The skill of owning a tree can take years to master, but there are some basics you can learn quickly and easily.
Pruning is essential to maintaining your tree. This will keep your tree at the size that you want, and will also give it the desired shape. There are two main types of pruning, maintenance and aesthetics.
Aesthetic pruning should be done sparingly as too much can cause damage to your plant. Here you can let your creativity shine, and there really isn’t any hard rules for what you have to do. Most people look to create a tree that is similar to nature, but miniaturized. To that end they look to remove any unnatural looking branches, or one that make jarring twists and turns. They might also prune back some of the upper branches to allow light to lower ones. This is also a good time to look to remove larger, ugly branches if you so desire. It’s really up to you and what you think looks good.
Pruning for maintenance can be done much more frequently, especially in the summer when the plant is likely growing more quickly. Here you want to make sure to remove things such as dead or dying leaves and branches. You should also look to keep your nodes on twigs to 3 or 4 to prevent overgrowth. Pruning helps keep the plant healthy when done correctly, so it’s okay to do so on a regular schedule.
Overall, pruning is a big part to own a bonsai plant and where a lot of the fun is. You can spend a lot of time getting the cut juts right for a healthy and good looking plant. Don’t worry if you don’t get it perfect the first time, bonsai is a lifelong hobby that you’ll become more proficient in over the years.
A technique used to shape trees is by wrapping the branches in a thick gauge wire. You can manipulate the way your tree grows by, carefully wrapping the wires around the branches which you wish to shift the position of. This process can be done all year, though is most likely to be used for a freshly potted plant to help it stand straight in the early months. You’ll also want to take care not to leave the wires on for too long as they can scar the plants. The length of time is largely dictated by the plant type, but a year or two is generally safe for a lot of them.
Growing Bonsai Trees
Growing bonsai trees is a fun and rewarding hobby. Bonsai trees are quite beautiful, and can provide years of enjoyment pruning and growing them. The great thing about bonsai is the large range of different plants means there’s a viable plant for nearly any location and effort level. Whether you want a fast growing challenge, or a small plant seldom touch for an office desk there’s a plant for you.
For those looking for a simple started kit check out this one on Amazon. It’s a great start for a beginner and directly supports this site. We get a small commission for every purchase so it helps us keep producing articles. We’d also recommend checking out a local nursery to get a full grown plant to start from.