If you own a Chinese Elm when the winter starts drawing in you must be wondering, can a Chinese Elm Bonsai be kept indoors? As the Chinese Elm was my first ever bonsai tree, I spent a lot of hours researching this at the time.
The Chinese Elm is an outdoor bonsai, so be sure to have the tree outside during the hotter months. In winter when the temperature drops below 15 degrees Celsius it’s best to keep your bonsai inside. It’s very important to not leave your Chinese Elm inside all year round, let me explain…
Can My Chinese Elm Be Indoors All Year?
The simple answer is no, it can’t.
For very experienced bonsai enthusiasts it’s definitely a possibility to have your tree indoors all year round but it comes with a lot of drawbacks. The temperature, humidity and light will have to be always controlled by the grower, which is obviously a lot of commitment and the majority of bonsai owners simply aren’t equipped or experienced enough to do this.
Not only that, the Chinese Elm won’t get a winters break, meaning that there is a potential the bonsai will grow itself to death. I would highly recommend not trying to keep a Chinese Elm indoors all year, unless you are sure you can control the environment.
If you do decide to keep your Chinese Elm bonsai indoors for the whole year, it’s recommended to have 2 months of colder temperatures for the tree. This will be enough to put the tree into a rest period, without actually shedding all of the leaves. Again though, you have to know exactly what you’re doing for this or risk the plant dying.
In short, keep the Chinese Elm bonsai outdoors the majority of the year if you want a healthy, robust and alive tree. For more information, you may find my Full Chinese Elm Bonsai Care Guide useful!
When Should I Take My Bonsai Indoors?
The general rule is that if you’re going to bring it indoors for the colder months, when temperatures hit around 15 degrees Celsius you should start thinking about bringing the tree inside.
When your bonsai is brought inside, don’t forget to place it in a very light area, for instance next to a window. Although the Chinese Elm will be inside for a few months, it’s still really important for it to be getting a lot of light, especially if the tree is normally living outdoors. Although next to a window is recommended, the Chinese Elm is a subtropical tree so it needs a LOT of light – the best course of action would definitely be to have a fluorescent light around 5-10 inches above the tree.
How Long Should The Dormant Period Be?
Subtropical bonsai trees like the Chinese Elm will tend to stay healthy with a relatively small dormant period, just long enough to shed the leaves and get rest. I usually judge my trees’ dormant period on the weather, the health of the tree and intuition, but I’ve done some actual research into the perfect length of time.
It seems like the recommended time to bring your Chinese Elm indoors for is about 6 weeks. I would take this with a pinch of salt, especially if you really know your tree and if you have some sort of controlled growing condition like a greenhouse.
The Chinese Elm bonsai is a very resilient tree, hence why a lot of beginners are starting with this as their first bonsai, like myself. There really isn’t much you can do to actually kill the tree accidentally but that in no way means you shouldn’t tend to the tree at all times. I would definitely say the two main things to focus on are maintaining soil moisture and maintaining the light required for the bonsai.
Be sure to check the moisture of your bonsais’ soil, all year round. If it feels dry when you push a finger into the soil, water your bonsai to keep the soil moist. It’s advised that when having a Chinese Elm inside, you use a drip tray for any water that comes through the drainage wholes – this will help to create humidity around the tree.
Please note, if you’re very experienced with bonsai then the chances are that you can easily grow a healthy Chinese Elm indoors, all year round – I’m not trying to dissuade you from that at all, if I was good enough at controlling the conditions, I too would grow them inside. This article is simply to show most beginners that the Chinese Elm is best suited to outdoor living. The reality is that any plant can grow indoors if you give them what they need to live.
A Chinese Elm bonsai can be kept indoors for the winter and autumn, providing it gets a great amount of natural light. It’s best to situate the tree outdoors during spring and summer for optimum vigor.
Why Can’t All Bonsai Trees Be Grown Indoors?
Contrary to popular belief, bonsai trees are not actually some kind of genetically special tree that is to be grown indoors. They are exactly the same as the species growing out in nature, only their growth is stunted to a small pot so they stay small. For this reason, they need essentially the exact same conditions their species gets in nature.
Knowing this makes it really easy to figure out where a bonsai tree should be growing, indoors or outdoors. If the tree is from a warm climate, such as subtropical but you live in a relatively cold climate, the bonsai tree should be grown indoors for most of the year, like the Chinese Elm. If the tree is from the same climate as you’re living in, it can clearly survive the weather in that area and it should be grown outdoors all year round!
Sticking to this guideline is going to ensure you’re growing your Chinese Elm or any other bonsai tree in exactly the right position for the climate you’re living in.