Friday, October 5, 2007

Caring for Your Bonsai Tree

Watering - This is the most important aspect of caring for bonsai, especially for bonsai that are kept indoors for too long. Two things to remember about providing water for bonsai are the type of soil and species. Different soils will absorb and retain water at different rates and different tree species have varying degrees of water need.
The Japanese have a saying: water three times, each one for the pot, the soil and the tree. About 75% percent of water is taken in through the root system, but don't forget the leaves. Bonsai trees also acquire water through their stomata so make sure you wipe or wash away the dust and dirt regularly.
You should only use gentle water pressure when watering bonsai. Using excessive water pressure can wash away the topsoil and expose the tree roots. It is recommended that you use a misting hose or spray bottle that expels water in a fine mist. It is quite OK to use water from the tap, just ensure that it's not too hot or too cold.
Soil - Soil choice for your bonsai is critical for its health and long life. It really depends on the tree species of your bonsai, but generally, soil should be made of 30% humus and 70% grit for needled evergreen trees and 70% humus and 30% grit for deciduous trees. If you have a different bonsai species, make sure to look up which soil meets its special needs, since you might have to prepare a special soil mix yourself.
Pruning is the aspect of bonsai care that most beginners have trouble with. It's one of those skills that only really becomes fully formed with experience and knowledge. All aspects of a bonsai tree will need to be pruned at some stage - leaves, branches and roots.
Before attempting to prune the above ground aspects of your bonsai tree you should have a vivid image in your mind's eye of the tree shape you're looking to achieve. If you can do this and imagine a line around the tree in this shape you will be able to prune away everything that sticks out from this imaginary line.
Prune leaves or buds with care. Pruning buds will encourage back-budding and cutting leaves will 'discipline' the growth of the bonsai. It is also necessary to manage the nutrients that the roots draw up from the soil. Remember that you are trying to grow a tiny tree and letting it grow on its own will result in uncontrolled size.
Caring for bonsai takes lots of patience, knowledge and learned skills. It involves continuous work, but the results are more than worth the effort.
by Alan Allport

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