Maybe you’re looking to spruce up your boring office with a nice bonsai tree, but will it actually survive?
A bonsai tree can live in an office, in fact, if you give the tree the light, temperature, water and pruning it needs, the bonsai can live in most places. In an environment like an office, the bonsai tree will most likely struggle for light, so let’s dive into what you can do to keep your office tree healthy.
What Your Bonsai Tree Needs
You always hear people differentiating between an indoor and outdoor bonsai tree. The reality is that if you’re able to provide the tree with what it needs to survive, any bonsai tree can live outdoors or indoors, in an office for instance.
Before we get into what your tree will need, it’s worth knowing that it’s actually incredibly hard as a beginner to grow a healthy bonsai tree inside all year round. In the few cold months, it’s definitely the best port of call to bring bonsai trees inside, especially a subtropical bonsai, and return them to the outdoors as soon as possible. Having a bonsai tree in an office all year round will require constant monitoring of the conditions, which you may not be able or allowed to do in your office. The majority of experienced hobbyists would tell you not to bother have a bonsai in your office unless you know exactly what you’re doing.
Bonsai trees, like most living things, absolutely hate not getting enough light and it’s definitely one of the key aspects of what they need to stay alive and healthy. Natural light is obviously best for the tree, being in actual sunlight but if your office is very dark or has no outside space, you can still potentially work around this. It’s worth checking out this guide I wrote, in which I break down where you should place for bonsai
for optimum health.
Having a bonsai tree living in your office window won’t naturally provide the tree with enough light to stay healthy, so I would recommend using grow lights. I use a daylight lamp in the winter with my bonsais to keep them getting enough light.
I would recommend putting the fluorescent light 5-10 inches away from the top of the bonsai and mirroring the hours of actual daylight outside to provide the most authentic light.
If you aren’t able to set up a grow lamp in your office, having a bonsai tree in there could be a genuine problem. I’m sure your bonsai would survive for a while without one but I can’t say I think it would live for too long and it certainly wouldn’t look healthy, which I assume it what you want.
A bonsai tree will need constant watering to keep it growing healthy and surviving all year round. Realistically it shouldn’t be a problem if your office has a sink and some sort of filtered water – even better if your office has rain water available but I’m going to assume it isn’t going to.
Keeping the soil moist is the top priority when it comes to watering the tree – everyday you’ll need to push your finger an inch into the soil and feel for moisture, if it’s dry then the tree needs watering. The bonsai pot will have drainage holes in, to ensure the roots don’t rot, so you won’t be able to water the bonsai when it’s sat on your desk or anything. You’ll most likely need to transport the tree over to a sink or something similar to let the water drain for 20 minutes after watering. Being inside really does dry out a bonsai tree so keeping a constant eye on the tree is really important, you can’t forget about it for 4 days because you’re too busy in the office. For an in-depth watering guide, check out this article I wrote breaking down everything you’ll need to know to keep your bonsai tree perfectly watered.
I mist my bonsais leaves daily, especially in the summer months, to keep them healthy. I personally use a random Amazon spray bottle, but any spray bottle will do – make sure to have one in your office. I’ve published an interesting guide on misting bonsai and the problems it can cause,
which may be worth a read.
As you may already know, a bonsai tree will need pruning pretty regularly to keep it looking the desired way and keep the tree healthy.
Trimming off dead foliage and branches can help limit the risk of disease in the bonsai, although it’s a pretty low chance anyway if you have the bonsai tree in your office. When pruning, make sure to always use clean pruning scissors, this is the pair I picked up from Amazon
that I have been using for a long while now.
As well as keeping the bonsai healthy, pruning regularly will keep the bonsai looking exact how you desire it to look. It’s not the lengthiest process in the world but it will leave branches and leaves around the area of the office you’ve put the tree in – it’s very easy to clean up though so it shouldn’t be an issue.
Temperature is very important to bonsai trees and it’s the reason the majority of experts would tell you not to keep your bonsai in your office, as controlling the temperature in there will be hard.
I can’t really elaborate further in terms of what temperature you need because it’s down to your specific species and the time of the year, so I would advise finding a care guide specific to your bonsai tree species.
When I first started bonsai with a Chinese Elm, which I still have to this day, I had it living indoors near a radiator. The tree was extremely unhealthy and I had to frequently revive it and pay close attention as the radiator was drying it out and killing the bonsai, pretty frequently. This is a genuine problem and it really does harm the tree, if the only place you could put the bonsai is right next to a radiator, I would definitely advise against it.
It goes without saying that every few years your bonsai tree will need repotting and food once per year as a ballpark figure. When repotting a bonsai you have to unpick the roots, scrape away soil and remove root mass, so it can get pretty messy – definitely something to consider if you aren’t able to create a lot of mess in your office. Luckily, this process is pretty quick and really doesn’t need doing too often, so it shouldn’t dissuade you from having an office bonsai.
Species I Would Recommend
I wouldn’t say there’s a definite answer to this but due to the length of time I’ve had one and everything I learnt, I would definitely say a Chinese Elm.
They’re very resilient trees, when I was first learning I completely neglected it and gave minimal attention but it still didn’t die. Given the right conditions they’re also able to tolerate being indoors, not thrive but tolerate.
Chinese Elms are relatively cheap as well, in fact, my first was actually a gift that came in a starter kit from Amazon
. A lot of starter kit trees are awful but this one is actually still alive years later, so I would definitely recommend it if you aren’t interested in creating a bonsai from nursery stock plants or anything like that. If you’re thinking of getting this species, have a read of my Chinese Elm Care Guide
to see the full requirements the tree has!
I hope you find this useful and I really do hope if you choose to have a bonsai in your office, it flourishes and lives for a very long time! Let me know if you’ve done this and how it has gone for you.