Indoor Bonsai Tree Care

Bonsai is a very stunning and impressive art form. The bonsai trees we appreciate so much are not dwarf trees but actually miniature versions of native and full-sized trees. Bonsai trees can be placed in a container or pot and then they are displayed on surfaces like tables. When growing a wonderful and beautiful bonsai tree, gardeners should possess the right knowledge,  skills, great amount of patience, and a flavor of luck. Many people find growing bonsai trees as a great hobby. You can pick a tree you want and make it into a bonsai masterpiece.

Indoor bonsai trees contribute to the perfect view of a room. Aspiring bonsai artists need to learn how to properly shape their bonsai trees using wires. The bonsai trees are also pruned very carefully to avoid damage. These are the methods that are fundamental to bonsai art. If you want to produce a miniature tree looking like the big trees found in the mountains and parks, you need to know the right concepts and skills.

The most common bonsai trees include pine, maple, and juniper. You can take good care of your indoor bonsai trees by reading further through this tutorial and ensure their perfect growth and development. We will cover the following topics:

  1. Watering Indoor Bonsai Trees
  2. Choosing the Right Soil for Your Indoors Bonsai Trees
  3. Applying Fertilizer to Your Indoor Bonsai Tree
  4. Bonsai Tree Pruning Tips and Guide
  5. Indoor Bonsai Environment Care

Indoor bonsai trees are sensitive and very delicate. They need special care, focus, and attention. It can be daunting growing a bonsai tree. Bonsai growers should know the basic troubleshooting steps and resolution so they won’t mess up working with their first bonsai tree project. Let’s get started!

1) Watering Indoor Bonsai Trees

Watering your bonsai trees seems an easy task. However, bonsai gardeners should be careful with the amount of water they are giving their bonsai trees because lack of water may lead to dehydration. Overwatering or too much water can easily drown the bonsai trees. Water is the most important element when growing indoor bonsai trees. Incorrect watering is a common problem that most bonsai gardeners face.

Best Time to Water Bonsai Trees

Watering should only be done if the bonsai soil is slightly dry or dries out. You need to pour water gradually then wait until the water seeps into the bottom of the bonsai pot. It’s crucial to wait until the bonsai soil gets dry again before you pour more water. By doing so, your bonsai trees will never get dehydrated or drowned.

Tips in Watering Bonsai Trees

Tip #1: When it comes to watering your bonsai trees, only do it when the bonsai soil feels or looks slightly dry and more so when it is completely dry out. There’s no specific rule in terms of the best time watering bonsai trees. Although that’s the case, it is good to water them early morning to take advantage of good sunlight exposure.

Tip#2: Avoid watering your bonsai trees in the afternoon, most especially using cold water because the soil might already be warmed up by the sun, thus cooling your bonsai trees quickly. However, you need to ensure that you water your bonsai trees any time when the soil feels slightly dry.

Tip #3: Avoid watering your bonsai trees when the bonsai soil is still wet. You don’t have to follow any routine schedule. Observing your bonsai trees and investing on a reliable moisture meter will help determine the best time to water them.

Tip #4: Only use low-setting or shower mist when using a water hose. You can use a watering can with a rose filter to avoid too much water pressure that can wash away soil.

Ways Check the Soil Moisture

Don’t allow the soil to become too dry before watering your bonsai trees as much as possible. Check the soil on a regular basis to make sure you don’t underwater or overwater your bonsai trees. The water requirement of your bonsai trees depends on its size, the pot or container size, tree species, and the bonsai trees’ location. Here are the effective ways to check soil moisture.

a) Finger Method

Insert your finger into the soil 1 inch deep and feel if the soil is slightly dry. If it does, you need to water your bonsai tree. It can be messy if you are testing several bonsai trees.

b) Chopstick Method

Use a wooden and palin chopstick and insert deep into the soil about an inch or so. Wait for about 10 minutes to allow absorption of water. If the chopstick holds wet soil, you don’t need to water your bonsai tree. Use different chopsticks for every bonsai tree to avoid cross-contamination.

c) Soil Moisture Meter

When caring for your bonsai trees, it’s important to know the best time to water them for a more successful growth and maintenance. Whether you’re a novice grower on an expert, a soil moisture meter is a valuable device to avoid all the guesswork.

A soil moisture meter measures the dryness or moisture of the soil at the root level. The scale of this tool ranges from 1 as the driest and 10 as the wettest. Watering is needed at level 3 and below. Store your moisture meter in a dry and cool place, and make sure to clean properly before storage to avoid microorganism cross-contamination.

2) Choosing the Right Soil for Your Indoors Bonsai Trees

The soil is a major important factor when growing indoor bonsai trees. With the right soil, your bonsai tree is helped in getting the right amount of nutrients and water it needs. The soil also holds your bonsai tree in place on its pot. You can purchase the right kind of bonsai soil from a bonsai expert or in a garden shop. They can give a good recommendation for the most appropriate bonsai soil for your bonsai tree based on its species and origin.

Bonsai gardeners shouldn’t hesitate to spend more on superior quality soil because the bonsai tree can greatly benefit from it as time goes by. Low-quality type of soil won’t encourage the growth of healthy bonsai trees. While bonsai gardeners may think that they can save money by buying a cheaper bonsai soil, they’re just actually putting their bonsai trees at risk. Cheap bonsai soil usually has a poor quality that can kill the bonsai tree rather than properly growing it. It is best to spend just extra $5 on a good quality bonsai soil to ensure that your bonsai trees will be growing well indoors.

Good Qualities of a Bonsai Soil Mix

a) Good Water-Retention Property

The bonsai soil you need to use must hold enough water for your bonsai tree to be supplied with the proper moisture and avoid dehydration between watering.

b) Good Water Drainage

Avoid excessive water in your bonsai tree. Choose a soil mix that drains immediately from the container or pot. A soil mix that lacks good drainage lacks aeration, prone to salt build-up, and highly water retentive. A highly retentive soil mix will result to root rot, thus possibly killing your bonsai tree.

c) Good Aeration

It is essential that the particles used in a soil mix intended for your bonsai should have enough space for proper aeration, allowing sufficient air pockets or tiny gaps. Aside from the oxygen needed for healthier roots, it’s crucial to have intact mycorrhizae and good bacteria, for good root absorption and production of energy known as photosynthesis.

It should promote faster water drainage, and allow fresh air to enter the soil continuously. A compacted soil lacks aeration, proper drainage, and good structure that can lead to root rot and ill health.

Organic or Inorganic Bonsai Soils

The types of bonsai soil mixes include organic soil and inorganic soil. Bark, leaf-litter, and peat moss are organic soil components. Over time, organic soil components or dead matter break down over time, thus reducing water drainage. Bonsai compost absorbs water poorly if they are dried completely which is a major problem among cheap bonsai trees purchased at agricultural centers.

Inorganic bonsai soil components contain minimal to no organic matter such as baked calcite, fired clays, or volcanic lava. These inorganic soil components tend to absorb less water and nutrients when compared to organic soils, but they’re great for aeration and drainage.

Highly Recommended Soil Mixtures for Bonsai Trees

Various bonsai tree species need different soil mixtures. That’s why it’s important to check and find the best mixture for your bonsai tree species. Deciduous bonsai trees and coniferous bonsai trees need a good mixture of soil components. Both bonsai mixtures have pumice (for good structure), akadama (for good water retention), and lava rock (for good drainage and aeration).

Coniferous and Pine Bonsai Tree Soil Mixture

  • 33% Pumice
  • 33% Lava rock
  • 33% Akadama

Deciduous Bonsai Tree Soil Mixture

  • 25% Pumice
  • 25% Lava rock
  • 50% Akadama

Bonsai Soil Components

Bonsai soil mixtures have important components such as lava rock, pumice, akadama, fine gravel, and organic bonsai potting compost. These are used mostly in indoor bonsai trees.

a) Akadama

It’s a hard-baked Japanese clay which is specifically produced for indoor and outdoor bonsai trees and it’s available in all bonsai shops. Sift akadama before using it. Akadama will start to break down after two years, that can reduce aeration to some extent. It requires regular repotting or mixed with soil components with good drainage.

Akadama is more expensive than other soil components, so some bonsai growers replace akadama with baked or fired clays, as well as cat-litter.

b) Pumice

Pumice refers to a soft volcanic product that absorbs nutrients and water very well. Whenever pumice is used in a bonsai soil mix, water is retained, which helps in the proper ramification of roots.

c) Lava Rock

Lava rock retains water, adding a good structure when it’s part of a substrate. Bonsai roots can’t grow into Lava rock.

d) Organic Potting Compost

Organic potting compost includes perlite, peat moss, and sand. It also has drawbacks like high water retention as well as poor aeration. But if it’s used as a part of a soil mixture, organic potting compost is perfect.

e) Grit or Fine Gravel

Grit or fine gravel helps create a properly aerated soil. They are used in enhancing water drainage. Most bonsai gardeners don’t use this soil component anymore because they tend to stick in a mix of akadama, pumice, and lava rock.


When choosing the right bonsai soil mixtures for your indoor bonsai trees, make sure the soil and bonsai adapt to your local conditions. Check on your bonsai trees at least twice a day, and add extra akadama or organic potting compost according to your preference of bonsai soil mix to raise its water retention properties. If you’re living in a wet climate, it is good to add more grit or lava rock to enhance proper water drainage.

3) Applying Fertilizer to Your Indoor Bonsai Tree

When it comes to indoor bonsai trees, water-soluble fertilizers always work the best for them. Insoluble fertilizers may cause undesirable results because they make the bonsai soil too dry and end up killing the bonsai tree. It’s best to feed or apply fertilizer to your bonsai trees only once or twice monthly during the vegetative or growing season.

You need to only apply bonsai fertilizer to wet soil to help your bonsai trees properly grow. Buy a high-quality water-soluble bonsai fertilizer to guarantee the best results. You need to wait for the next bonsai growing season if you want to switch to another type of fertilizer. It’s smart to ask a bonsai specialists about the best type of bonsai fertilizer specifically for your bonsai trees.

When is the Best Time to Apply Fertilizer

Bonsai trees need to be fed with fertilizers. This is done once every 3 to 4 weeks. In springtime, it’s best to use a fertilizer rich in nitrogen. Use a balanced bonsai fertilizer during summer. During fall, use bonsai fertilizers that are low in nitrogen.

You can use regular organic fertilizers in the form of balls or pellets every month while your bonsai tree is still in the growing season. Liquid fertilizers can also be used every week. If you want a strong growth, apply a fertilizer with high nitrogen levels.

4) Bonsai Tree Pruning Tips and Guide

Pruning methods can be very challenging for novice bonsai gardeners. A full understanding about pruning is crucial because bonsai trees are sensitive or very delicate when it comes to pruning.

By knowing the basic pruning techniques, it allows bonsai gardeners to sculpt their bonsai trees into whatever style and shape they desire. Pruning is considered a basic bonsai sculpting technique. It makes bonsai art form more artistic and beautiful.

Maintenance Pruning of Bonsai Trees

The aim of maintenance pruning is maintaining and refining the shape of a bonsai tree. Most growth of bonsai trees concentrate are located on the outer and top parts. Prune these growth areas on a regular basis in order to encourage growth on the bonsai trees inner parts.

When it comes to maintenance pruning, it is usually performed from March to September throughout the bonsai growth season. Maintenance pruning is needed to maintain the shape of a bonsai tree. Prune the shoots or branches that outgrown the intended shape and size of the canopy with the use of twig shears or normal cutter. Use the right bonsai tools and don’t hesitate to do the right pruning of your bonsai tree. Prune the top and outer areas. Regularly prune your bonsai trees in order to force growth distribution in an even manner and to develop a dense foliage.

Pine bonsai trees and some conifers, as opposed to deciduous bonsai trees, must be pinched by hand. Pruning conifers with the use of scissors may cause brown and dead foliage. You can prevent this by holding the tip of the bonsai shoot in between your pointing finger and thumb, carefully pulling it away, with the shoot snapping at its weakest point and without brown ends appearing. Different bonsai species require varying maintenance when pinching and pruning. Some require a combination of the two.

What is Defoliation

Defoliation is another method of bonsai pruning involving removing of the leaves of deciduous bonsai trees at summertime. This is to force the bonsai tree to grow healthy and new leaves. With this technique, it ultimately leads to leaf size reduction and increased ramification.

Structural Pruning of Bonsai Trees

In order to give your bonsai tree a basic shape, you may need to prune large branches. You need to decide on which bonsai branches should stay and those that need to be removed. Remember that structural pruning is no longer reversible so think about the best shape for your bonsai tree.

When to Prune Bonsai Trees

The best time to prune bonsai trees is early spring and late autumn. Structural pruning can be done before and after the growing season. Different bonsai tree species have different timing. For instance, a Juniper Bonsai needs different timing from  Ficus Bonsai.

How to Prune a Bonsai Tree

When pruning a bonsai tree, you need to place it at eye-level on a table. You need to remove all dead wood from your bonsai tree. Take some time to observe your bonsai tree and decide which branches don’t fit in the desired design and those that need to be removed. Pruning bonsai trees is not about complying with strict rules, but also establishing the best shape and design for your bonsai tree.

Pruning the thick branches of your bonsai will result in ugly scars. This is prevented with the use of a special concave cutter, reducing this effect due to the indentation it makes when it cuts off a branch. Remember that a healthy bonsai tree should have no problem when pruning up to 30 percent of its foliage. The best technique in pruning is performing structural pruning this spring and then wait to repot your bonsai until the next spring. This is the time when the bonsai tree has fully recovered from structural pruning.

Finally, it’s important to seal the large cuttings with the use of wound paste which is available at most online and actual bonsai shops. The wound paste protects the wounds or cuts against infections, helping the bonsai tree heal faster. Always use the right tools in pruning your bonsai trees.


Pruning is another important element when it comes to bonsai care. There are two types of bonsai pruning which include branch pruning and root pruning. You need to prune the branches of your bonsai trees during spring, removing the unwanted branches while keeping those you wish to grow. Root pruning is only done when the bonsai roots clump or intertwine in the pot.

5) Indoor Bonsai Environment Care

All trees and plants require sunlight in order to survive, and indoor bonsai trees are also included. Although your bonsai tree seems to look perfect and healthy inside the house, you need to place it in an area where they’re exposed to enough sunlight. Your window sill is one of the perfect spots during daytime or whenever the sun shines in that particular area.

You need to make sure that your bonsai tree is not prone to falling. Its indoor environment shouldn’t be too warm or too cold. There should also be enough humidity so that the bonsai soil doesn’t dry out fast. Bonsai trees require varying indoor environments. Some bonsai trees are sensitive to drastic changes in temperature and humidity. Bonsai gardeners should carefully research about their bonsai tree choices.

There’s a general misconception about the most sought bonsai trees, and this is keeping them indoors. However, most bonsai trees must be placed outside like their full-size version, that is exposed to different seasons. Only subtropical and tropical plants can withstand in an indoor climate like a house or office, where temperatures are stable and high throughout the year.

Bonsai Tree Species Suitable Indoors

There are several bonsai trees you can grow indoor such as the Ficus Bonsai. This bonsai is can tolerate low humidity. It is the perfect bonsai species for novice bonsai gardeners. The other bonsai tree species suitable indoors are Crassula or Jade, the Schefflera Arboricola or Hawaiian Umbrella, the Carmona or Fukien Tea, and the Sageretia or Sweet Plum.

Temperate bonsai trees cannot be kept indoors because they need a dormant period during in winter when the yearly growth cycle ends. This is also the period when the bonsai tree prepares for the next cycle that beings in early springtime. A bonsai tree becomes dormant when there is a gradual decrease in temperature and light intensity for several weeks, and these things won’t happen if these bonsai trees are kept indoors.

Bonsai trees that are suitable to be kept indoors are different from average indoor house plants. Bonsai trees are usually planted in small pots so they have a limited storage for water and nutrients. Tropical trees use high humidity and too much light that are challenging to mimic indoors.

Specific Care Tips for indoor Bonsai Trees

a) Light

One of the problems keeping a tropical bonsai tree indoor is that the light intensity is lower than the outside. Bonsai trees will not die immediately when the light intensity is very low, but the growth will decrease and eventually will weaken the plant. It is important to make sure you place your indoor bonsai tree in an area like in front of a window that faces the south.

Even if you have a window that faces the south, the light intensity may still be low. You can install artificial lighting such as fluorescent lighting that has radiating growth-friendly spectrum or you can also use light-emitting diode light 10 hours daily.

b) Humidity

Another problem with tropical bonsai trees indoors is that they need a high humidity, which is higher than the humidity inside your house, most especially when you’re using air conditioning or heating. Increase the humidity of your bonsai trees by placing them on humidity trays filled with water.  You can mist your bonsai tree and open a window during the day for proper air circulation.

c) Temperature

Tropical bonsai tree species need high temperatures all year round similar to the living room’s standard room temperature. Subtropical bonsai trees survive lower temperatures. They thrive when the winter season reaches temperatures below the standard room temperature.


We have presented the most basic concepts when growing bonsai trees. Aspiring growers should make sure that they’re completely committed to caring for their indoor bonsai trees because these masterpieces require a time, patience, money, and effort. It is rewarding growing

a bonsai tree, most especially taking into consideration the bonsai trees’ sensitivity and complexity.

Final Thoughts

Following the right steps from watering your bonsai trees, choosing the right soil, proper feeding or fertilizer application, right pruning technique, and proper bonsai tree placement and positioning will ensure the optimum growth of your bonsai trees. Novice bonsai gardeners should take time to learn the bonsai growing basics to prevent committing costly mistakes. Remember that even a simple watering error can damage your bonsai trees, making you start all over again. We hope you like this tutorial. Feel free to share this information with your family and friends. You may want to also comment your suggestions and feedback below.