How Long To Grow Bonsai Tree – If, like me, you’re always looking for fun new plants to add to your home collection, chances are a bonsai tree has caught your eye at some point. These miniature trees are amazing – there’s really no other word for it – but they’re also very intimidating for beginners. Bonsai require special care and are not very forgiving. However, if you’re willing to put in the effort to shape and grow one of these mini trees, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking plant that can be passed down for generations to come.
Before you decide whether bonsai are for you, here’s everything you need to know about these amazing plants, including where to get one and how to care for them.
How Long To Grow Bonsai Tree
For the longest time I thought bonsai trees were a special kind of tree! As I discovered, I was not alone in assuming that.
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“Bonsai is a set of practices used to artistically shape a tree,” explains Eric Schrader, who teaches the basics of bonsai at the Bonsai Society of San Francisco. The practice involves a lot of pruning and cabling to shape the miniature tree, and bonsai trees must also be kept in specific pots to slow their growth.
Check out this post on Instagram Young Japanese Maple Bonsai A post shared by Bonsai Lan (@bonsaibylan) on Jul 11, 2019 at 3:34am PDT
Naturally, my next question was, “What kind of wood is best for beginners?” Like many questions in the plant world, there isn’t one definitive answer, or experts say it really depends on the climate where you live and where you plan to place your tree.
In particular, you need to decide whether you want an outdoor or indoor bonsai. Schrader explains that fewer bonsai varieties thrive indoors because “the temperature doesn’t change much inside and it’s pretty dry.” Just like a regular, full-grown tree, most bonsai do best when exposed to four seasons, as this allows them to go through a dormant phase in the winter (we know you, bonsai).
Do Bonsai Trees Need Full Sun?
Some examples of easy-care indoor bonsai include: Ficus varieties such as Ficus retusa and Ficus nerifolia, jade trees and dwarf umbrella trees.
If you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor space where your plant can live, your choices become more interesting. Schrader recommends cotoneaster, saying that “if you’re careful about watering, it’s a good plant to start with.”
Other easy outdoor bonsai for beginners include: junipers, boxwood, and hardwoods (especially if you live in the Northeast).
Remember that different trees have different needs, so be sure to visit Bonsai Empire’s list of bonsai tree species to identify and optimize care for your plant.
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If you are new to bonsai, you may want to start from scratch and grow your tree from a seed or seedling. This option is certainly attractive from a financial point of view, as you can probably find a small tree in your yard – I know my gardens are at the level of plant seedlings during the summer! However, if you do go this route, Bonsai Empire explains that it usually takes three to five years for a young tree to be ready for shaping. This is a big commitment, especially if you’re not even sure you like bonsai work.
A much better option for beginners is to find pre-bonsai, which are often sold online and at certain garden centers – you can even find them on Etsy. Pre-bonsai trees are simply small, young plants that can become bonsai. They are usually quite cheap and you can grow and shape the tree into a beautiful bonsai without having to wait years and years for it to be ready.
Of course, you can also buy a real bonsai tree, which is typically older and shaped. The downside to this method is that established bonsai trees can be very expensive – we’re talking hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
As it turns out, taking an ordinary tree and turning it into an artistic, miniature version of itself is less complicated than I first thought! It just requires careful care, regular maintenance – and a lot of patience.
Our 3 Step Guide To Bonsai Gardening And Keeping Your Plant Alive
What sounds like the simplest task, it just isn’t. You don’t want to put the tree on a watering schedule – instead, watch it closely to gauge when it needs water. “The most common causes of death are overwatering, closely followed by overwatering,” says Schrader.
Your tree’s watering needs depend on the species, climate, pot and its overall health, but in general you don’t want to let the soil of your bonsai tree dry out completely between waterings. Bonsai Tonight explains that because these plants have small root systems, drying out the soil can cause the roots to die. Therefore, it is best to water while the soil is still slightly moist.
Also, because Bonsai trees are in shallow pots, their soil is likely to dry out faster than other houseplants. Keep a close eye on the tree, especially when you first bring it home, so you don’t go too long without watering.
Sprinkle “If you get a few inches of growth, you can usually be sure it’s healthy enough to cut back,” says Schrader. With outdoor bonsai, you usually want to do maintenance cuts only during the growing season – i.e. spring and summer.
The Importance Of Wire Training Your Bonsai Tree
When pruning, you should remove broken and crossed branches and cut back branches with more than three or four nodes (joints where leaves grow). By pruning, you can also shape the bonsai tree and improve its aesthetics by removing branches too close to the base of the tree and branches growing in the wrong direction.
You can pinch or use small scissors to remove leaves, but you’ll probably need hollow cutters for larger branches, which will leave a smooth, indented surface that the tree will heal easily. A general rule of thumb is to cut no more than 1/3 of a healthy tree’s leaves at a time – taking more will ultimately damage the plant.
If your bonsai tree is not yet the desired size, you need to put it on a regular feeding schedule. A fully grown bonsai needs fertilizer, but not that often.
Schrader explains that you can use either organic or mineral fertilizer – or a combination of the two. (Organic fertilizer tends to smell, so think twice before using it indoors.) He recommends applying a tablespoon of organic fertilizer or a “can” of liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks.
How To Prune And Dwarf Bonsai Trees
As a beginner, you may be happy to let your bonsai do its own thing, shape it by pruning. Once you graduate as an advanced bonsai artist, you’ll want to use wiring.
“There are a couple of tools to create a shape,” explains Schrader. “You can remove things and you can move things. With the thread you create a shape and move branches from one place to another.”
In practice, the branches are wrapped in wire, then bent and repositioned, encouraging them to grow in certain directions. Anodized aluminum wire is recommended for beginners because it’s easy to work with, and you can wrap branches in water-soaked raffia before wiring if you’re nervous about damaging them.
Finally, a repotting plan – not only will it give the tree healthy, new soil, but it will also allow you to cut back the plant’s root system.
How To Grow Bonsai Trees From Seed
A growing bonsai should be replanted approximately every two years, while a mature tree can last at least three years without replanting. You can tell if your bonsai needs repotting by examining the root system – if it twists around the pot, it needs trimming.
In general, you should replant your bonsai tree in the spring before it starts to grow in earnest. During this process, remove the old soil from the roots with chopsticks and cut back any roots that are too long. Be careful not to remove more than a third of the root system.
Once you’ve done this, you can add fresh bonsai soil – typically a mix of akadama, pumice, lava rock, organic potting compost and fine gravel.
Feeling overwhelmed? Me too! There is a lot to learn, but once you learn it, growing bonsai feels like it can become an obsession.
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Many experts recommend finding a bonsai workshop, class, or community in your area that will connect you with enthusiasts and give you a place to troubleshoot. Alternatively, there are many great bonsai resources online, including tons of videos that cover everything we’ve talked about here.
So, are you ready to try your hand at growing your own bonsai? I know I am – Signing up for my first workshop today! Previous Ultimate Resource List: Starting a Bonsai Tree March 18, 2021 Next Buying a Bonsai Tree: Getting Started Guide April 10, 2021
The art of growing bonsai is not a weekend habit or a short-term hobby. It’s a practice that can last a lifetime, and that’s the best! But how long before you get to enjoy the fruits of all your labor?
The question “How long does it take to grow a bonsai tree?” There is no direct answer. Some say that a bonsai tree is never finished. Others claim that when you’re stuck on a tree, heads grow – and
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