How to care for your Bonsai
Years of loving care have gone into creating a bonsai. With a few minutes of daily attention, it will develop, improve and give you a great deal of pleasure for many years.
If you have acquired a healthy and well-established bonsai, there are six golden rules for maintaining it.
- Bonsai are easier to care for if kept outdoors and they do better outside.
- The tree should receive 3 to 4 hours of morning sun.
- Bonsai may be brought indoors in the evenings or for a few days in order to display them. If returning them outdoors after a few days inside, put them in the shade initially.
- Wild figs, brush cherry, Chinese snow rose are some of those making good indoor bonsai.
- Bonsai need to be placed where they receive direct sunlight but not against the window, allow 30 centimeters from the glass. Afternoon sun can be very hot, watch that your bonsai does not burn.
- Keep an eye out for pests as they are susceptible due to lack of air movement.
Incorrect watering is the commonest cause of the demise of bonsai. Good sound common sense is needed. Trees should not remain bone dry for longer than 8 hours, equally well, soil should not remain sodden.
- In summer daily watering is required.
- Trees must be thoroughly watered and water should be allowed to run out of the drainage holes.
- Occasionally trees may be dunked in deep water for a few minutes.
- In the winter rainfall region: Trees do not use as much water in winter as in summer. If there is no rain, water 2 or 3 times per week.
- Water 3 to 4 times per week depending on the temperature of the room.
- Create a humid environment by placing the bonsai pot on a tray filled with pebbles, water running through the drainage holes will dissipate between pebbles and create humidity. N.B. On no account should the pot stand in water for any length of time.
- Keep foliage dust free with hose or mist spray.
- Feed deciduous trees once a month in growing season with Hortisol, take a break in mid-winter for a few months.
- Fertilize evergreen trees once a month throughout the year.
- Flowering and fruiting trees; August to June once a month with Hortisol or 3:1:5.
- Follow instructions on package carefully in order not to damage bonsai. Do not fertilise ailing trees. The dilution ratio for Hortisol is on the wrap around label on the bottle which you need to peel off.
DISEASE AND PEST CONTROL
- Scale, red spider mite, mealy bug, black spot etc are frequently not detected until the tree is seriously debilitated. For spider and other mites use Seizer 100EC + SK Eco oil spray
- For insect pests, scale, thrips, bugs and aphids use No More Insects ready to use or Koinor (Koinor is systemic so needs to be used a a soil drench 6 monthly).
- Fungus infections use Orius 250EWS Systemic, Odeon 720 broad spectrum, or Ready to use Rose Protector.
- Follow instructions on package carefully, many of the products have instructions on the wrap around label which you need to peel off the bottle.
- Due to the fact that you are supplying the tree with all its requirements viz. light, water and fertilizer it will periodically grow and this new growth should be trimmed to keep the tree in pleasing shape.
- Bonsai continue to grow and should improve for the first few hundred years of their lives.
- An important aspect of their development is the formation of a fine network of small branchlets. This is called ramification. In order to achieve this ramification, the soft new growth needs to be frequently nipped back. Through this nipping back of the tips of branchlets the development of new and maybe, even extra little branchlets are encouraged.
- Due to this process reduction of leaf size will also occur. On a number of species of trees, the first leaf on a new branchlet is smaller than the subsequent ones, therefore, that if the branchlet is cut off after this little leaf, subsequent leaves will be even smaller.
- The top of the tree (apex) and the end of branches grow faster than others. If these ends are not continuously controlled by nipping or pruning there will be thicker branches at the top than at the bottom of the tree, instead of the other way around which would be correct. It is vitally important that the top of the tree is meticulously controlled and maintained. In addition, the upper branch networks should be thinned out and/or removed to prevent lower branches being deprived of light, a lack of which will cause them to weaken.
- Branches that emerge from the trunk of the tree are called primary branches. Those that emerge from the primary branches are secondary branches, those that emerge from the secondary branches are tertiary – the entire structure is referred to as the branch network.
- When branch networks are viewed from above, they should conform – broadly speaking to the overall shape of the tree when it is viewed from the front. This means that those secondary branches nearer the trunk should be longer than those at the end of the primary branch – they should be progressively shorter.
- As a rough guide, branches growing directly upwards or downwards should be wired laterally or radically shortened. Generally, there should be spaces between branch networks. See the section in our manual; CREATE YOUR OWN BONSAI by Lionel Théron, which refers to branch placement and shapes of branch networks (pages 26 – 29). The manual is available for purchase in the nursery.
When you purchase your tree from us you are given a care sheet with a repotting date, the time of year for repotting is limited to certain seasons or months, so if you miss your approximate time you need to wait until the following year. Bonsai should be repotted every 2-3 years but not necessarily into a bigger pot.