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6 Best Types of Bonsai Trees for Beginners Find out which trees are perfect for this art that captures nature’s beauty in miniature.
Best Bonsai Indoor
Bonsai, a horticultural art that originated in ancient China, is still a popular hobby today. A common misconception is that bonsai is a type of tree. In fact, bonsai refers to the craft or art form of growing, shaping and maintaining small trees.
Caring For Your First Bonsai Plants
Like its common cousin, bonsai trees can live for hundreds of years. Some have even outlived their caretakers. Japanese white pine in the collection of the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington D.C. for example, has been in practice since 1625, making it almost 400 years.
Those who want to try bonsai should know that it takes time and patience to master the craft. But with practice, you can turn a weak child into a work of art. The first step in this long and rewarding process is choosing the right tree, which is suitable for beginners. This is a top candidate.
While most people associate bonsai with indoor displays, many varieties do better outdoors. This can make it challenging for those who live in colder climates to get into the hobby. Fortunately, some trees – for example ficus – thrive in an indoor environment. The two most suitable varieties for indoor cultivation are Ficus retusa and Ficus ginseng, both of which have attractive stems. However, those living in USDA Zones 10 and 11 can get away with many species of ficus outdoors.
What makes the ficus tree so adaptable is its ability to respond positively to growth restrictions. In bonsai, choosing a small container is key to limiting the size of the plant. Because ficus trees like smaller containers, they are ideal for bonsai. He also forgives the lack of water and other care. Ficus plants, for example, usually don’t mind dry conditions in indoor environments. Make sure you choose a sunny spot for your mini ficus.
Bonsai Tree Complete Guide: How To Grow And Care For Bonsais
This slow-growing plant is ideal for bonsai beginners as it can remain happy anywhere. Chinese elms do well indoors and out and can survive outdoors in USDA Zones 4 through 9. Just be sure to choose a spot with bright morning sun that fades in the afternoon.
Another reason this tree is good for bonsai art is that it is easy to cut and its slow growth makes formation uncomplicated. The trees are also not very susceptible to pest attacks, except for spider mites. But these little bugs are usually easily controlled with a few applications of neem oil.
This coniferous tree looks great in miniature form. However, it is important to note that juniper does not do well indoors. However, grow these trees outdoors in USDA Zones 4 through 9. Place them where they can get at least 4 hours of sun per day. Unlike other bonsai trees that are not hardy, juniper can handle cold weather.
Like other beginner-friendly bonsai trees, juniper is resistant to pests. However, spider mites and spider webs are sometimes targeted. Prevent infestations with regular pruning to prevent leaves from becoming untidy. Juniper is also perfect for bonsai beginners as it requires excessive pruning. Although aggressive pruning can damage and cause browning, trees will recover from pruning accidents.
North American Collection — National Bonsai Foundation
These trees, from a young age, are suitable for the art of bonsai. Native to three continents—Asia, Europe, and Africa—cotoneasters have glossy green leaves and small apple-shaped fruits that appear after blooming small white flowers.
To grow cotoneaster, choose a location in full sun, indoors or outdoors. Provide frost protection for plants in containers, although cotoneasters planted in the ground should tolerate freezing weather quite well. Most cultivars are cold hardy in zones 5 through 8, but hardiness varies among cultivars. Unlike the more challenging bonsai species, these trees are drought tolerant as long as the dry period is short. Also, because cotoneaster branches are flexible, they can be shaped through wires.
The Portulacaria tree, also known as dwarf jade or baby jade, is an excellent beginner bonsai species because it does not need regular watering. If you have a history of killing plants with poor watering habits, this might be the perfect tree for you to try your hand at bonsai growing. Just be careful not to overwater because these trees are prone to root rot.
To form a portulacaria tree, do not use wires and keep pruning carefully. Because it grows quickly, regular pruning is necessary to maintain an aesthetic shape. You can keep your baby’s jacket outside during the summer, but it’s best to bring it when night temperatures reach 40 degrees. In zones 10 and 11 it is possible to grow baby jade outdoors, but the succulent is also suitable for indoor settings.
Introduction To Bonsai: Tips For Beginners
Create edible art by choosing rosemary plants for your bonsai hobby. The best thing is, when you cut a rosemary bonsai, you can not only keep the shape of the plant, but also have a nice herb for dinner. Frequent watering is necessary for the rosemary plant to thrive, but it is also susceptible to rot, so make sure the plant is kept in a pot with sufficient drainage.
To maintain the miniature size of the plant, remove new growth that appears after the first leaf. Cutting off at least 25 percent of the roots will help prevent the plant from potting. You can form branches with wires as long as they are young and flexible enough.
Another advantage of choosing rosemary as a small “tree” is that you can start it quickly from seed. Grow this herb in a container and bring it inside before the first frost. Gardeners have been turning live trees, shrubs and other plants into bonsai for thousands of years. The Chinese created the first miniature landscapes, a practice that Japanese farmers modified when they began to focus on trees.
But bonsai is not just about growing trees in pots. “It’s a precision art,” says William N. Valavanis, bonsai master, educator and founder of the International Bonsai Arboretum. He has been studying the technique for 56 years and teaches it all over the world.
Top 6 Bonsai Fruit Trees You Can Grow And How To Care For Them
Bonsai is not for the impatient gardener. Pruning and shaping plants into an art form takes time. First, says Valavanis, you need to prune the plant and begin to connect it to the desired design. This step can take years.
In the meantime, give your plants the basics that all plants need: water, air and light. Some gardeners keep bonsai in training pots during this time and transplant them into different types of containers as the final step in the bonsai process.
Shallow containers are popular, Valavanis explains, because they give the impression of small trees growing in a large landscape. But large or expensive pots are not necessary, he added; he remembers seeing bonsai in Italy flourishing in sardine cans.
Shrubs or trees like this are commonly grown as bonsai and sold in nurseries and garden centers.
Types Of Bonsai Trees That Are Best For Beginners
Bonsai can also be more than a small tabletop specimen, says Richard W. Bender, author of Bountiful Bonsai: Create Instant Indoor Container Gardens with Edible Fruits, Herbs and Flowers (Tuttle Publishing, 2017). He takes a radical approach to this ancient art, training plants into bonsai shapes that range in height from a few centimeters to several meters.
Unlike many bonsai practitioners, he does not limit his plant selection to dwarf or miniature varieties that can be controlled by pruning. For “instant” bonsai gardens, they grow standard plants in larger containers and provide additional lighting and other special treatments.
Bender grows bonsai jasmine and hibiscus for flowers and foods like cherries and oranges for fruit. Culinary bonsai herbs include rosemary and thyme, and for medicine he prunes and forms tired laurels and camphor.
‘Deshojo’ is a Japanese dwarf maple with bright red leaves in the spring that turn red-green in the summer and orange and red in the fall.
Bonsai Gardens Guide
You can bonsai a standard tree, Valavanis agrees. A standard MacIntosh apple, he said, will produce 4- to 5-inch fruits if growing conditions are right. For the collection, he prefers dwarf varieties that will produce small fruits or flowers.
For starters, Valavanis recommends growing junipers because he finds evergreens easy to grow and shape, and says they’re forgiving if you get it wrong. You don’t need any special tools when you start, he adds, other than a concave pruner. This pruner is designed to cut through the trunk of a tree and dig up some tissue while cutting branches. Although it may be dangerous, it is done for cosmetic reasons. The tissue grows back quickly and helps hide the area where the branch was removed. Some students of Valavanis have replaced ordinary objects with bonsai tools, using bent forks, for example, as root hooks or rakes.
If you’re interested in the bonsai trend, Valavanis says gardeners are increasingly interested in collecting native American trees.
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