Some of the essential considerations about Bonsai and starting your first Bonsai should happen before purchasing your first Bonsai.
Let's go over the quick and easy list to ensure you're set and will be able to enjoy this phenomenal pastime for years or generations to come.
- Type = Indoor vs Outdoor
- Place = Environment
Indoor vs Outdoor?
Although there are many subcategories and sub-sub-categories of species or trees, the main two categories you should consider are whether you would like an Indoor vs Outdoor Bonsai.
Like their ground-growing counterparts, Bonsai love being outside, enjoying the fresh air, the sun, and the rain. But what we in Canada call,
Indoor Bonsai are trees that originate in tropical or sub-tropical environments. So to simulate their originating environmental conditions, they need to be brought inside during colder weather. While indoors, Bonsai still need light, water, air flow and feeding (fertilizer). These trees grow year-round, and although some may slow down during winter, they do not go fully dormant like their outdoor counterparts. Check the end of this piece for a list of typical Indoor and Outdoor varieties used in Bonsai.
Outdoor Bonsai are tree species that typically grow in colder climates in both the northern and southern hemispheres. These trees usually experience cold and snow during the winter and naturally go dormant during these times. What's important to understand is although they only thrive outdoors, being in a container (pot) does not protect them enough from harsh winter weather. Without the protection of the earth, where roots can dig below the frozen ground to survive and deliver nutrients to the tree. Trees in containers exposed to extremely low temperatures will experience freezing of the roots, which will stop the flow of nutrients required to keep the tree alive during the dormancy period. You can read more about winterizing outdoor trees in Canada here.
One thing you should know before bringing a Bonsai tree home, or better yet, having it delivered to you. That is where it will go. The location you have decided to place your Bonsai will dictate what types of trees or species of trees you should be looking for. If you are interested in an Indoor Bonsai, you should look for a place to get as much exposure to light as possible, ideally a southern facing window. If there are vents close by, you will need to supplement the humidity with a humidity tray or misting frequently. Doing both will probably be even better, as Indoor Bonsai mostly love humidity. If you plan to grow your Bonsai outdoors during the spring to fall, try and find a spot with mid-day shade or a canopy to protect it from the harsh mid-day sun. Make sure you have access to water and that you are comfortable keeping your Bonsai there for long periods. Bonsai trees take time to acclimate to the environment, so the less they are moved, the happier the tree.
One of the most common myths surrounding Bonsai is that they require a lot of time and experience to grow, and the truth is that they need more or less the same time and attention as most plants do. But being trees, they can live for very long under the proper care and conditions. There are Bonsai alive today that are hundreds of years old, some older than landline phones or even electricity. So before buying your first Bonsai, make sure you understand what that will mean for you from a time commitment perspective. One of the most demanding things a new Bonsai will require is constant watering. One of the most common problems with Bonsai in the past was root rot. To stop the roots from rotting and grow happy and healthy trees, the soil used in today's Bonsai is quick draining, preventing root rot. Fats draining soil means having to monitor the watering needs of the Bonsai, sometimes during the growing season or on scorching days requiring watering at least once a day, sometimes even more. Watering a tree should only take a minute or two, so you should be fine if you can remember to water your trees once a day in the morning or evening. For best practices when watering Bonsai, you can read more here.
Otherwise, things like repotting happen once every 2-3 years. Depending on the tree and its growth, you may need to prune it two to three times a year. In some cases, like with pines, you might only need to prune it once a year.
Outdoor Bonsai - Common Species
Indoor Bonsai - Common Species
- Fukien Tea
- Snow Rose
- Brush Cherry
- Brazilian Rain Tree
- Star of David (Lavendar Star)
- Buddhist pine
- Chinese Elm
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