Outdoor Bonsai Tree Care – Bonsai is said to be an art form, but you still need to know some basics about bonsai t-shirt care to be successful.
“The first thing to know about bonsai is that it’s not a type of tree. That’s a pretty common misconception,” says Justin Hancock, horticultural expert at Costa Farms. “Bonsai is a way of growing a tree – more specifically, a pruned tree that is grown in miniature. Regular pruning of the roots and the top of the growth helps the plant stay at the desired size, no matter how old the tree or shrub is.”
Outdoor Bonsai Tree Care
The Chinese created the first miniature landscapes, a practice that Japanese growers changed when they began to focus on individual trees. “Bonsai became part of the ritual of some Buddhist monks before Westerners were exposed to the art of growing mini trees and bonsai became mainstream,” says Justin.
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Justin has seen oaks, magnolia pines and even citrus trees pruned in the ancient tradition of bonsai. “Ficus Ginseng and Fukien Tea are particularly popular, but you’ll also find Japanese Maples, Ginkgo and Juniper,” he says. “Almost any tree or shrub can be grown in bonsai form.”
Bonsai expert Dolly Fassio suggests starting with a one-quart, container-grown plant purchased from a reputable nursery, preferably one that specializes in bonsai. “You need to get a tree that is easy to care for in your area so you know it will live in your environment.”
If you were to take a bonsai tree and plant it in the landscape, it would grow back into a tree of the correct size. This of course defeats the purpose of art, but it points to an important aspect. Bonsai are not indoor plants. “They grow naturally outdoors, so you really have to keep them in their natural environment,” says Dolly.
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The tree itself will often dictate the bonsai style. But don’t forget his ship. A bonsai pot should blend in with the tree and add value and interest. Containers vary in size and price. There are so many beautiful pots to choose from, but Justin suggests that the perfect bonsai planter is one that is “about as deep as the width of the trunk and about as wide as the crown of the tree.”
The basis of bonsai is the soil. Bonsai trees need special soil because they are limited to small pots. Use volcanic mixes containing pumice, fir bark and lava for well-draining soil. The roots hit the sharp edges of the pumice stone and form hair-like roots. Fine, hair-like roots are better for tree health than large roots, says bonsai enthusiast Fred Fassio.
Justin says that if you create your own mix, make sure it contains enough moisture so you don’t have to water your bonsai all the time. He says the soil should allow excellent drainage so the roots don’t rot in their confined space and should be loose so the roots get enough oxygen.
All bonsai should be repotted periodically. Eventually the roots will grow and fill the container. At this point, the tree is root bound and cannot absorb enough moisture, so replanting is necessary. After pulling the plant out of the pot, Fred uses a chopstick to separate the roots. It is best to transplant during the tree’s dormant period because cutting the roots actually encourages new growth. Cut about a third of the root from the bottom and around all sides of the root.
How To Grow Your First Bonsai
In nature, the main root anchors the tree to the ground. With bonsai, the wire does the trick. Thread the wire through the small holes in the pot. Then add some soil around the root ball and gently twist the stem into the soil to get as much of it into the tree’s roots as possible. Pull the wire over the larger root of the tree, pull the wire off and tighten it again. If the roots are firmly attached to the pot, you should be able to lift the tree by the trunk and it will not come out of the pot.
Add a few more scoops of soil over the roots and use a stick to push the soil into the tree’s roots. This eliminates air pockets that can damage or even kill the wood. The icing on the cake is a layer of pre-moistened moss; this helps to add beauty and retain moisture.
The key to bonsai is to keep the amount of top growth and root growth in balance. “Too much top growth cannot be supported by the roots, and the tree eventually fails,” says Justin.
Justin says watering requirements, pruning time, indoor or outdoor placement and light exposure all depend on the type of tree. “The key is pruning and not forgetting to treat it as a species,” he says.
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There are several indoor and outdoor species that are more reliable and easier to care for, especially for bonsai beginners. Popular indoor options include:
Ficus. This is one of the most popular types of bonsai because it is easy to maintain and will be fault tolerant as long as you give it good light, proper drainage and regular feeding.
Scheffler. This plant will not easily succumb to mistreatment, so it is also good for beginners. Like all bonsai, it needs regular watering, good drainage and regular pruning.
The Art Of Growing Bonsai Trees
Fukien tea. This tree (also known as Carmona) needs a lot of light, so you may need to provide additional lighting. It also needs moisture, and a tray of wet rocks under the pot can meet that need.
Dwarf jade. Already an easy-to-grow houseplant, bonsai-clad jade grows as a woody shrub with succulent leaves that can last a little longer between waterings. Frequent pruning makes it grow stronger; it is easily propagated by cuttings.
Juniper thrives in bright sun. Protect the tree during the winter when temperatures drop into the teens, but it must remain outdoors. Let the soil dry a little.
The Japanese maple does best in a sunny location with light mid-day shade. It may need to be watered daily during the growing season – even several times a day on extremely hot days.
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Azalea likes shade from the hot midday sun. Azalea bonsai will bloom in season; the flowers will last longer if the bonsai is protected from hot sun and heavy rain. Water regularly, but not so much that the roots are soaked.
Pine grows best in full sun. These evergreens are hardy, even in their shallow containers, but should have some protection outdoors during the winter. Provide good drainage and protect the trees from too much rain.
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