If you’re looking to get a bonsai tree, or buy one as a gift you are probably going to be slightly disheartened when you hear people saying that they’re incredibly hard to look after. In this article we are going to break down all aspects of caring for a bonsai, both hard and easy so you can make up your own mind!
Bonsai trees are not hard to care for, they’re actually very easy to care for. Trees are very stubborn, resilient things and if you can exercise patience/discipline and correct care for your species, caring for a bonsai tree is extremely simple. Once you understand the optimum growing conditions for your bonsai, along with how to water it properly, it’s very simple upkeep from there!
The Hard Parts Of Caring For A Bonsai
There are a few important things to know about when caring for a bonsai that I would describe as the hardest. Please note that I’m not saying that they should put you off getting a bonsai, or that they’ve even hard – they’re just definitely the hardest for a beginner in terms of caring for the tree.
One of hardest parts of caring a bonsai tree is watering it. Well, not actually watering it, the process of watering a tree is extremely simple – you can’t really go wrong. I mean actually remembering to water your bonsai is the hardest part! A lot of people tend to almost boast about the fact they’ve ‘even let a cactus die’, which is a bit of an odd achievement in my opinion. Either way, life is busy and it really does get in the way sometimes leading to a lot of new bonsai owners to just forget to water their trees. I’ve put together a step by step guide to watering your bonsai tree properly
, which you might find useful.
I have listed this as being one of the reasons bonsai are hard to care for but really with things such as iPhone alarms now, there’s really no excuse for not remembering to water the tree most days. If you’re the kind of person to forget about watering your house plants, maybe set an alarm for before work, or maybe even when you get back from work to just check out the situation. I’m aware that this probably sounds incredibly boring of a job to do but believe me when I say after a few weeks you’re really going to start taking pride in this, remembering without an alarm and getting more obsessed with bonsai!
A misconception is that bonsai trees are just little indoor trees, which isn’t strictly true! Granted there are some species of tropical and subtropical trees that thrive being grown indoors but the majority of bonsai species, especially ones that beginners will pick up, are for outdoor growing. Learning how to provide the right conditions for your bonsai is definitely one of the hardest and most important things to learn in order to care for your tree. Given the perfect pruning and watering, a tree still isn’t going to thrive with vigor if you have it growing in completely the wrong environment. For a full run down on the best practices for placing your bonsai tree in the best location
, have a read of my article!
It’s really important to look at a few different factors in order to give your species the correct care. Firstly, should the species be grown indoors or outdoors for most of the year? Secondly, where can you position the tree so it gets a great level of light and sun, without an overbearing amount of intense sunlight. All trees are different and respond differently to different situations and conditions so this can take a little while to perfect/learn properly, hence it being a reason why bonsai are hard to care for. After a few months it’s going to be like second nature for you to understand where your tree should be placed at different times of the year. Through different seasons trees typically require different amounts of care, some even needing to be moved to a cold and dark place for a dormant period.
Watering combined with the optimum conditions are definitely the most crucial and hardest parts to master when it comes to caring for a bonsai tree. Does that mean it’s too tricky to bother with? Absolutely not, bonsai is extremely relaxing and although these are the hardest things you have to deal with at the start of caring for a bonsai, that doesn’t mean they’re inherently difficult.
In this day and age everything is so easily accessible, well connected and the majority of people are looking for that instant gratification when doing anything. Unfortunately, bonsai yields more or less no instant gratification at all. Most of the tasks you will undertake will take a long time to be brought to fruition, for instance growing a new tree from cuttings, growing from seeds or even wiring a bonsai.
Although I have listed this as a negative, I would lean more towards this actually being a positive factor of caring for a bonsai. In a world where you can easily seek instant gratification, it’s nice to have a hobby where you can exercise discipline, patience and look at the longer time scale, rather than the next 5 minutes. Bonsai definitely isn’t the ideal hobby for someone with a real lack of patience as they’re most likely going to get bored, frustrated and eventually stop caring for the tree.
The Easy Parts Of Caring For A Bonsai
Now we have got all the hardest parts out of the way, let’s look at how easy caring for a bonsai tree can be!
Simple Processes –
The processes behind caring for a bonsai tree are very simple, easy to learn and easy to maintain. Once your tree is in the right growing conditions for the species, the main processes you’re going to have to do are watering and pruning. Watering is extremely easy, you honestly can’t really do it wrong providing you are checking the soils moisture every single day. Pruning is also very easy once you get the hang of it – I remember being very nervous that I would kill the tree the first time I attempted pruning but the chances of that are extremely unlikely.
Once you get more experienced there are of course more advanced techniques from wiring to splitting trunks, which can achieve the looks of the most amazing trees. This isn’t worth worrying about for the minute though, the main processes in caring for a bonsai tree are not hard at all.
Trees Are Resilient –
There is of course a lot of care that needs to be given to a bonsai but we must remember that they are still trees. The fact that these trees are strong and resilient really makes it easy to care for them, especially in the daily upkeep. Although they are delicate, they’re forgiving. If you don’t manage to water your bonsai one day, it’s going to be OK. If you over-watered it one day, it’s going to recover. If you didn’t prune it for a few months because you didn’t have the time to dedicate to it, it’ll be OK.
I’m not saying buy a bonsai tree and never water it because they’re resilient anyway, I’m simply saying that they’re very understanding trees. Life gets in the way sometimes, it’s more about consistency than perfection when it comes to bonsai. Being on point with everything is going to more times than not, lead to a healthier tree but for a lot of people that worry of perfection could stop them even getting a tree.
Doesn’t Eat Away Time –
One of the easy parts of caring for a bonsai is just the fact that it doesn’t take up a huge amount of your day, at all. Of course there are times where you want to spend hours pruning, repotting or wiring up trees which will be time consuming but for the everyday tasks, there isn’t much to do. For the majority of bonsai owners, the usually daily time expenditure is going to be checking the soil moisture and watering, which will take about 5-10 minutes depending on how many trees you have. It’s for this reason that bonsai can really be a great hobby for anyone, no matter how hectic your schedule, they’re easy to care for daily!
Although as I’ve shown there are definitely some hardships when it comes to caring for a bonsai, they are so worth it! Once you get past that initial stage of watering being something you keep forgetting, almost like a chore, you’ll start really enjoying the whole process of owning a bonsai tree. This is how it really started for me, after a few months I got really into the whole niche, starting a blog, buying more trees, looking for inspiration and seeing really what was possible in this art.
Bonsai trees aren’t as easy to care for as house plants or garden plants, they require much more care as they aren’t meant to be grown in a pot and usually not in the same conditions. If you’re looking for essentially just another house plant, I would say that the care needed for a bonsai to thrive really isn’t worth the hassle. However, if you want more than that, the care needed is greatly outweighed by what you get out of it – Bonsai really is a community and you get out of it whatever you put in.
I hope this has helped you understand how hard it is to care for a bonsai tree!