Written in collaboration with Rosana Beechum
Bonsai trees first made their mark on western culture thanks to Mr Miyagi and the Karate Kid franchise. Since then, they have remained a popular choice for those with green fingers. However, if you are considering getting your first bonsai, then you may feel a little overwhelmed when trying to work out how to best care for it. This is because they do require a little special attention in order to thrive; however, the fundamentals of bonsai care are not too difficult.
The three fundamentals of bonsai care are location, watering, and fertilising. Read on for an outline of the basics.
Bonsai trees can live indoors or outdoors, depending on the type of bonsai you have. If you would like to keep your bonsai outdoors, then there are several species to choose from: maples, elms, hawthorns, junipers, pines all do well outdoor, as do pretty much all evergreens. If you do choose an outdoor tree, then you should try to protect it from the wind and rain as well as ensuring that the sun doesn’t burn its leaves.
If you want to opt for an indoor bonsai, then you should look out for aralias, azaleas, ficus’, gardenias, boxwoods and serissas. Or essentially any tropical variant as they need to be kept warm year-round. Indoor trees still need a lot of sunlight, and so a south-facing window is best, or you may need to add artificial lighting to help subsidise their needs.
As bonsais are potted in small, shallow containers, it is totally different from watering other houseplants or garden plants. First, you need the tree to begin to dry out – but not completely, before you saturate it with water. Second, try to avoid watering it on a schedule and instead only water it when it needs it. Otherwise, you run the risk of over or underwatering, both of which can kill the tree. To check whether or not your bonsai needs watering, you should place your finger into the soil, and if the soil feels as though it is beginning to dry out, then it needs watering. Check daily.
Trees get their nutrients from the ground, and so the health of your tree relies on its fertilisation. Bonsais need three key things in their fertiliser, nitrogen to promote foliage growth and colour, phosphorous to promote root growth, and potassium for the overall health of the tree. Ideally, the fertiliser should be made from equal parts of all three.
If you need more tips on looking after your bonsai, then there are many resources out there. For example, Yorkshire Bonsai has lots of different resources on bonsai care, including advice and other helpful guides. They also have a huge range of bonsai care necessities, including equipment and accessories as well as the trees themselves.
Bonsai trees, if cared for properly, can live for years. Caring for a bonsai can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety as well as improving your mental and physical wellbeing in general. So be sure to follow the simple directions above to help get you started. Bonsai trees do need a little more attention than other plants, but once you have the fundamentals down, it isn’t that difficult.