Bonsai has been around since the 12th century and is an art loved by millions of enthusiasts worldwide but for those of us that aren’t in the know, how do you grow a bonsai tree?
Growing a bonsai tree is a relatively simple process that can be undertaken by anybody, with any experience level. The growing process comes down to 4 main components – choosing the right bonsai tree to grow, acquiring the right tree, styling it into a bonsai and then keeping the tree alive. Keep reading to find out more…
1. Choosing A Bonsai Tree To Grow
The first step in growing a bonsai is choosing the species of tree you want to grow! This decision needs to be based on where you want to be growing the tree (indoors or outdoors), then a species you like the look of.
If you are planning to grow a bonsai tree indoors, as most beginners like to, you are limited to choosing a sub-tropical or tropical tree species. Should you be wanting to grow a bonsai tree outdoors, you should choose from any species that grows in nature, in your country.
2. Acquiring A Bonsai Tree
After choosing which species of tree you would like to grow as bonsai, it’s time to source the perfect tree specimen. There are 3 main routes to go down when it comes to getting your hands on a bonsai tree and they can each be beneficial depending on your requirements.
Option 1 – Buying A Pre-Bonsai
The best route to go down if you want to experience all of the creative processes involved with bonsai is buying what’s known as a pre-bonsai. This will usually be a shrub from a local nursery that with a bit of pruning, wiring and repotting, will be a lovely bonsai.
Option 2 – Buying A Trained Bonsai
Buying a bonsai tree that has already been styled is another way to go and very popular with beginners. You can pick up a starter bonsai from Amazon
, like this one and start learning to care for it, repot it and style it. This method can be a lot easier than trying to create your own bonsai, however, it gives the owner less freedom over the tree.
Starter bonsai from online stores are usually very well priced, however, if you are looking for an older tree it could set you back a lot of money. I would advise against buying an expensive tree as your first bonsai due to lacking the experience which may lead to the death of the tree.
Option 3 – Growing A Bonsai Tree From Cuttings
If you’re in absolutely no hurry, growing a bonsai tree from cuttings is a great way to cultivate bonsai. This way you get completely creative freedom over the tree but it won’t be ready to be wired for around 4 years, so it’s definitely not a quick road.
When people get inspired to take up a hobby, such as bonsai, they normally want to get involved straight away before they go off the idea and I don’t blame them! I would advise doing the first two methods and maybe doing this alongside it, however if you do want to know how to do this, I have a great article ‘How To Grow Bonsai From Cuttings (Step By Step)’.
3. Styling A Bonsai Tree
The bonsai trees you have probably seen do not grow looking that spectacular, they are styled using a number of old techniques to achieve a very miniature representation of nature. Techniques used range in difficulty but the two most common you will be using are pruning and wiring.
Pruning a bonsai is essential for two reasons, keeping a bonsai tree small and giving it the desired foliage shape. In the growing season bonsai trees can get a significant amount of growing in so pruning away branches and foliage is regularly needed. I have a quick article here explaining how to prune a bonsai tree
, give it a read!
The amazing shapes of bonsai tree are achieved by wiring the branches into specific shapes over a long period of time. By wrapping wire around the branches, shaping them, leaving them then repeating the process, you are able to shape a lot of branches into various shapes. With larger branches wiring is a lot trickier and sometimes impossible. For more information about wiring, feel free to have a look at my article where I talk about how to properly wire a bonsai.
4. Keeping A Bonsai Tree Alive
Once you have started to grow a bonsai tree, keeping it alive is the hard part. Making sure the tree is getting everything it needs is going to take a lot of routine maintenance and care over the years to come. I have outlined the basics of bonsai tree care below…
Placement Of The Bonsai
A common misconception about bonsai trees is they are all indoor trees – they aren’t! No matter how well you water or prune a bonsai, if it’s in the completely wrong environment then it isn’t going to survive. To make it simple, the tree needs to live in roughly the same conditions it would do in nature.
Typically if you want to grow a tree indoors it would have to be a sup-tropical or tropical species as they can tolerate the heat, humidity and sunlight that it would get sitting on a window ledge for example. For growing a tree outdoors, any species that would be growing in nature in your country can be grown outdoors easily.
Watering The Bonsai
As per any plant, watering is going to be crucial in keep a bonsai tree alive. Although it may seem easy, getting the perfect balance between under watering and over watering, whilst never forgetting to water it can be tricky for beginners.
Constantly checking on the soils moisture levels and having an effective watering process is the key to keeping a bonsai tree alive. I have put together my top 5 tips for watering a bonsai tree
, which you might find very useful!
Repotting, the process of changing the pot the bonsai tree grows in, is usually done every few years for young trees and it’s crucial to the trees survival. The longer the tree stays in the pot, the more bound it becomes and the soil will be breaking down, making it harder to get the tree the nutrients it needs. For a simple repotting tutorial
, have a read of my article.
During the repotting process, about a third of the total root mass is pruned. This allows for the roots to regenerate and strengthens the tree, so it’s a process that mustn’t be overlooked.
Trees out in nature have a huge amount of land around them to pull nutrients from in order to help them stay healthy and maintain growth in the summer. Trees grown as bonsai don’t have that luxury as they’re in such small pots, with only a limited about of soil that could hold nutrients. Due to this, a bonsai tree gets through the nutrients very fast whilst actively growing and will need to be fertilized.
The specific needs of the type of fertilizer to use, how much and how often really depends on the actual tree itself so it’s hard to give an accurate broad answer. Usually, for most species that beginners would own, you will need to fertilize the tree with a balanced feed like this one on Amazon
, just throughout the growing season.