As we already know, bonsai need complete care and significant dedication. Having a bonsai and caring for it is more than a cultivation technique. It could be defined as an art. Some say that “a well-cared-for bonsai is a tree that has found happiness,” but what cares are they? Where can I start?
How To Care For A Bonsai Tree
Well, to enter the world of bonsai, we must take into account from the beginning several important factors that will condition the rest of the life of our bonsai:
- First, it will be convenient to ensure that the bonsai is in good health and growing conditions.
- You should also keep in mind the future location of your bonsai before purchasing it, taking into account whether we prefer an outdoor one or an indoor one.
- It is preferable to start in this art with bonsai of medium or large size since its care is, within its complexity, easier the more extensive the bonsai. The most suitable species for beginners are ligustrum, ficus, zelkova, and olive, among others.
After these first considerations, we are going to delve into the subject and briefly explain the most important techniques for good care of our bonsai:
Always depending on the species chosen, whether indoor or outdoor.
Carmona or Serissa species (among many others) are classified in this group. Bonsais would not support sudden temperature changes, so will its ideal location in a sheltered place. Of course, you must remember that, even if you choose a kind of interior, it must always have specific light, temperature, and humidity conditions.
The ideal would be to place the bonsai near a large window and without curtains in terms of light. Regarding the temperature, we must always take the precaution of putting it in a cool room and away from any heating device.
Regarding humidity, usually, the one we have at home is enough for them. However, more tropical species will require more excellent environmental moisture, and it will be necessary to spray periodically around the bonsai. This depends on each species.
On the outside:
within this group, we would find species that prefer long exposure to the sun during most of the year.
However, depending on the species, in the warm season, we will have to take the trouble to protect them in shady or partially shaded places to prevent their leaves from burning.
If we talk about the temperature, it can be said that they are trees accustomed to the seasonal, cyclical variations of the place where they live, although we must protect them from frost during the winter.
There is an unwritten rule, quite general for almost any bonsai, which is essential. It can be summed up in the following phrase: ” water your bonsai when the surface of the ground begins to dry up. ” This maxim has its variations, depending on the climate where our bonsai comes from. It could be said that irrigation is the most important and determining factor that we will face.
Good knowledge of the water needs of our bonsai will be the difference between having it healthy and beautiful or, on the contrary, making it sick. The amount of water and the frequency with which we must add it to our bonsai will vary depending on the following factors:
Each bonsai tree has unique vital water needs, so you should thoroughly inform yourself of the intrinsic characteristics of the species you choose. For example, a ligustrum requires constant humidity in the substrate, while a Carmona will prefer more widely spaced waterings. Each bonsai is a world!
If you place your bonsai outdoors, direct sun and wind will quickly dry out the substrate so that it will need daily watering, especially during the summer. On the contrary, if you place it in an indoor location, the irrigation needs will be much lower in general, depending on the temperature and the light to which it is subjected.
Spring is a season of enormous activity for trees, so the water supply must be significant. The same will happen during the summer, a season in which the temperature increases considerably and, consequently, also evaporation and evapotranspiration, so the water needs of the bonsai will be much higher.
For the exact location (indoor or outdoor), the water supply will differ depending on the size of the pot. Small pots will require almost daily but not abundant waterings, while larger volume pots will allow more spaced watering (every two or three days) but more productive.
The technique that acquires importance if our bonsai is indoors because in these circumstances they will never receive rainwater or morning dew, which are two essential factors for the correct development of the tree since they clean the dust that may have accumulated on the leaves, apart from providing moisture and refreshment.
For spraying, so-called spray devices are used that launch particulate water under pressure, acting as fine rain. Attention! It would help if you never used the sprayer for irrigation, as the water would remain on the surface, and in no case would it reach the roots.
Since bonsai lives its entire life in a container of limited volume, we must take the precaution of renewing the nutritional reserves it requires before it runs out. The general and fundamental rule would be to add small but constant amounts of compost.
Even so, we must bear in mind that the fertilizer requirement will depend, once again, on the species that we have acquired, the size of the pot, the time of year, and the time of life of the bonsai.
During spring, the demand for fertilizers will be higher because it is the most extraordinary plant growth.
Likewise, during the fall, we must also fertilize in a meaningful way to prepare the tree for the coldest and most unfavorable season, winter. There are different types of fertilizers, each with specific properties. Evaluate your bonsai and choose well!
Since bonsai live in containers of limited volume, the earth, with time, the water, the fertilizers, and the pressure of the roots, deteriorates and converts in a medium that prevents the correct circulation of water and oxygen.
Thus, it will be necessary to carry out a transplant from time to time to renew the vital space of our bonsai and, in this way, revitalize and invigorate the tree. If the tree is young and needs a renovation of space due to the continuous growth it experiences, the transplant time will be every 1 or 2 years, and we will use coarse-grained soil. If, on the other hand, our tree is already mature and formed, and all it needs is maintenance, the transplant will be every 3 or 4 years, using fine-grained soil.
Once we have the above procedures under control, we will have to get down to work and acquire other skills, also very important for bonsai care. We are talking about pruning, clamping, and wiring, basic jobs that will allow you to direct the development of the tree. We will briefly explain them below:
Through this technique, we will channel the formation of our bonsai within the style we want. It consists of cutting the branches that we consider useless or unnecessary in the tree. It is necessary to take into account the time of year when pruning, the most suitable season for this being spring (it’s beginning).
To cut the bonsai branches, the most advisable thing is to use special tools to help heal the wounds. It is also advisable to use cut sealing pastes to avoid infections by fungi, viruses, or bacteria.
It is a discipline that mainly increases the density of sheets and reduces their size. The basic procedure would be to let 6 or 8 pairs of leaves grow and then cut the tips from which they sprout again, leaving only 2 or 4 leaves.
This allows the tree to sprout again from the leaf buds we have left, but its size will be considerably reduced. The best time to carry out this process will be spring or fall, but it depends on your bonsai species. There is a wide range of clamping tools.
It is a technique parallel to pruning used to orient the trunk and branches to where we want to give our bonsai its style. It is done by winding the boxes or associating with the wire, with some pressure, bending the branch (carefully), placing it in the desired position, and fixing it with the wire.
We must remove the wire when the desired shape has been obtained and before it is set to the branch or trunk due to their thickening. The most recommended wire is the aluminum one, which is flexible but at the same time resistant. It is best to wire in October or November (months of vegetative rest) regarding the season.