Caring for Bonsai from China and Japan
Every home should have a bonsai plant or two, but how do you care for these mysterious plants from Asia?
Bonsai plants cultivated in Japan or China require special care and treatment to grow effectively. Bonsai
plants form miniature trees and shrubs. As these plants age, with care and direction, they become valuable
If you are not yet be ready to start you own bonsai from scratch, that should not stop you from
purchasing a bonsai tree. These plants exude an elegant beauty that alone can enhance any room. And they
will provide years of calmness to your life as you direct the growth of your plant. So it is important that you
understand how these plants are cared for.
The bonsai trees or shrubs from Japan and China require water, fertilization, sunlight, mist, etc.
To help you learn a few steps in caring for your bonsai let's start with watering your plant.
How to water bonsai: The soil for Bonsai trees is designed to drain quickly. Why?
Because roots are routinely trimmed,
they do not tolerate water as well as your common houseplants. Additionally, bonsai typically require
less soil than common houseplants. Because the trees drain quickly, bonsai require more frequent watering.
But the exact amount of water you pour in and how often will be infuenced by the soil, light, location, and
weather condition, and average temperature the plant is dealing with.
A key to determining how you water is to focus on the foliage. If the tree feels light
after testing the moisture content of the soil, the tree will need water. You can purchase a water
test soil moisture to help maintain your bonsai plant.
Bonsai like all houseplants require fertilizer. Again, since bonsai have less soil to draw
nutrients from, you
will need to fertilize the plant often. During the spring you can lightly fertilize your bonsai, however
during the fall season you will want to increase this feeding. What kind of fertilizer should you use for
the healthiest growth of your bonsai? Look for fertilizers that contain potash, nitrogen,
chelated iron, and phosphoric acids. The use of
Superthrive Vitamins and Hormones - 4 oz., a vitamin and plant hormone tonic/supplement is highly recomended as well. Before you add any
fertilizer, be sure that you water your bonsai first.
Most Bonsai trees require direct sunlight. The sunlight should come from south, west, and east for
the best results. During winter months, you can use indoor growing light, but bonsai grow best with
natural light. Misting your bonsai tree is a good idea as well. Japanese and Chinese bonsai trees can handle humidity
beyond what we can stand indoors. You can purchase a tray, and add water at the bottom, set your bonsai
pot into the tray. Doing this will raise the humidity around the plant. Be sure to add a layer of gravel at
the bottom of the tray so that the pot isn't sitting directly in the water. This will help prevent root
How to trim your bonsai: Trimming and pruning bonsai is your way of shaping and creating unique forms.
This is one area where your artistic temperament comes into play. There is a symmetry in this work as you
want the amount of growth of the root system to be
consistent or match the growth above ground. Form and shape the bonsai to your liking, matching it to your personality
and surroundings. You will need sharp shears or scissors to trim your tree. Light branches and foliage is best removed with shears
designed to handle bonsai pruning and trimming. Concave cutters are ideal if you have heavier shrub
growth. In fact, if all you have are the cutters that will be adequate for most of the trimming you
will perform on your bonsai trees.
Bonsai trees need to be watched over. To keep you bonsai tree healthy, reduce insect infestations
from and prevent illness provide plenty of sunlight and ventilation. Clean your plant often, dusting the leaves. And remove any debris
in the soil, such as fallen leaves.
Chosing a bonsai soil: The Bonsai soil you use to plant your bonsai in depends upon the species
of tree or plant you are working with. There is specialized soil for conifers (
Bonsai Conifer Soil Mix - 2 lbs. ) as well a tropical and subtropical species
Tropical/Subtropical Mix Bonsai Soil 10 lbs. ). And there are other specialized soil mixtures
Professional Bonsai Soil - 2 lbs. (1 Qt.)).
When adding soil to a planted bonsai, be sure to shield the drainage
openings. At some point you will need to repot your bonsai tree. Even though these are dwarf trees, they
will get bigger and outgrow their currant containers. Therefore, you will be purchasing new pots as
needed. When you see that the tree is becoming larger than the pot, it is time to
transfer it to a larger container. Give your bonsai room to grow over the many years that it will be a
part of your life.
News About Japanese Bonsai Trees
Colorado College News
Andrew Scherffius '17 Selected to JET ProgramColorado College NewsScherffius first became interested in Japan when he was 14 and visited a monastery, where Trappist monks practiced the Japanese art of bonsai. Eventually, the monks instructed him in the basics of bonsai, including the relevant history and philosophy.