How to Take Care of Bonsai Trees

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Bonsai trees are graceful and beautiful, but can be intimidating to own. These trees have a reputation for being delicate and fussy, but are surprisingly hardy and easy to care for if you follow a simple regimen. Bonsai trees can be enjoyed indoors and outdoors, and are available in a variety of shapes, species and sizes.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Bypass pruners
  • Soil
  • Pot
  • Water the bonsai as needed. The number 1 cause of bonsai death is lack of water and being kept in a low humidity environment too long. An indoor environment is often low in humidity, so it’s important to make sure the tree doesn’t dry out. On the other hand, over watering can cause just as much damage. Check the bonsai pot often until you become familiar with the bonsai’s watering needs. Don’t water just the soil; water the leaves of the tree, too. This will wash away dust that could clog breathing holes in the tree’s leaves. Water bonsai trees early in the day if possible.

  • The soil in the tree’s pot is very important to the health of the bonsai because this is where half of the tree lives. Bonsai soil is porous to allow for quick water flow and enhanced gas exchange. Bonsai soil is also granular. This type of soil helps the tree to develop a thick pad of roots which in turn will support a mass of foliage. Individual species need different types of soil but a general rule to follow is 70% humus and 30% grit for deciduous bonsai trees, and 70% grit and 30% humus for evergreen trees with needles. In Japan, Bonsai purists pot trees with 100% sand.

  • Pot a bonsai tree in a pot that is 2/3 to 3/4 as wide as the tree is high. The pot should also be 1/2 as deep as the tree is high. The recommended height of the pot should be approximately the same as the diameter of the trunk. When first setting up a tree in a new pot, however, the height recommendation should be relaxed. When potting or repotting, keep old trees with old pots, and new trees with new pots. If the bonsai tree is in a 3-legged pot, face 1 foot of the pot forward. Pine tree bonsais should be potted in earth ware. Remember to leave used pots in the sun to sterilize them.

  • Prune branches as needed to keep the tree looking aesthetically pleasing. You should also trim any crossing branches. These are branches that cross the trunk or each other. Branches that stick out of the front of the bonsai tree straight at you should be pruned as well as branches that point straight down.

Tips & Warnings

  • The old bonsai saying, “As with the bottom, so with the top,” means the foliage of the bonsai should balance the roots. Trim the roots after a hard branch pruning. Another good time to trim the roots is when the bonsai tree is repotted.

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