Growing an indoor Bonsai - 5 tips to get started.

Indoor Bonsai - 5 Important tips to get started. 


Growing a Bonsai tree indoors is a fantastic way to enjoy Bonsai year-round. But before getting started, here are some essential tips you should know.


Before we dive in, I think one thing needs clarifying about Indoor Bonsai. Indoor Bonsai are tropical and sub-tropical species that do not lose their leaves in the fall and, considering where they orginate from, require a warm, humid environment to thrive. The best way to know what environment to provide your tree is to understand where that specific species comes from and try to imitate those conditions. 


Tip 1 - Also, the most important one. Placement & Light.


Placement: Consider where you will be placing your Bonsai. As all trees require a certain amount of light to thrive, you should position your Bonsai in an area that gets at least 4-6 hours a day of direct sunlight a day; if the area where you plan to place the tree does not get sufficient sunlight or only has in-direct light. You might want to consider a grow light or choose a species that can thrive in low light conditions. Very few species thrive in in-direct light or low light conditions. Species of Bonsai that require less light and, as such, can thrive without direct sunlight are the Hawaiian Umbrella trees, but they, too, need light. It just doesn't have to be direct sunlight. Regardless, trees require light to photosynthesize, so if at least 1-2 hours of direct sunlight is not an option, a good grow light is a must. 



Tip 2 - Nature knows best - Humidity and Temperatures. 


Humidity and Temperature: The most straightforward way to identify what conditions your tree requires is to read up on the species and inquire what the natural environmental conditions are where that tree grows. Most tropical varieties enjoy high humidity, which is easy enough. Placing a humidity tray (a tray with a lip that can hold some form of substrate, preferably lava rock or decorative pebbles, and is kept with a bit of water to a level just beneath the rock's surface) beneath your tree. It will provide your tree with a humid environment and ensure it will thrive. 

It is essential in North America, as most homes are heated using forced air, decreasing humidity levels and making for an arid environment. 


Tip 3 - Watering - So Simple, yet so Challenging. 


Watering: If anyone tells you to water your tree every certain number of days. Stop listening to or reading this person's advice when it comes to Bonsai, immediately. The amount of water a tree requires is a factor of the time of year, the environmental conditions and the type of soil it is in. The best way to knwo when to water your Bonsai is to get to know it. A simple but effective method of checking the moisture in the soil is by inserting an unglazed chopstick (the simplest single-use ones offered with take-out are the best) into the soil. Let it stay in the soil for 3-5 minutes, then remove it and see whether the chopstick is moist or dry. Within a few weeks, you will know how often your specific tree needs watering in your environment. Remember that this will change with the seasons, so check regularly.  

Based on the Bonsai you have, and if it likes moist or dry soil, you will know when to water it. 


Tip 4 - Pruning & Shaping - No, it will not always stay this way. 


Pruning & Shaping: Being a living art form, Bonsai will grow and thrive, given the right conditions and care. This also means that they will produce more leaves and additional branches. Maintaining its shape will require pruning, and the shape and design of the tree can always be changed and altered. This is what makes it so fascinating to observe and care for Bonsai. Different species react differently to pruning and wiring, and depending on your type of Bonsai, they may vary. But an important tip to remember is only to prune, wire, shape and cut your Bonsai when the tree is healthy and growing. Any manipulation should only be undertaken when the tree grows and is healthy and happy. 


Tip 5 - Air - The silent killer no one talks about. 


Air Circulation: One of the three main components required for a Bonsai to thrive is air. Everyone pays a lot of attention to light and water. But very few consider air circulation when establishing a healthy growing environment for their Bonsai. One of the most common questions when growing a bonsai indoors is: "my tree is not looking good even after providing the Bonsai with loads of direct sunlight and water." For a Bonsai to thrive, an equilibrium of light, water and air must be achieved. This means if the tree gets sufficient sunlight and is watered properly, it also needs air circulation. When placed in ample open space, this is rarely an issue. However, this can quickly become an issue when placed in a small area without proper air circulation. Suppose your indoor Bonsai is in a small space or obstructed space. Make sure to open a window or turn on a fan, to keep it healthy and happy. Ensuring there is air circulation will also help in preventing mould and pests. 


Very informative and delivered in a language which is clear and straightforward. I am no longer fearful of how to approach my bonsai gift from a close friend. Thank you.

Janina Furmanik April 12, 2023

Thank you, this information is so helpful.

Doreen McKenzie October 20, 2022

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