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Growing A Bonsai Tree
From Bonsai Seeds

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Growing a bonsai from under the ground up...
I am guessing that as a beginner, your first bonsai was a young tree. And with this tree you began to learn the basics of bonsai - pruning, wiring, repotting and not to mention, watering and feeding.

Perhaps you are curious if you can grow a bonsai from the very beginning, starting with bonsai seeds.

Of course, you may also be wondering what exactly are bonsai seeds.

Basically, "bonsai seeds" are regular tree seeds of species most suitable for bonsai plants. There are many species of trees - deciduous, evergreen and tropical that can be trained into bonsai, that you can grow from seed. Bonsai seeds are generally seeds that are preferred by bonsai enthusiasts. But every seed must still be trained to become bonsai, otherwise you will end up with a natural sized tree...

Seed Germination - Once you have picked out the tree species you want to grow into bonsai trees, what do you do next? There are two ways to get you bonsai seeds to germinate.

Because tree seeds typically need to go through a phase called dormancy, you can't just stick a seeds into a pot of soil and expect to see a sprout poking up in a couple of weeks. Bonsai seeds need to go through a period where they rest in the soil and experience cold temperatures and other conditions, before they will sprout - this is the dormancy phase.

Method One:  Through natural germination, the bonsai seeds just go through the dormancy cyle as they do in the wild. Sow your seeds outside in autumn. Place your bonsai seeds into good soil spacing them out 1/4 to 1/2 inch apart, a little under the surface, Over the winter, Nature will accomplish all the necessary natural processes the seeds need to germinate. Next spring, you should have sprouted seeds, which will soon be ready to pot.

Method Two:  The second way to get your seeds growing is by forced germination. Basically, this is recreating, inside your house, the conditions the seeds need to go through to be ready to germinate. There are several steps you will want to carry out carefully.

1) Scarification or Cracking the Hard Shell - All seeds have a shell around the live inner part. Some of these surfaces are harder than others. The task of the scarification process is to soften the shell and allow water to reach the inner part of the seed.
Golden Hinoki Cypress - Large  (Chamecyparis Obtusa Compacta

Golden Hinoki Cypress - Large (Chamecyparis Obtusa Compacta "aurea")

Golden yellow evergreen conifer with fan-like foliage. Leaves edged with blue on undersides. Pea-sized cones. Beautiful uncommon evergreen which is the smallest of the species. Not to be confused with Arborvitae. Hardy, keep outdoors.

To scarify the seeds, put them into water, usually a glass or a bowl, for a period of twenty four to forty eight hours. In most cases, the water should be warm to the touch, although some seeds species need to start out in boiling water.

Normally, the viable seeds will sink after the twenty four. If there are still seeds floating at the end of forty eight hour, throw them away - they are empty seeds. Once completed, you are ready to begin the next step. (Please note that with some seeds you should skip the second step and proceed directly to the third step).

NOTE:  Some bonsai seeds need to be exposed to ambient room temperature for thirty to ninety days before you go to step two (Cold Stratification). This is called heat stratification and is easily accomplished by leaving the seeds exposed on a plate at room temperature.

2) Cold Stratification - Into the Depths of Winter - The next step is the cold stratification period. The job here is to mimic what happenes to seeds falling from trees at the start of autumn. In nature, seeds then spend the winter period experiencing colder temperature that actually cause chemical changes in the seeds that will trigger the germination process once the soil warms up to the right temperature is reached in the spring. During the forced germination process, one reenacts the conditions of winter time. To do this you will need the following materials:
  • Plastic Ziplock bag
  • Paper towel
  • Water
Fold the paper towel in two and moisten it with water. It should not be dripping wet, but humid. Place your seeds on the humid paper towel and fold it over the seeds. Now put the paper towel with the seeds in the ziplock plastic bag and store them in your refrigerator for a period varying from thirty to one hundred and twenty days. Be sure t check your seeds every thirty days in order to prevent rot and allow for proper air circulation. You will also be watching for germinated seeds. If any seeds have begun to sprout, take the germinated seeds and proceed to the next step (sowing). If not, wait the required period (accoring to the species) and then proceed.

3) Sowing and Reaping a Bonsai Tree - Sowing can be accomplished in the ground or in a pot. Use any soil suitable for planting and growing. Make a small opening in the soil (approximately 1/2 an inch deep), place the seed in the opening and cover it with a few millimetres of soil. Keep the soil moist.

Soon you will see new baby trees springing up through the soil and you are on your way to growing a Bonsai Tree from bonsai seeds. You will begin a relationship that with care can last a lifetime.

SPECIAL NOTE: Different tree species vary in the period of cold and/or warmth they need to experience during the Forced Germination Process. Check with any accompanying instructions when buying bonsai seeds for particular details or check with your local nursery.

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