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Bonsai Care For First Timers



The question asked most frequently by new Bonsai owners is...
How hard are they to keep alive? The answer is... if given the proper care and attention, your tree will live a long and healthy life with you.

The number one reason for a bonsai not surviving is... WATER (environment you live in also). To much is just as deadly as to little. Your watering schedule cannot be hit and miss. You must be on a regular schedule... and stick with it.

It is recommended that your submerge your tree in a bucket, tub or sink that is filled with 2" to 4" of water (depending of the depth of the pot your bonsai is potted in). This will allow you to submerge the tree to about one or two inches up the trunk. The root ball will get completely saturated and you will get some feedback as to whether or not the tree indeed needed to be watered. When you submerge your tree... you will see bubbling in the water coming from the base of the tree. The vigorousness of the bubbling will indicate to you how dry the root ball was. This bubbling is the water replacing the air in the root ball. Leave the tree in the tub for 3 to 5 minutes to allow the root ball to completely saturate. Remove the tree from the water and allow it to drain before replacing it to it's home.

When bonsai has enough water, the soil is a rich dark brown color... and is cool and moist to the touch. When it needs to be watered the soil will lighten in color and will feel warmer to the touch. When you first take your new bonsai home you will need to check it every day for water. After the first two weeks you should become familiar with the watering schedule. 

Many things can effect the watering schedule...

  • How dry is the air in your home?
  • What is the temperature where your plant lives? High... normal?
  • Where have you placed the tree? Full sun... partial sun?
  • How large is the container your bonsai is planted in?

Dry air, warm conditions, small container sizes, good lighting... all equal  frequent watering. If you keep your bonsai indoors, you will benefit a great deal from a pebble tray. A pebble tray will provide additional moisture around the tree and also make it easier to simply place the pot right back on the tray after submerging... rather than needing to let it drain somewhere else.

Your bonsai dislikes the following conditions...

  • Cold or warm drafts... such as being placed to close to a doorway, heat vent or fireplace. Being placed on top of a TV.
  • Being placed to close to a window... the temperature fluctuates from to chilly at night... to too hot during the day. Place your tree away from a window for best temperature control.
  • Allowing your bonsai to become to dry!

Feeding your bonsai should be done April through November with a liquid fertilizer such as GREEN GREEN. You can also use a liquid B vitamin during times of stress. SUPERTHRIVE is the recommended brand of B vitamin. Fertilize your bonsai once a week during the growing season and use SUPERTHRIVE or a timed released fertilizer like Osmocote through the winter months.

Light is important to your tree. Please be sure to give your bonsai 6 to 8 hours of direct or bright indirect light a day. If you cannot provide this, add supplemental artificial lighting. Or keep by the window where it can recieve sunlight for part of the day, but DONT leave it there.

It is very important to check your bonsai frequently for spider mites, aphids and other small pests. If you find a pest, treat immediately with a pesticide or insecticidal soap. We also find PineSol at two tablespoons per gallon of water to be a good pest deterrent. When ever you spray your bonsai, remember to remove it from its sunny location. After it has dried you may return it to its home. More is not better when it comes to pesticides... apply even coverage and be sure to spray underneath the leaves and branches.

If your tree has been recently repotted, it is recommended that you keep it out of direct sun for 7 to 10 days... to reduce the chance of "transplant shock". This is also a great time to use SUPERTHRIVE... and submerge the newly transplanted tree for about an hour. Then water as usual after that first watering.

By taking proper care of your bonsai... you will be able to enjoy it for years to come.


                                                 Watering Bonsai                                                   

How Often Should You Water? - When people walk into our nursery, this is, without exception, the most asked question. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. How often you should water a bonsai tree depends on several different variables: what type of tree is it, what time of year is it, where is your tree kept, where do you live, and more than a few others. Watering bonsai is a constant balance between too much and too little.

How Should You Water? - The "best" way to water is to first wet the soil a little, this will improve the soil's ability to absorb a larger volume of water, and then you should water thoroughly until the soil is saturated. Make certain that the entire soil mass gets wet - every time - you water and wait for the excess to run out of the drainage holes to be sure.

When Should You Water? - The "best" time to water is arguably early in the morning, before your bonsai begins its day of photosynthetic activities. However, it is important to be vigilant about its watering needs throughout the day, especially during the summer. Bear in mind that bonsai trees do not grow when the soil is wet and they do not grow when the soil is dry: it is only during the in between periods that your bonsai tree takes in water and nutrients. You also need to be aware of the amount of light your new bonsai is getting, the temperature of the room your bonsai is located in and the humidity levels of that immediate area. You also need to be realistic about your other life responsibilities, not only for their sake, but also for the sake of your bonsai. Work out a watering schedule that is realistically feasible. It makes no sense to schedule watering late in the morning, if you know that five days a week you're going to be out the door by 7 AM. Be practical or you and your bonsai will be sorry.

What Kind Of Water Should You Use? - Water your new bonsai with room temperature tap water, because cold water has the potential to shock its roots. If you have the ability and the time to collect rain to water, that is great, but it is unnecessary unless the water in your neighborhood is unfit to drink - and, if it is, you might consider moving yourself and your bonsai somewhere safer.


How Much Light Does A Bonsai Require? Providing the correct amount of light for your bonsai is crucial to keeping it healthy. However, there are no simple answers as to how much light bonsai trees in general "require". Light requirements are specific to the type of tree and are further dependent upon specific variations in the location they are kept - namely your home. It is a good idea to speak to your local bonsai supplier or a fellow bonsai enthusiast that has experience growing bonsai in a setting very similar to your own.

What Kind Of Light Is Best? - Sunlight is by far the best type of light for bonsai trees and most other living creatures on earth. As such, the brightest window in your home is arguably the best spot for your indoor bonsai trees. However, the brightest window in your home may be located next to the fireplace. So, in a case like this you need to find an alternative and more practical location and use some type of artificial lighting system.

What Kind Of Artificial Light Should You Provide? - A grow light and timer are a simple solution for providing additional light. Set your timer for 12 to 16 hours of supplemental lighting and position your bonsai within 1 to 4 inches of your light source.

Again, speaking to a local bonsai supplier or enthusiast is invaluable. If possible, visit their homes to actually look at their set up and ask questions.


Why Is Humidity Important For Bonsai? - Although indoor bonsai slow their growth in winter and do not need as much water, they still do require sufficient humidity. Humidity helps to reduce water loss through the processes of transpiration. Transpiration will have a negative effect on your bonsai's ability to retain water and remain healthy.

How Can Humidity Be Improved? - The sometimes dry climate of a home or apartment can be altered to benefit your bonsai tree. Placing your bonsai on a "humidity tray" filled with decorative pebbles, that should be kept wet at all times, will help increase humidity levels. Another solution is regular misting. Misting is the most common humidifying method. It has the additional benefit of removing dust from your bonsai, which blocks sunlight and interferes with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Be sure to mist using room temperature water to avoid shock.

What Else Is Helpful To Prevent Dry Conditions? - Keep your indoor bonsai trees away from breezy doors, windows and heating sources, such as vents, radiators, and fireplaces; to
avoid quickly drying them out. While more sunlight is desirable, it may dry out your bonsai. So, maintaining a watering schedule during winter is just as important as during summer.


Why Do Bonsai Need Fertilizer? - Bonsai containers are a man-made environment. As such, they require you, in order to maintain the health and development of your bonsai, to provide, in addition to frequent watering, a regular dose of fertilizer to the soil or growing medium.

What Type Of Fertilizer Should You Use? - Feed your bonsai with a balanced fertilizer, 20-20-20, at quarter strength, every other week. The numbers 20-20-20 are the percentage, by weight, of the N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) contained in that fertilizer. These elements, in addition to minor or trace elements, are necessary for cell division and enzyme processes that allow photosynthesis and the resulting growth to take place.

What Does N-P-K Stand For & What Does It Do? - N - Nitrogen is responsible for the size and amount of new growth and, to some extent, the green color of the leaves. Nitrogen is required for cell division and, also, protein manufacturing. P - Phosphorus is also necessary for cell division and is associated with good root growth and flowering. K - Potassium activates cell enzymes and is related with overall healthy cell activity.

Bonsai Fertilizer Notes - Always water your bonsai thoroughly before fertilizing and never use fertilizer on a dry tree.
Never fertilize a sick tree, as fertilizer is not medicine.
When you have finished a bottle of fertilizer, it is a good idea to purchase a different brand, as they all contain different amounts of trace elements and minerals. Exposing your bonsai to different amounts of these important trace elements and minerals is very beneficial.
If you are not sure how much fertilizer to use, follow the directions on the label and never use more than recommended.
Fertilizer is a good thing, but too much is a bad thing.