Bonsai, the art of growing a tree in a small container, is a real test of patience for most growers. Just getting a bonsai tree to the stage of being styled can take up to 5 years, so it’s definitely not for the impatient. But what if there were ways to make a bonsai tree grow faster?
There are a few methods and techniques used for hundreds of years to increase the speed at which a bonsai tree grows. In this article I cover 6 great ways you can speed up how fast your bonsai tree grows.
1. Choosing A Fast Growing Species
The first step in growing a bonsai tree fast will be choosing a species that is able to grow fast. People tend to assume the bonsai trees are genetic modifications of trees that just don’t grow, but this isn’t the case. Bonsai trees do grow, some faster than others. They only appear to never grow due to constant pruning and their roots being confined to small containers.
If you happen to choose a faster growing species of bonsai tree, you might save yourself years of waiting around for growth. These fast growing bonsai tree species include:
Although choosing a fast growing species is important, more importantly you have to think about the environment of growth you’re able to provide for the tree. The key when thinking about where to grow a bonsai tree is looking at the environment it lives in, in nature. Matching those conditions to the best of your ability is going to promote the best growth possible, even in slower growing species.
A faster growing species will require more care and attention from the owner, usually needing to be repotted more frequently and pruned more often as the rate of foliage and root growth can be high during growing season.
2. Don’t Grow Bonsai From Seed
Growing a bonsai tree from seed is definitely possible and arguably the best way to cultivate bonsai but it’s going to be a minimum of 4 years before you even have something to wire and style. Cultivating bonsai from seeds allows you to promote perfect health in the tree from early on and have complete creative freedom over the styling. If you’re in a hurry and want to grow bonsai faster, there are a few great alternatives…
1. Growing bonsai from nursery stock
To save yourself a lot of years waiting around, you can essentially create a bonsai tree using a nursery stock tree. This makes for a fun little project, it’s very cheap and it’s going to save you a good few years on growing the bonsai tree from seed.
2. Growing bonsai from cuttings
Providing you have access to a parent tree of the species you’re looking to grow as bonsai, this can be a great time saver compared to growing from seed! By taking a cutting from the parent and cultivating that, you will still have complete creative freedom over the style of the bonsai tree as it grows, whilst still saving yourself a year or two of waiting.
Growing a bonsai tree from cuttings is very straight forward and can be undertaken successfully by anyone of any experience level. I have a full step by step guide here, detailing exactly how to grow a bonsai tree from cuttings.
3. Encourage Trunk Growth
Have you ever seen a massive tree in nature with a tiny trunk? Of course not! In bonsai this is no different, to grow a tree fast and large you’re going to need to encourage the trunk to grow as well. Growing a thick trunk is no quick en-devour but it is essential.
The trunk of a tree is extremely important, primarily for providing the nutrients and water up to the foliage. The trunk system also takes carbon away from foliage. Without a thick trunk it is near enough impossible to support a fast growing tree, so thickening it is very important to increasing growth of a bonsai.
There are a few techniques used by experts in this industry to create the most amazing thick trunks, some being extremely fast and some taking many years to complete. It’s worth knowing that none of these techniques are easy for beginners, which can put a lot of people off. It’s commonly known that achieving a thick trunk in such a small pot, which such a small root system is one of the hardest feats to achieve in the art of bonsai.
4. Repotting The Bonsai
Repotting a bonsai tree will give the tree access to more nutrients and more room to grow. During the repotting process, about a third of the total root mass is pruned off. This is actually very beneficial in growing a tree faster as it forces the roots to regenerate, growing back stronger and faster.
The exact frequency of repotting a bonsai tree depends on the age, species and size of the tree in question but if you’re looking to grow a tree fast, it should be around the 2 year mark. For the fastest growth, it’s best to increase the pot size every time you repot, as this additional space and more nutrients will encourage the bonsai tree to grow faster.
Repotting is pretty traumatic for a bonsai tree if done wrong, as you’re removing a lot of the root mass during the process. If done properly, it’s going to be very beneficial for the trees growth. For a full guide, have a look at my step by step repotting guide. This process should usually be undertaken when your tree is dormant during winter, as it’s going to have the least negative effect on it.
Repotting the bonsai into a good soil mix is also key. With a bad soil mix, you’re going to run into a few problems that result in the bonsai tree growing slower. Usually, over-watering, caused by having the wrong kind of soil, will completely stunt the growth of a bonsai tree as the roots will slowly start rotting away. The excess water retained in a bad bonsai soil mix chokes the roots of getting the oxygen they need, causing them to die. Have a read here to learn how to create your own bonsai soil.
5. Proper Maintenance Routine
No matter if you choose to grow the fastest growing bonsai tree species, repot it every year and feed it a lot of fertilizer, it’s certainly not going to grow without a proper care routine. Giving a bonsai tree the proper care it needs is the most effective way to grow the tree and help with thrive. So what is involved in caring for a bonsai tree properly?
Watering – As you will already know, watering a bonsai tree is hugely important in keeping it alive and growing. Having the perfect watering routine for your tree is instrumental in the vigor of the bonsai.
If you are over-watering, this is going to cause root rot. The additional water trapped in the soil prevents roots from getting oxygen, which chokes them. This causes the roots to die and start rotting, gradually killing the tree and preventing any quick growth from happening. Over-watering can usually be caused by either not understanding when to water a bonsai, or having the wrong bonsai soil that retains too much water.
If you are under-watering your bonsai tree, this will cause it to also not grow. The lack of water is going to completely dry out the soil, then the tree and new growth isn’t going to be created – whilst existing growth will turn brown and fall off. Under-watering is common with beginners who simply forget to water their new bonsai trees.
Environment – The bonsai tree has to be grown in the perfect environment for its species, or it’s simply not going to grow or survive for long. The best way to figure out the conditions your species needs is to look at it in nature. If it’s growing in nature, in your climate, it should be grown outdoors. If it’s grown in the jungle and you’re in a relatively brisk climate, the tree should be grown indoors.
Now that you know where to place your bonsai tree, providing it the amount of light it needs is CRUCIAL. Trees, like all plants, absolutely thrive off sunlight and your tree isn’t going to grow fast at all without a healthy amount of it. Ensure that the needs of your specific bonsai tree are met in terms of light and temperature, this will greatly increase the speed of growth and ensure the tree doesn’t meet a quick death.
Bonsai trees, unlike trees out in nature, don’t have access to a huge amount of nutrients. Due to being confined in such small containers, there is only a limited amount of nutrients available to them, that are needed for growth. A great way to supplement the lower amount of nutrients is by regularly using fertilizer on your bonsai tree, which will encourage strong growth.
The amount of fertilizer and the exact balance of the fertilizer will change depending on the time of year. During the summer months when the bonsai tree is growing the fastest, you’ll need to provide the tree with a balanced feed weekly. As the seasons turn to winter, you’ll be providing a lower nitrogen feed and feeding a maximum of once per month.
Fertilizer is a great way to grow a bonsai tree fast, as it promotes very fast growth in the tree with the additional nutrients it provides. If your tree is weak from disease, repotting or hard structural pruning it’s advised to not use fertilizer for a short while, allowing the tree to gain strength again before rapidly growing.
Although there are methods to increase the rate at which a bonsai tree will grow, it’s never going to be a fast road. Bonsai is not an art for the inpatient, it’s a life long journey in cultivating small, amazing representations of nature. Keeping up your routine care and ensuring the bonsai tree has access to the perfect growing conditions it needs is the best and easiest way to ensure a bonsai tree grows faster. There is no magic powder to make it happen, just the perfect conditions and patience.