Every bonsai tree has its characteristics and it can be difficult to find out which species of bonsai fit your needs. Below are the top 3 bonsai trees for growing indoors.
The best indoor bonsai trees are:
- Chinese Elm
- Hawaiian Umbrella
There are a huge amount of bonsai trees to choose from but there are some important things to be aware of before choosing your tree. Carry on reading to learn more!
The Ficus Bonsai originates from tropical countries, hence why it is perfect for being grown as an indoor bonsai. There are actually between 800-2000 different species of Ficus in the world, however the species most commonly used for bonsai is the Ficus Retusa.
Caring For A Ficus Bonsai
Watering – The Ficus is pretty resilient when it comes to over and under watering, however, as you would expect, watering when the soil is starting to dry out is key. Due to the species being from a very humid climate, it can be beneficial to spray a light mist of water onto the tree about twice per day, but it isn’t essential.
Positioning – Ficus bonsai needs a lot of sunlight, so positioning it anywhere that gets a lot of natural light through the day is important. With that being said, this species cannot tolerate any sort of cold snap or frost, so you’ll need to potentially position it somewhere different in the winter. This bonsai doesn’t have any problem living indoors all year round, however, if you live in a hot/humid climate, you could grow it outside during the hottest periods.
Diseases – This species is very resilient to diseases, which makes it perfect for beginners. Providing all of the normal conditions are met, the bonsai will rarely get any sort of problems. With this being said, with a lack of natural light in the winter, you could get a problem with leaves dropping off, followed by a higher chance for it to get infected with scale. Using a good quality plant growing lamp during the winter to increase the light the bonsai receives can help prevent this from happening.
The Chinese Elm is again perfect as an indoor bonsai tree, it was actually the first bonsai I ever had. This tree, which is extremely popular in south east Asia and China, is one of the most popular bonsai trees for beginners due to its resilience.
Caring For A Chinese Elm Bonsai
Watering – As per normal, when the soil starts to dry out, you’ll need to thoroughly water the bonsai. For me, owning this tree, I tend to water it once every two days for most of the year, sometimes more if my home is pretty hot in the winter with the radiators on.
Positioning – This bonsai can be grown indoors all year round, providing it receives a lot of natural light. During the summer, you can take the bonsai outdoors if you would like to, but there really isn’t too much of a need. If you are in fact keeping the bonsai indoors all year round, during the winter it’s best to move the chinese elm to a colder room. I advise not to keep it too near any radiators that are used frequently, as I believe this nearly killed my chinese elm in the first few months.
Diseases – It’s relatively common for the Chinese Elm bonsai to get infected with scale, although this is easy to treat, you want to keep a constant check every few days to keep on top of this. It’s worth noting that this is more common in areas with low humidity.
The Hawaiian Umbrella is perfect as an indoor bonsai due to it being able to survive in lowish light conditions and not requiring high humidity. This bonsai originates from Australia but is very popular in Asian countries.
Caring For A Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai
Watering – You’ll need to ensure this bonsai is potted in soil that doesn’t dry out too fast, especially if you’re placing it somewhere near any sort of radiator. I would advise checking the soil dampness, about an inch into the soil – water the soil thoroughly when it’s starting to feel slightly damp.
Positioning – This bonsai doesn’t need too much light, however it will grow much better and healthier if it can be exposed to a good amount of light. I would advise putting it in a window that gets a lot of natural light through the day, provided that there isn’t a radiator on a lot next to the window. The ideal temperature for the Hawaiian Umbrella to thrive indoors is 18-20 degrees celsius, so placing it somewhere in the house that should stay constant at this, would be ideal.
Diseases – The Hawaiian Umbrella rarely has any sort of problem with pests and disease, which is obviously perfect for someone that is just getting into bonsai and doesn’t want to deal with any aggressive pruning or disease control.
Best overall indoor bonsai tree:
This isn’t the easiest question to answer because it’s pretty subjective, depending on what you want out of growing a bonsai and your preferences for what the tree will look like. In my opinion, the Chinese Elm is the best indoor bonsai tree, without a doubt. Why? It’s simply due to the resilience of the tree, coupled with the ease of growing a chinese elm. They are extremely easy to grow and providing you don’t forget to water it, it won’t die on you. The chance of it getting pests or disease, especially grown indoors, are very slim, making it ideal for beginners. Besides that, they’re cheap yet look so amazing with a bit of consistent pruning. Before I got into bonsai, when I would think of a bonsai tree, the chinese elm shape is always more or less what I had thought of. In truth, I am a bit biased due to owning this bonsai tree. The reality is, the best indoor bonsai tree is whichever indoor species you like the look of the most, it’s really that simple.
Can any bonsai tree be grown indoors?
Not every species of bonsai tree should be grown indoors, there are some that thrive indoors and some that will barely survive indoors. Infact, most bonsai trees should be grown outdoors, all year round, there are actually very few species you should be growing indoors. Tropical and subtropical bonsai trees are the only type that can be grown indoors – and even then, in a house isn’t the best for the trees. When people think of bonsais, they tend to think about a tiny tree in a tiny pot, inside a house – this is exactly what I thought of. With that in mind though, bonsai trees aren’t genetically modified, they are just normal trees, with stunted growth due to the roots being essentially trapped inside a tiny pot.
Why choose an indoor bonsai tree?
There are many reasons why people choose to grow an indoor bonsai, rather than a species that thrives outdoors. One of the biggest reasons is simply to enjoy the bonsai and be able to see it a lot of the time. Many people enjoy having a bonsai tree on display on their window ledges, mantle pieces and desks, which can’t be done with an outdoor bonsai. Some species of bonsai trees, especially pruned nicely, look absolutely amazing and it seems like a shame to not have them displayed inside, where they can be shown off.
Another reason for growing an indoor bonsai is literally not having the ability to grow an outdoor species, due to lack of an outdoor space or the weather conditions. If you live in a harsh climate, it’s definitely a good idea to grow an indoor bonsai, opposed to an outdoor species. In my opinion, if you’re just getting into the art of bonsai, or you aren’t too green thumbed, it’s definitely a good idea to start with an indoor bonsai – they’re relatively low maintenance, you won’t be able to forget about them for weeks on end and they’re definitely easier than growing an outdoor species.
How do you care for an indoor bonsai tree?
Relatively speaking, caring for an indoor bonsai tree is very simple. There are 4 main components to ensuring that an indoor tree stays healthy:
Bonsai trees need a lot of light to stay healthy, which they won’t always be getting when grown indoors. You need to ensure that you place your bonsai somewhere it will get a lot of natural light everyday. With that in mind, if you live somewhere very sunny, you don’t want to have the bonsai on a window seal getting a lot of direct sunlight for most of the day, a balance is needed. If you want to keep your bonsai tree on your desk, for instance, but there is a lack of natural light there, you should move the bonsai to the window for a number of hours daily, so it still gets the sunlight it needs to thrive.
Due to the temperature that most people have their houses all year round, you’ll need to really keep on top of watering your indoor bonsai, pretty religiously, or the tree will most definitely die. The simplest way to keep on top of the watering is every morning and afternoon, push your finger about an inch into the soil in the bonsai pot. If it feels dry, or like it’s drying out – it needs watering. In terms of watering, I put my indoor bonsai trees in the kitchen sink, then thoroughly water them until water it pouring out of the holes in the bottom. I then wait a minute of two, then water them thoroughly once more – then put them back after draining for 10 or 15 minutes.
Typically indoor bonsai trees won’t see a lot of disease of pests, so you don’t really need to be religious with the pruning, but you will still need to prune pretty regularly during the growing season, just to keep the bonsai at peak health and looking how you desire.
When growing an indoor bonsai you need to start really thinking about the temperature of the area you’re keeping the tree in. When I got my first Chinese Elm, I made the mistake of having it on a window seal, just above a radiator that was pumping out a lot of heat for most of the day in the winter. Without me knowing, I was completely drying out my bonsai and nearly accidentally killed it – luckily I noticed the signs, moved the bonsai to a different window downstairs and it’s still thriving to this day. So, what I’m saying is, make sure you aren’t putting the bonsai tree in an area of your house that will get an extreme of temperature, like next to a radiator.