Bonsai means “tray planted” in Japanese. It is the art of miniaturizing plants in containers strictly for aesthetics and it has been practiced for centuries. The true bonsai hobbyist will create a landscaped environment in the container, which adds to the plant’s charm.
Flowering bonsai plants require regular watering, feeding, training and pruning like other ornamental and flowering plants. They’re grown in small containers and are trained with wire coils to induce their desired shape and structure.
Within that framework, 3 major components are crucial:
- Container Selection
- Positioning Within the Container
- Plant Variety
The container could be anything whimsical or attractive. However, most bonsai hobbyists select a container with an Asian or Eastern flair. Often, something with a pagoda, colored pebbles, a tiny park bench and other elements that make up a mini landscape is used. The creation of a miniature garden also enhances a bonsai’s allure.
Within the world of bonsai, there are four distinctive sizes: miniature, small, medium and average. The miniatures, usually included in landscaped displays, may reach two inches high at maturity, about five years old. Small plants range from two inches to six inches high and take from five to ten years to mature. The medium sized bonsai will grow to between six and twelve inches in about three years. An average size bonsai can grow as tall as two feet high in about three years.
Bonsai flowering plants consist of two basic varieties:
Koten – Like most trees, Koten are wider at the base, tapering off at the top.
Bunjin – This is referred to as a Comic or Informal variety. It’s wider at the top than at the base.
How To Care For Your Flowering Bonsai
Bonsais require the same concern for the standard elements of plant care, watering, sunlight, soil and pruning. However, because of their size and the intent to keep bonsais stunted, the specifics of those elements are a bit different than regular plants.
Of all the elements of bonsai care, watering is the most crucial. While each species has different specific requirements, the one common rule is never let your bonsai get completely dry. Generally, the rule is to water when the top soil looks dry. Japanese bonsai experts use a chopstick as a dipstick to test the depth of moisture in the soil.
Another means of testing is to test the moisture with your finger. If the soil feels dry at all, it needs watering. Once you get more familiar with your bonsai’s weight in the pot, you’ll be able to tell if it needs water simply by hefting it. The weight will be the barometer.
For those that like to use technology, there is the moisture meter. It has a prong that you insert into the soil. The meter will indicate the moisture level and you can water accordingly.
Unlike regular houseplants, an automated watering cycle is not recommended for bonsais; each species and variety has individual requirements. Generally, evergreens require only a weekly watering during winter months and daily watering during the summer. Because they are growing in much less soil than a normal plant, watering a bonsai should be complete so that the soil is moistened throughout.
Sunlight is also very important to the health and growth of your bonsai; bonsais should be placed in a location that gets direct unfiltered sunlight. There should be no curtains or shades between the bonsai and the sunlight. Usually, a good southern exposure window with a long day of sunlight is the best location. However, when trimming, pruning or re-potting, it is best to keep it out of direct sunlight until the plant has revitalized itself by acclimating. Again, each individual plant has unique requirements; do the research for your individual bonsai.
Using bonsai potting soil is recommended because bonsai potting soil is unique. Its ingredients allow water to drain while still retaining the right amount of moisture for the bonsai. It lets the roots breathe without being drowned in excessive moisture that compacts and strangles the root system.
There are two basic types of bonsai soil, the tropical/subtropical mixture and the conifer mixture. When re-potting your bonsai, you should block the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. The most effective way to do that is to place a very small broken shard of cln re-potting.
Bonsai fertilizer should contain three elements: phosphorous, nitrogen and potash.
Newly purchased bonsais normally do not require immediate pruning. Pruning and/or trimming are necessary to shape the plant to your desired looks. In addition, it’s important to maintain a balance between top growth and root growth. Too much root and the top will not grow properly; too much top growth and the roots may suffer.
Initial shaping of the tree is performed when the tree is very young. Special tools like bonsai shears or butterfly shears are utilized by the professionals. Their purpose is to remove light branches, unattractive growth and leaves. Heavier branches are removed by using a concave cutter; this tool efficiently removes the thicker branches without scarring the tree.
Interesting Flowering Bonsai Facts
- With proper care, your bonsai could live for hundreds of years.
- Originally known as pun-sai thousands of years ago, growing bonsai was the art of growing unique specimens in pots. Due to their individual growing, pruning and trimming, each one was a one-of-a-kind plant.
- Flowering bonsais can be generated from cuttings, seeds, young trees or by transplanting a stunted tree into a container.
- The most popular varieties of bonsais are Japanese Maples, the Laceleaf in particular.
Bonsai hobbyists love the bonsai growing experience. Each tree is a unique plant designed by the hobbyist. Once you begin the process and see how successfully you can create a beautiful bonsai, you’ll never cease to enjoy its beauty or the fruits of your labor.