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How to Care for Your Bonsai Tree

Posted By Duncan Idaho On January 7, 2010 @ 7:43 pm In Garden & Outdoors,Home Design & Décor | No Comments

Bonsai trees are works of art. Superior examples can take decades of patient care to perfect, but even the least experienced gardener can enjoy the beauty of these miniature trees by paying attention to a few basic maintenance rules.


Bonsai trees do best outside in a well ventilated area that receives plenty of sunlight. Ventilation and sunlight, as well as encouraging growth, will discourage disease and the growth of fungus.


Bonsai root systems are shallow, the soil in which the tree is planted is far more porous than normal nursery potting mix, and the pots are small, so frequent watering is necessary to prevent the plant dying from dehydration. In addition to providing moisture, watering carries nutrients to the roots, flushes toxic salts from the soil and expels gasses which build up around the root mass.

As a general rule, water bonsai plants daily, particularly in spring and summer. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole and that this is not obstructed. Adequate water drainage is necessary to prevent the roots becoming waterlogged and rotten.

If possible, water early in the day and never allow water to sit on the leaves in direct sunlight – it will act as a lens and burn the plant.


Given the small amount of soil in bonsai pots, a liquid fertiliser should be applied every 2 – 4 weeks to ensure adequate nutrients are available to the tree.


One of the main skills in caring for bonsai trees is the art of pruning. The novice, though, should not be frightened of attempting this practice. Approached logically and with an eye to balance and beauty, it can be done by anyone.

There are two areas of bonsai pruning: branch pruning and root pruning.

Branch Pruning

The basic aim of branch pruning is to encourage growth and create a tree of pleasing appearance. Go slowly, prune little by little to avoid drastic mistakes. Take the time to look at your plant and visualise the shape you wish to create – remember that the pruning you do today will affect the look of the plant for years to come.

If you are root pruning as well, remove roughly the same percentage of branch growth as you do of root mass.

Rather than using scissors or shears, new shoots should be pinched off with the fingers when they are about 3 cm long. When pinching a shoot leave 2 – 3 leaves below the pinch point.

Root Pruning

To root prune, un-pot the plant and comb out the roots with a root hook or chopstick. As it is desirable for bonsai to have a fine, shallow root system, avoid pruning small, delicate roots and target instead larger roots and any remnants of the tap root. Re-pot the tree and water well. Do not fertilise for at least three weeks after root pruning.

As a rule of thumb, most young bonsai trees should be root pruned and re-potted every 1 – 2 years, or whenever they show signs of becoming root-bound. Older trees that have reached their final shape can be root pruned/re-potted every 5 – 10 years.

Generations of Enjoyment

With the correct care and a little love, bonsai trees can have exceptionally long lifespans and it is not unusual for prime specimens to be handed down from one generation to another. So, choose your position carefully, water diligently, fertilise monthly and perform a yearly prune – who knows, maybe you’ll create an heirloom bonsai tree to be remembered by.

Learn more about growing bonsai trees in this video.

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