Bonsai are trees and shrubs that are grown to miniature size by pruning and caring for them in a shallow bowl over many years. The horticultural ambition to make the small trees look natural motivates top performance.
Growing and shaping a bonsai requires continuous care and some horticultural knowledge. As a pure living decoration, which only needs to be watered from time to time, the little trees are not suitable. Planting and caring for these natural works of art immerses you in a fascinating world that invites you to better understand plants and nature.
The term “bonsai” comes from the Japanese. It can be broken down into “bon” for shell and “sai” for plant, and yet means so much more. The great goal in designing a bonsai is to create a miniature form of a tree that grows very tall in nature. Nothing must appear artificial, and yet high gardening skills are required in the process. The project is long-term, because the older a bonsai becomes, the more expressive its appearance. The result should look like a section of the natural landscape. It is true that trees cultivated indoors can also be grown as bonsai. However, outdoor trees in small format for the garden are much more beautiful, and that’s what this article is about.
What is the right place for a bonsai?
Before you start the project, you need to consider whether you can offer a bonsai the right location. The trees need good humidity, plenty of light and temperatures similar to those where they originally grow. Since the shallow containers in which the trees are placed quickly freeze through completely even during moderate frosts, the roots must be protected from such damage, and a frost-free, cool, bright winter quarters must be ready.
What do you need to grow a bonsai?
Bonsai do not stand in classic tubs, but in shallow bowls. These can be glazed, but must have drainage holes in the bottom so that waterlogging can never occur. Bowls with matching water trays can be found in stores. This allows excess water to be collected during watering and poured away after a few minutes. The substrate for the tree must be loose and permeable. It is best to use special bonsai soil that does not contain nutrients, because fertilized is little, liquid and at regular intervals or as needed. Sharp nail scissors are helpful for delicate pruning, nail nippers for cutting firmer shoots. There are also special bonsai shears in a variety of designs.
How do you choose a bonsai seedling?
Decide whether you want your bonsai to be a deciduous or coniferous tree; basically, a wide variety of tree species are suitable for growing a bonsai from. Deciduous trees such as apricots or azaleas have the advantage that they can display attractive flowers if well cared for. Conifers, with the exception of larches, are green all year round. The classic among garden bonsai is a creeping pine (Pinus pumila). The small plant, which will become an elegant tree, should be about a year old, grown straight and necessarily completely healthy and intact.
How many roots to cut on the bonsai?
To keep a plant that grows very high in nature small, it must be pruned from the beginning , both the roots and the shoots. Take the young plant out of the growing pot and cut off about half of the root ball. Then, with the roots spread out, place it in the shallow tray that will be its home from now on. The small root space ensures that the tree does not grow to the sky.
How to shape a bonsai?
Each shoot is basically cut to about a quarter of its length and above a side shoot that points upward or outward from the center. Soft wire, such as aluminum or copper, can be used to guide young shoots that are not yet woody into the desired shape, this is called wiring. Don’t forget to check the wires regularly and loosen them in time to prevent them from growing in. Especially with fast-growing trees like the weeping fig (Ficus benjamina), this can happen quickly. If, over time, the shoots become too dense, thin them out accordingly. However, make sure that you only cut back at the time of the annual fresh shoots and never cut off young shoots that are supposed to give the bonsai its shape later on. Since pruning is usually done only once a year and the plant thus progresses very slowly, it is understandable that it takes many years and careful care until the homegrown bonsai can develop its character.