A hobby that many people try because they perceive it to be calm and restful is growing and cultivating a bonsai tree. They buy some shaping tools and a young bonsai tree, and begin. In a short time they experience disappointment as their best efforts result in failure, and perhaps even the death of the tree. But it doesn’t need to be that way. Follow along as I attempt to cover the basic rules you need to follow on how to grow a bonsai tree.
Choosing a plant – there are several trees that lend themselves to the rigors of bonsai growing: the azalea bonsai or rhododendron, the jade bonsai, the Japanese maple bonsai, the dwarf juniper bonsai, the Chinese elm and the bougainvillea bonsai. Each has its own characteristics, and you are free to make your choice. Just note – these are all outdoor plants and should be mainly be kept outdoors. Indoor bonsai trees are very difficult to cultivate and should be avoided.
After selecting the plant, choose its container. There are many styles of pots, both round or square, glazed or unglazed, and their final choice should be made to augment the type of plant chosen. But remember, the pot should have a drainage hole at the bottom!
The potting soil should be a loose-filled organic soil mixed with sand or gravel, not a clay soil type. When growing your plant, remember to keep the soil evenly moist, and do not allow it to dry out. The plant usually fails if the soil dries out. Or the opposite – waterlogged – will have the same result.
Now To Begin
You’ve chosen your plant and flower pot, and the tree is happily embedded in its potting soil. The first thing I would recommend is to draw a sketch of the plant to set your own guidelines on how you want to prune and shape the tree as it grows towards its final shape.
Shaping and dwarfing of the tree is accomplished by following some fundamental techniques. The small tree size and the dwarf foliage is maintained by a consistent schedule of pruning of the roots and leaves. Differing methods can and should be employed. Each tree species shows different budding behavior. It is important to have on hand the proper shears and cutting tools to use during this process. Pruning is crucial to the plant, so good quality tools are critical. Also, some pruning should be done seasonally, as most bonsai trees require a period of dormancy and fail to grow roots or leaves during that time. Remember: pruning not done correctly can either weaken the tree or kill it.
Most types of bonsai can also be shaped by wiring. This is done by wrapping aluminum wire or copper wire around the tree trunk, and leading it out to its branches, holding the branch in place until it eventually holds the wanted shape (then the wire should be removed by cutting it into small pieces. Never try to unravel the wire from the branches). Some tree types do not change easily, they may be too rigid or brittle to be changed and are not easily shaped by wiring, in which case shaping must be done chiefly through pruning.
By following these simple steps, you can avoid disappointment and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and serenity of growing your own bonsai tree. So what’s holding you back? Start now.