Bonsai Care: First Things First
As with any garden, the basic elements that your bonsai plant will need to thrive are the right soil, the appropriate amount of light, and the right amount of water.Â
However, bonsai care involves fulfilling certain needs that ordinary plants donât have. For instance, did you know that most bonsai trees are bred to be outdoor plants like their full-sized counterparts?Â If you bring a sun-loving bonsai inside, be prepared to give it 12-16 hours a day of fluorescent light. There are, however, some bonsai plants that do not need that much light, and these may be the ideal species if you want to practice bonsai care indoors.Â Â Â
Another important element of bonsai care is utilizing the right soil.Â In the âwild,â trees grow tall due to their deep root systems, which dig deeply into the earth.Â In contrast, your bonsai will grow in a shallow tray or container, and therefore, your treeâs root system cannot penetrate deeply downward. Instead, it will spread out shallowly, thereby reducing your treeâs growth.Â For this reason, bonsai plants need a special mix of soil to ensure that their roots donât become waterlogged and drown. Because they are grown in such shallow containers, regular potting soil is much too dense and will trap too much water, killing the treeâs roots, and eventually, the tree.Â
In practicing proper bonsai care, you should purchase special bonsai soil, which is a mix of loam, sand, and organics, like peat moss and leaf mold. What soil you should specifically buy is determined by your local climate. Your local greenhouse or nursery, bonsai enthusiast, or Agriculture Extension office can help you determine which soil is perfect for your bonsaiâs care.Â Â
Water and Food in Bonsai Care
Of course, the one question all beginner bonsai gardeners have is âwhen should I water my bonsai?âÂ The answer to this important bonsai care question depends upon what kind of bonsai you have, how humid or dry the air is around your bonsai, what time of the year it is, and other variables.Â
Ideally, in bonsai care, you want a balance between too much and too little. Donât overwaterâbut donât underwater either. Make sure your water is at room temperature, as you donât want to shock your plant with either cold or hot water. If you use tap water, let it sit out overnight so that the chlorine and other chemicals can oxidize out of the water.Â
Wet the soil first, which will increase the bonsaiâs ability to take in more water.Â Afterwards, soak the soil until water runs out of the drainage holes in your training tray. Make sure that the entire soil mass gets wet. Watering is best done daily in the early morning, before the plant begins its daily photosynthesis cycle.Â You can also mist your bonsai on a daily basis to help it retain its necessary humidity levels.
As for fertilizer in bonsai care, use a completely balanced fertilizer (i.e., 20-20-20, which is equal parts nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) every other week at quarter strength.Â A balanced fertilizer is ideal in bonsai care because your tree is considerably smaller than the plants the fertilizer is typically used for. Never fertilize a dry tree (the shock could kill it â make sure to water first!) and donât fertilize a sick tree; remember, fertilizer isnât medication.
With the right amount of water and light, along with appropriate soil and fertilizer, you are well on your way to growing a beautiful bonsai collection.Â Bonsai care does not have to be difficult, as long as you remember to meet the fundamental needs your beautiful bonsai plant has.