Bonsai Care

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Posted on: 16 Feb 2021 by Greenwood Bonsai Studio

To learn the basics of bonsai read “Welcome to the Art of Bonsai” below. That section covers basic care. However if you need help because you have a problem with a bonsai then it is best for you to contact us.

The best way to get advise is to bring your bonsai to our bonsai centre in Nottingham. We are open 7 days a week with expert staff available to help.
Otherwise contact Corin or Paul by phone: 0115 9205757 10:00-16:00 GMT OR email: to discuss your problem.
By phone is normally the best alternative as we can ask specific questions to get to the solution quicker.
It is helpful when contacting us if you know what type of tree you have.

Welcome to the Art of Bonsai

Bonsai means literally a plant or planting in a shallow pot or container. The art of bonsai is to maintain the natural form of trees. The tree is reduced in size by judicious pruning, pinching and directing the growth into the desired form to achieve the illusion of a fully grown, aged and well groomed tree.

Watch your tree change with the season – from first Spring green to bright Autumn colours with the flowering and fruiting trees providing colourful displays in season.

As the owner of a bonsai you have the responsibility of its care and maintenance and must be prepared to spend some time looking after it. Many fine examples of bonsai are alive today with a recorded history of centuries and your tree too could live for hundreds of years with the basic horticultural care as outlined here.

General Care

N.B. the information that follows assumes you are growing a hardy plant as a bonsai outside.
If however you are attempting to grow a Tropical/Sub-tropical plant inside see notes on Indoor Bonsai below.
There is no mystery about the care of bonsai – They should for the most be grown outside in natural surroundings in the fresh air. Remember bonsai are not house plants but HARDY trees. They should be grown outdoors and not brought inside for more than a few days at a time. Do not change them from one extreme of temperature to another without giving them a chance to acclimatise in between. A common fallacy amongst the uninitiated is that bonsai are produced by stunting (withholding food and water) in fact the reverse is true and for healthy growth the trees must be regularly fed and watered.

When to Fertilise?

Fertiliser should be given at fortnightly intervals from May to September. Fertiliser may be liquid e.g. Phostrogen, Liquinure etc. or solid e.g. Enmag, Bonemeal etc.

When to Water

The tree must have sufficient water. In Summer water the soil daily, in Winter daily watering is not necessary but never let the tree dry out.
Ordinary tap water is usually suitable but if your water is hard (contains lime) use rainwater on lime hating plants such as Azalea, Rhododendron etc.

Repotting and Root Pruning

Any plant growing in a pot will eventually become ‘root-bound’ – the roots will fill every available air space in the compost making it impossible for water, food and air to reach the roots and finally choking itself to death. Bonsai are no exception and regular repotting is necessary to keep them healthy. Your bonsai will need repotting on average every two years and as it is generally repotted back into the same pot some roots will need to be pruned to allow room for fresh soil. The major root pruning has been done on your bonsai when it was first potted. Observation of the root system by gently tilting the tree and soil intact from the pot will help you to determine if root pruning and repotting is necessary. If the tree appears to be root-bound gently tease out the encircling roots and trim them. The root ball should be reduced by about 1/3 all round. This root pruning can only be done safely in early Spring before the tree starts into active growth (around March/April). Your tree is in a mixture we feel will enable it to grow and keep its beauty. Bonsai soil mixture should be free draining – a general mixture to suit most trees would be one part John Innes No.2, two parts moss peat, one part grit.

Shaping and Styling

If you have bought an established bonsai your tree will have already received basic pruning and styling and on older trees some more advanced refinement. Further shaping will be necessary as your tree sends out shoots. This is done by pinching and pruning. Pinching is done by gripping new growth by thumb and index finger and removing the growth with a plucking action. Pruning is done with sharp scissors or shears being careful to cut neatly through stem, twig or branch without cutting through the leaves or foliage. Constant pinching will induce fine twiggy growth and compact foliage masses.

Choice of Pot

Pots are chosen to enhance and complement the tree. It should not detract from it, subdued earthy colours are most appropriate for the majority of trees. Coloured glazed pots are sometimes used for deciduous and flowering trees. All pots should be frost proof and have adequate drainage holes.

Winter Care

Bonsai although hardy do appreciate protection from the worst of the frost and drying winter winds during Dec/Feb. A protected spot in the garden, cold frame, cold greenhouse or unheated porch can be used for winter storage but take care not to over protect. Do not bring into the house. Bonsai need a dormant period to survive.

Indoor Bonsai

Place your bonsai in a light place, but away from any direct heat source such as a radiator.

Rotate your bonsai regularly to avoid uneven growth.

Water your bonsai regularly, occasional misting is also beneficial to maintain humidity.

The ideal temperature for your indoor bonsai is 15 C to 20 C (60 F to 70 F)

In summer your indoor bonsai will appreciate some time in the fresh air outside.