All About Bonsai


A bonsai is a tree, or shrub, grown in a container. The word Bonsai is derived from two; BON & SAI, meaning “planted in tree”. The practice of bonsai has its origins in China, with naturally dwarfed trees being collected and later grown in containers. These concepts were introduced to the Japanese who further developed guidelines, techniques and a contemporary appreciation of this art form, which is now practiced across the world. Bonsai endeavors to capture the essence of nature by creating the image of a mature tree (or forest landscape) in miniature. Looking after your bonsai is relatively easy and very rewarding.


POSITION: Most bonsai are primarily outdoor plants and as is the case with regular trees, they require exposure to all aspects of weather including sunshine, water and fresh air. They are best kept in a position that receives morning sun and is shaded in the afternoon especially in the summer. This will avoid the damaging affects of the hot afternoon sun, which can cause stress due to dehydration. Bonsai can occasionally be displayed indoors for brief periods (1-3 days) at a time. There are exceptions to this rule, for example figs, which can be displayed indoors indefinitely in an appropriate position.


WATERING: The most common cause for the loss of bonsai is insufficient or excessive watering. As a general guide: water daily during spring, summer and autumn with additional watering on hot or windy days as required. Water less frequently during the winter (1-2 times per week). Observation is the best method of this exercise as predicting the weather and temperature can be difficult. Watering is best carried out in the early morning or late afternoon.


FEEDING: To maintain the vigorous growth of your bonsai, nutrients used by the tree will need to be replaced. Apply a small amount of slow release fertilizer at the beginning of spring and supplement this with organic liquid fertilizers (i.e. fish emulsion) approximately every 2-3 weeks. When fertilizing, do so after watering. Do not fertilize immediately after repotting.


REPOTTING: Generally, your bonsai should be repotted every two years, as the tree will fill the pot with roots. If left too long under these conditions, the bonsai will become root-bound and begin to weaken. In general, root pruning is best practiced in late winter for deciduous species and early spring for conifers. Remove the tree from the pot, tease open the root ball and trim by approximately one third being sure to retain some of the smaller, fibrous roots. Return the tree to the pot and fill the space with new, well-draining potting mix. Firm the mix around the roots ensuring that there are no pockets of air. Water generously after repotting ensuring the root ball is saturated.


PRUNING: Trimming and pruning is important during the growing season to maintain and improve the shape and design of your bonsai. Through this process, you are creating your design and image of nature. Pinch or tip-prune new growth to maintain compact, dense growth. Prune branches that grow in toward or across the main trunk and those that grow straight down


WIRING: Besides pruning, wiring is the main method of training your bonsai to the required shape. By applying copper or aluminum wire around the trunk and branches, you can alter their position to suit the design concept. Wiring needs to be checked frequently making sure it is not cutting into the tree. Wire should remain in place until the branch has taken on its new shape.


Please note, this information is intended only as a basic guide. Should you require further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us for further assistance. Chojo Feature Trees offers Introduction to Bonsai Classes monthly and private lessons by appointment. Class schedules are available on the website. Contact the nursery to book a private lesson.