Tips for Bonsai Care and Maintenance

Updated on June 11, 2020
Tyrone Du Toit profile image

I like to share my knowledge on bonsai and am a keen writer on bonsai art!

This article will help you take care of your bonsai tree like a pro.
This article will help you take care of your bonsai tree like a pro.

Bonsai trees are beautiful additions to any home and garden. They are striking art forms that turn heads and are appreciated by all who visit your home. They are living art and therefore require care and maintenance to thrive and become even more beautiful.

There are four very important things in bonsai care: watering, proper soil, fertilizing, and positioning and placement.

Placement and Positioning

Determining where to place your tree depends on the following factors:

  1. Whether your tree is an indoor or outdoor bonsai,
  2. What type of tree you have and what its characteristics are
  3. The climate, time of year, and other environmental elements

Research on your tree species is highly recommended. The most popular indoor bonsai are the ficus and jade varieties. Temperate bonsai, whether deciduous or evergreen, do better outdoors—so keep them in a garden or on a balcony.

Indoor Placement

  1. Keep away from any direct heat or draft.
  2. Keep your tree in an area with lots of sunlight, not too close to windows.
  3. Bonsai need humidity to keep the soil moist, so you should place a humidity tray close by.

Outdoor Placement

Most trees need to be placed outside year round. So depending on the region you live in, it might require protection during the winter season. It is crucial for trees to go through their annual cycle for healthy growth. Overprotecting your tree may result in it becoming very weak.

In general, trees require lots of sunlight, so place your tree in a sunny area. In the summer afternoon, shade will be very beneficial, especially if you live in a hot region. Some trees might require protection during winter months.

Watering

Watering is one of the most important parts of ensuring optimal health and growth. Several factors needs to be taken into account when figuring out how regular you need to water:

  • size of the tree
  • size of the pot
  • soil type
  • species
  • time of year
  • climate

Only water your tree when the soil starts to get slightly dry. Don't water the tree when the soil is wet, but don't let the soil dry out completely. To easily check whether the soil is moist, push your finger about a centimeter down into the soil—or if you have a moisture meter, that will work too.

Never water on a routine. Check each tree individually until you have established what you are doing.

Check in on Your Bonsai Regularly

Never water on a routine. Check each tree individually until you have established what you are doing.

Soil Mixtures

Choosing the right soil for your bonsai is crucial. Having the wrong soil type can have a dramatic effect on your bonsai health and vigor.

The ideal soil type will have to supply nutrients to the tree, have good drainage while retaining water, and supply good aeration. Buying ready-mixed soil from your local bonsai shop or online seems to be the easiest method—but doing it yourself will not only save you money, but you can manage and adjust your soil mixes to the tree species.

Types of Soil Components

  • Akadama is hard-baked Japanese clay, specifically produced for bonsai purposes and available at all (online) bonsai shops. It needs to be sifted before use. Keep in mind that after about two years, akadama starts to break down, reducing aeration to a certain extent. This means that regular re-potting is required—or that akadama should be used in a mix with well-draining soil components.
  • Pumice is a soft volcanic product that can absorb water and nutrients quite well. When used in a bonsai soil mix, it helps to retain water and aids the roots to ramify very well.
  • Organic potting compost includes peat moss, perlite, and sand. It has several disadvantages: it retains much water and doesn't aerate/drain very well. But as part of a mixture, it can be used perfectly well.
  • Fine gravel/grit helps to create a well-draining and aerated bonsai soil. It is also used as a bottom layer in bonsai pots to enhance drainage a bit further.

Never Starve Your Bonsai

Bonsai plants and trees require more regular feeding than most houseplants and ornamental plants. Regular fertilizing will keep bonsai small and prevent them from developing spindly limbs. But do not feed sick trees. Let the tree recuperate first before feeding it. As a general rule, feed only healthy trees.

Fertilizing

Bonsai plants and trees are grown in limited amounts of soil, which means they require more regular feeding than most houseplants and ornamental plants. During the growing season, your trees should be fed weekly with bonsai fertilizer. Your bonsai may stop absorbing nutrients during late summer and early fall. As the growth of your bonsai begins to slow down, you need to reduce feeding to only once a month.

Never starve your bonsai. Regular fertilizing will keep bonsai small and prevent it from developing spindly limbs. But do not feed sick trees. Let the tree recuperate first before feeding it. As a general rule, feed only healthy trees.

Here are a few strategies to follow in fertilizing bonsai trees according to the specific class of bonsai.

Deciduous Bonsai Trees

This should be fertilized weekly during the growing season. Feeding should be stopped once its leaves have fallen. During the fall and winter seasons, give your bonsai a 0-10-0 fertilizer.

Conifer Bonsai Trees

This kind of bonsai tree should be fertilized weekly during its growing season. You must fertilize this a few times during the winter time. During the fall and winter months, you must feed your bonsai tree a 0-10-0 fertilizer.

Tropical and Subtropical Trees

These kinds of bonsai trees should be fed at least weekly during its growing season. Tropical and subtropical trees will continue to grow all throughout the year and therefore should be fed monthly from fall to springtime.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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