Far from a complete guide to bonsai care, this small guide will give pointers for some specific and important subjects. Bonsai tree are simply trees in pots. Trees are plants. So learning the basic about plants and horticulture will help you comprehend the “psychology” of your tree in a pot, see Bonsai.
All plants need lights and each to a different degree. Trees are some of the most demanding plants in terms of light. Light helps the tree convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose and oxygen. The last two are essential to a plant in order to develop new cells and grow. Plants are phototropist organisms. It will grow following the direction of the light. The greatest example is the Sunflower. They are called sunflower because the flower always points toward the sun. Trees are not different; they need light and will look for light.
This is very important to understand when growing bonsai. Since Bonsaiists are trying to achieve small internodes and compact growth with their tree, the more sunlight the tree gets, the shorter the internodes are. It is easier to comprehend this if you think of the consequences of having insufficient light.
Tree will always look for light and when light is insufficient they will stretch themselves, thus growing longer internodes, resulting in a leggy bonsai. When maximum light is provided, the tree does not have to fight for light, plus it will have more energy to produce more buds, then more branching.
As previously said, plants are transforming water in glucose to be able grow. That is why it is important to have proper watering techniques. Watering any plant is pretty much the same. Bonsai have a few different needs that can be fulfill with proper techniques.
Since bonsai are in pots, hence have fewer roots and little soil to grow into, watering them frequently is important. In summer, the sun will heat the pot and will increase the rate at which water will evaporate, even before the bonsai tree satisfies its thirst.
However, watering too often is not good. It could cause root rot, fungus or other diseases. You need to verify every pot to see if you need to water them. There are few ways to do it. You can feel the soil with your fingers or with a wood stick. With smaller bonsai, you can also weight the pot. A dried soil will weigh less then a soil well watered.
When watering your tree, it is important to flood the soil even if you have to do it two or three times. That way you ensure that the soil will absorb the maximum of water. Growing bonsai in a soil that contains particles that absorb water is ideal.
Aside from dormant period, trees are constantly growing. You need to maintain the shape of your bonsai, unless you are training it. The technique to trimming a tree depends on the type of tree. For deciduous tree, you are pruning your tree, and for evergreen you are pinching it. Those terms are pretty self explanatory.
When pruning, you need to have sharp tools in order to make a clean cut and accelerate the healing of the scars. Snipping unwanted branching and leaves is important. If you let some unwanted branches grow too big, and will create a swell and leave an ugly and unwanted scar when cut. Pinching is for evergreen. You will put a soft shoot between your index finger and your thumb to remove this new soft shoot. Even if fingers are the primary tool for pinching, some will use tweezers to remove the smaller shoots.
Trimming will help redirect the energy of the shoot into the rest of the plant. This will result in more ramifications below the pruned or pinched point. This method of energy balancing is used by bonsai masters, in order to induce growth on a weak side of a tree, it is called energy balancing.
Pests and diseases
This is a very hard subject to generalise principles on, since there are so many plants and different growing conditions.
The most common insects are aphids, spider mites, scale insects and mealybugs.
The easiest way to get rid of pests is to remove them by hand. But some are too small and sometimes there are too many. So, the most natural way to remove them is with a jet of water. If you decide to use a chemical solution, you should choose the less dangerous substance. Liquid dishwashing soap diluted in water will kill all soft-bodied insects. You should mix 2 tablespoons of soap into a gallon of water. After you have sprayed your plant, let the substance do its work for an hour, then carefully rinse your tree with water.
As for disease, it’s better to consult your local plant nursery as products are constantly changing, as some are new and some are remove from the market. Also, there are too many diseases to efficiently make a list of symptoms and treatments. The most common diseases are mainly caused by fungus, small mushrooms, and the solution is too apply a fungicide. Funguses are often present when the growing conditions are too humid.
Feeding and fertilizing
In terms of fertilizer, you have many choices. Many companies are offering organic and inorganic fertilizer. Organic fertilizers are mainly fish emulsions, while the inorganic are mainly salts that can be found in a liquid or solid form. Many fertilizer labels will advise to use a specific dose every two weeks. Many bonsai growers prefer to use a half strength solution weekly, or even twice a week during the growth season (summer).
It is important not to feed fertilizer to a sick or under stress tree. You should only apply fertilizer when a tree is fully healthy and thriving. You should also fertilize after you have watered and the soil is moist. This will ensure and help the soil absorb essential nutritive elements.