In The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood beautifully reminds us that we are all “half water.” So whenever we cannot go through an obstacle, we can always “go around it” – just like “water does.”
In a similar way, learning how to water bonsai trees indoors doesn’t come with some magical, fit-them-all formulas. Instead, it is through practice and observation that a bonsai tree gardener is able to establish the best watering routine.
However, if you follow the handful of smart and easy-to-apply tips we will share below, you will be much more confident in determining how and when to water your bonsai tree masterpieces.
Rule #1: Avoid Watering on a Strict Schedule
First things first, there is a whole array of factors that make the process of watering a bonsai tree highly intimate and uniquely individual.
For instance, different bonsai gardeners will use pots of different size, different soil mixtures, different fertilizers – and that’s just to name a few.
What’s more, different bonsai trees will be in a different stage of development. Not the least, the climate specifications also play a huge role in the watering routine of a bonsai tree.
With this in mind, the only person who can give you the best pieces of advice for watering your bonsai tree is you.
Many newbie bonsai growers tend to commit a terrible mistake while trying to follow particular guidelines – they water on a schedule.
This is NOT a good idea because you want to treat your bonsai as the individual and unique tree that it is. It’s best to observe its reactions and act accordingly, instead of sticking to bad working, unnecessary schedules.
Rule #2 – Master the Relationship between Water Timing & Soil Components
The components that make up the highest-quality soil for growing bonsai include lava rock, pumice, and akadama within an average ratio of ¼ parts of lava rock and pumice to ½ part of akadama.
However, the best soil for bonsai is actually tree-specific so the amount of these basic components can slightly vary.
Most essentially, the presence of these different components also affects the watering schedule.
For instance, adding more akadama helps to increase water retention rates which means watering won’t be that frequent as with soil that consists of lower amounts of akadama.
You can make the way soil components influence watering work in your favor but this is only possible if you properly research the quantity of all the basic components present in your bonsai soil mixture.
Video by Appalachian Bonsai – Bonsai Soil Tests: Part 1: Water Retention
Rule #3 – Don’t Let your Bonsai Trees Dry out Completely!
It is NOT a good idea to water your bonsai when the soil still feels and looks wet.
However, it is the case that sometimes, soil can only look wet while it is actually rather dry. That’s why sticking your finger at around 1 centimeter into the soil is the best way to understand whether it is time for watering or you should wait a bit more. Soil should feel only slightly dry but not wet to the touch.
The more you get experienced as a bonsai gardener, the easier you will be able to spot when it’s high time for watering at a glance.
But before you accumulate the much-needed experience, make sure that you at least don’t let soil to dry out fully as this can spell disaster for your bonsai masterpiece.
Also, don’t let stagnant water in the trays for too long as this can create the perfect environment for harmful bacteria to occur.
Video by Eastern Leaf – Bonsai Basics: Watering your Bonsai Tree
As the traditional Japanese proverb goes, no road is too long in the company of a friend – and this is a beautiful way to describe the joy of your bonsai journey.
Despite its small size, your bonsai tree will always give you the best guidelines on watering (and not only!).
And while the road to becoming a wonderful bonsai tree gardener is not deprived of obstacles, trials, and errors, embracing the learning experience is a significant part of the wisdom that resides in the art of bonsai.
When trying to figure out how to water bonsai trees indoors, just take a deep breath, do your research, and let your miniature friend “talk” to you – it will never lie and it will never let you down. Little by little, before you even know it, you will start understanding and “speaking” the language of your bonsai – and that’s a feeling which is impossible to put into words!