Spring has arrived and just like the plants in your big landscape, your little bonsai tree will soon start budding out with the new growing season. However, unlike most plants in the larger landscape, your bonsai tree relies on you to help meet many of its needs. Here are some tips to keep your tree healthy and looking like the natural sculpture it was intended to be.
One ongoing task for outdoor bonsai trees is weeding. Remove weeds as they show up in the pot. Leaving even a single weed in the pot is potentially detrimental to your tree. The weeds will fill the pot and take water and nutrients from the tree. They will also eventually impact the roots of the tree as well. It is easiest and best to weed as part of your daily care routine.
Your tree needs to be fertilized to maintain optimal health. There are a lot of options for feeding and providing necessary nutrients; organic, chemical or slow release. Many in the bonsai community use Miracle-Gro weekly at 1/4 of the recommended strength. Others sprinkle Osmocote on the surface of the soil to provide slow-release fertilizer with every watering. Fertilizing should be paused if the weather is consistently in the 90°s F to ensure that the roots are not burned when the heat causes excessive evaporation.
A balanced fertilizer is recommended, although some people will modify the ratio of nutrients to reduce the nitrogen content in the fall. (Nitrogen stimulates growth so in the fall you want to start reducing growth as the tree prepares to go dormant for the winter.) Fertilizing should be stopped once freezing weather sets in and your tree allowed to go into dormancy for the winter season.
As your tree grows, the branches will lengthen, and new branches may sprout in locations where you don’t want them. Eventually, the tree will need some trimming to maintain the desired shape. Minor adjustments can be made with scissors or pruning shears. Major adjustments (such as branch removal) will require more aggressive pruning and you may want to invest in some basic bonsai tools at this time.
Bonsai tools come in a wide variety of quality levels and price ranges. Basic cutters (shears or scissors) can be obtained at most hardware stores. Tools specifically for bonsai work are readily available via the internet. If you have access to a physical location that sells bonsai supplies, ask the store personnel what they suggest. Recommended tools are:
- Concave cutters.
- Long-handled scissors.
- Wire pliers.
- A chop stick is also a handy tool to move soil during repotting and to bend branches to see if you want to re-position them at some point in the future.
Additional shaping and styling can also be accomplished by applying wire to the branches. Wiring a bonsai tree takes some practice and it’s best to do some research on shaping techniques or seek out tips from experienced bonsai growers. Also check local botanical gardens that may offer classes on creating bonsai trees.
Spring is the time to decide if your bonsai tree needs re-potting. Like pruning, re-potting a bonsai tree requires some research if you’ve never done it before. Look online for instructional videos, consult an expert, a bonsai-club member or seek out a class to learn the best technique.
With a consistent care routine your bonsai trees should thrive during the spring and summer season. In fact, this is the perfect time of year to bring another bonsai tree into the family.
Learn about some popular trees for use in bonsai in our article, 10 Beginner-Friendly Bonsai Plants.