Growing bonsai trees presents many challenges as well as giving great pleasure and a sense of achievement. There are many aspects to consider and the following bonsai tips will help to ensure that your bonsai trees develop to their full potential.
1. Watering- This is the single most important factor in maintaining healthy, thriving bonsai trees. Lack of water can cause the tree to die. The soil should be tested daily during the growing season and watered as required. In winter, outdoor bonsai require less frequent watering but still need to be checked.
2. Feeding- Bonsai trees require a regular supply of nutrients in the growing season. Three key elements (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) are applied at different ratios at different times of the year.
3. Species- Different species have different care requirements and you should find out as much as possible about your particular species. Many reference books and online resources are available.
4. Time of year- Trees need more care during the growing season than in the dormant season. Some species e.g. tropical trees that are often grown indoors require constant care throughout the year. Some outdoor bonsai may require protection from extreme cold or heavy rainfall in the winter.
5. Location- Some trees prefer shade whilst others prefer sun. Species such as Acer palmatum (Japanese maple) require protection from strong wind. Indoor bonsai need plenty of light.
6. Temperature- Tropical trees e.g. Ficus (fig) thrive in hot conditions whereas hardy varieties need a dormant period in cold conditions every year.
7. Repotting- This should be carried out on a regular basis. The frequency will depend on the species and the stage of development. The roots need to be pruned when the tree is repotted to ensure that the tree remains healthy.
8. Pruning / wiring- Bonsai trees are styled to the desired style and size using these techniques. Bonsai trees are not special dwarf varieties – they remain small because they are pruned regularly. The bark can be damaged after wiring so the tree needs to be checked regularly.
9. Pests and diseases- These affect bonsai trees just like other plants but can be treated using traditional organic or inorganic treatments. Remember that prevention is better than cure! The risk of diseases can be minimised by adopting good horticultural practice.
10. Soil- Bonsai trees are totally dependent on their roots within a confined pot to provide all the moisture and nutrients they need to thrive. The soil should therefore be porous and free draining.