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Common Questions » Bonsai Care Sheets

The word BONSAI (bone-sigh) actually means, “plant in a pot” and combines the care and nurturing of a plant with the pruning and shaping of it branches and limbs to take on the
appearance of miniature tree in nature. An art that had started centuries ago in China. It may be easer to think of it as “ an artistic plant in a pot”.

Remember your bonsai is a living plant needing care that’s similar to most all plants growing within a container.

Watering bonsai to maintain plant vitality is an important key to your success. A good soaking of water is needed before the soil dries completely. Don’t wait until the tree is stressed
from lack of moisture. An easy sign the tree needs watering is when the surface of the soil turns a lighter shade of gray. The best time to water is morning so your tree will have plenty  water available during the day when conditions cause the soil to dry at a faster rate. Check your tree’s watering daily to stay familiar with conditions. Some find it helpful to use their finger to feel the soil surface for drying. A thorough way of watering is placing your tree in a pan of water and allowing it to soak moisture through the bottom openings. This only takes a couple minutes and assures the tree gets a good soaking. Watering from over-the-top is fine, just make sure you did a good job. Bonsai are generally grown in shallow containers that  include porous soils which do not store enough moisture in reserve to keep trees watered for long periods.

With the best intentions in making sure your tree is supplied with water, one can over-water if simply watering to a convenient schedule. Make sure watering is done when soil is allowed  to dry first.

Sunlight is essential for most all trees and knowing the light requirement that your tree prefers is most helpful. For the majority of trees, and for best results, make sure your plant has several hours of adequate light. In many cases bonsai survive inside the house but thrive when placed outside. You should place the tree outside when weather permits for the best  results.  Foliage which stays compact is a good indication of proper exposure. Depending on where you live, full sun during the hottest period of the year may burn foliage as well as  over-heat pots to the point of root damage. Relocating the tree to a shadier location may be necessary.

Feeding your bonsai is necessary for good plant health. There are many plant fertilizers on the market; consider experimenting with different ones. Read the package and feed when tree is actively growing with a general-purpose fertilizer (ie. 20-20-20). As the seasons change consider changing the feeding program. Many in the bonsai circle use a low nitrogen fertilizer during the winter  months when growth slows down or stops.

Temperature to maintain bonsai will have to refer to the species of your tree and the climate conditions to which the plant is a native of. Keeping the the tree in the desired temperature range is always best.

Plant varieties that natively grow in the tropics prefer a maintained temperature of 65-80 degrees F. Keep these trees from freezing by keeping them warm year round. Plants native to temperate climates do well between 50-80 degree F, Many temperate varieties need an annual rest period (dormancy) that begins when temperatures drop to the 32 degrees F in the fall and lasting apx. 60 days. Protection from excessive hard freezing may be necessary depending on where you live. Some safe locations to over-winter may include garages, unheated  porches and sheds. (Remember you still need to keep trees watered during the winter dormancy)