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Bonsai trees are among the most intriguing houseplants in the world. Their shape, their containers, even their very history, stands out amongst ordinary plants and trees.

That said, for most of us, bonsai are also amongst the most foreign and curious of houseplants. You may have even heard how supposedly “hard to care for” they are.

But, learning how to care for bonsai trees is actually quite simple. They are really just like most plants, requiring the same basic care… with the exception of needing watering on a daily basis.

Read on below, discover everything you need to know about growing and caring for Bonsai trees.

How To Care For Bonsai Trees

A thick-trunked bonsai tree in a fine brown wooden container.
A thick-trunked bonsai tree in a fine brown wooden container.

Bonsai trees require a location with a stable temperature of between 40°F and 90°F that receives at least 6 hours of light each day. The trees also need watering daily (1 to 5 times), fertilized every few months (with nitrogen, phosphates, and potash), and a complete soil change every 2 to 5 years.

As far as proper humidity levels go, this factor is determined by the particular species of Bonsai you’re caring for. Also keep in mind that If the trees you care for are potted, you should bring them indoors for the winter. You can put them back out in the spring once the morning frost isn’t an issue.

Bonsai Tree Care Supplies

There are a few supplies needed for proper bonsai tree care:

  • A supply of fresh water (and watering can)
  • Special bonsai soil mix (rocky, sandy, fast-draining)
  • Special bonsai container (ceramic, shallow, with drain hole)
  • Location with a stable temperature (between 40°F and 90°F)
  • Place with suitable light (6hrs of direct sun or more with grow lights)
  • Liquid nutrients or fertilizer (mainly nitrogen, phosphates, and potash)
  • Optional: moisture meter, spare pot, tray for pot

Use the Correct Soil for Bonsai Trees

A gnarly cedar-type bonsai tree growing in a common soil mix made specially for bonsai.
A gnarly cedar-type bonsai tree growing in a common soil mix made specially for bonsai.

The most common soil mix for growing bonsai trees in containers consists of pebbles (fine gravel), soil (organic compost, or potting soil), lava rock, akadama, and pumice. That said, the ingredients are not absolutely necessary, so don’t worry if you don’t have all that stuff!

The main necessity of a good bonsai soil mix is that it’s able to drain extremely well. Bonsai soil mixtures are among the quickest draining growing mediums, leaving little to no moisture in the soil shortly after watering. That’s why it is often used interchangeably for growing cactus as well as bonsai trees.

Whatever you use to come up with a rocky well-draining growing medium for your bonsai, keep in mind that it should have a neutral pH. Bonsai don’t do well in soil with basic or acidic pH readings. The ideal pH for your tree is approximately 7.

Organic compost is a great base ingredient to mix with gravel, for a bonsai tree growing medium. Learn more about making your own organic compost.

Follow a Precise Watering Schedule for Your Tree

A green watering can sprinkles water onto a flowering bonsai tree.
Watering bonsai regularly is crucial for their long-term well-being.

Bonsai soil drains really quickly and doesn’t retain much of the water. That means they need watering on a daily basis (for the most part).

Generally speaking, bonsai trees need at least one thorough soaking each day. Some bonsai trees may even require watering as often as 3 to 5 times per day.

The size of the pot, as well as the size, shape, and species of tree, all factor into how much water is needed daily.

Do you have other plants to water as well? If so, give our post about how much water garden plants need a read!

Know What Exact Species Your Bonsai Tree Is

An apple-type bonsai tree growing in an outdoor garden is fruiting, with over 
 dozen apples on its branches.
A fruiting apple-type bonsai tree growing in an outdoor garden.

Before you get too far into making plans for your bonsai tree (where to put it, how much to water it, and so on and so forth), you need to know exactly what tree species your bonsai is. Despite common misconception, there is no such species as “bonsai”.

In reality, there are over 100 species of trees that are grown as “bonsai”, so don’t assume your tree’s identity to be Ficus (one of the original species grown as bonsai). After you’ve done the legwork, you’ll understand much more about how to properly care for your bonsai tree particularly.

Remember, the species of your tree determines how much light and water it needs, as well as what sort of pests bother it, humidity levels, and more.

Provide the Proper Nutrients for Your Bonsai

Bonsai trees are just like other houseplants in that they are relying on your to feed them properly. That said, the most important nutrients for bonsai, like many plants, are nitrogen, phosphates, and potash.

That means a fertilizer with an NPK of 10-6-6 is ideal for outside trees, and an NPK of 6-10-6 or 6-6-6 is ideal for indoor trees.

Keep in mind that preparing and caring for a bonsai tree that flowers and produces fruit require slightly different preparations than non-fruiting bonsai trees.

Protect Your Bonsai Tree From Pests

A green worm eating a potential bonsai branch.

There are several types of pests that are attracted to the various types of bonsai trees, including aphids, fungus gnats, thrips, spider mites, mealybugs, and more.

These pests can be prevented, or treated, in numerous fashions, including with store-bought pesticides or by introducing helpful insects (like ladybugs) into the environment.

You can also read about easy organic pest control methods that you can start using on your bonsai tree immediately.

Choose the Best Location Possible for Your Tree

A healthy old evergreen bonsai in a brownish orange colored ceramic pot sets on a marble table with the sun shining on it.
A classic-looking bonsai of an evergreen species, roots covered in moss, planted in a traditional pot.

The best possible place for the majority of bonsai trees is a secure window that receives plenty of light and isn’t drafty. The amount of light your tree receives in its primary location (many folks move their bonsai trees around more than their other houseplants) has a lot to do with determining its overall well-being.

It is also crucial to keep your bonsai somewhere with a stable environment (and temperature). If the temp drops below, 40°F, most species won’t survive for long. Likewise, if it is too placed too close to a heater, the tree may suffer and die as well.

Lastly, your bonsai should be kept somewhere that children and/or pets won’t disturb it (purposely or accidentally).

Pay Mind to the Tree’s Lighting Situation

A mysterious looking bonsai tree in a beautiful blue and orange ceramic rectangular pot, sitting on a wooden table, basked in light.
A Ficus-type bonsai in a pretty blue designer ceramic container sitting on a table in direct sunlight.

Many bonsai require lots of direct sunlight. When they are situated poorly and don’t receive enough sun they begin struggling, weakening, and sometimes even dying.

An easy way to make sure your tree gets enough light is to place it somewhere you know gets at least 6 hours of direct light each day (like a south-facing window)

Even if your tree is outside, it still needs to be placed (or planted in the ground) where it will receive 6 to 8 hours of light or more on a daily basis.

You can also read our post about how much sunlight garden plants need.

Use the Best Pot for Your Bonsai Tree

A sturdy old gnarly bonsai tree in a shallow but wide dish-type container, blue in color.
A powerful-looking old bonsai tree with a stout trunk that is blackening in a shallow ceramic pot.

The best pot or container for your tree Is determined by the shape, size, and species of the bonsai you’re dealing with. More specifically, the roots of your tree must fit the container near perfectly, because most of these pots are quite shallow.

There is also aesthetics to consider when it comes to potting a bonsai tree. Curved trees with soft lines look best in round pots, while trees with straight trunks often look nicer when complemented by the hard angles of a rectangular container.

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong option for your bonsai, aesthetically, as long as you enjoy the way it looks. Just remember to double-check if the roots will fit in a pot (with enough room to cover with growing medium) before making up your mind.

Prune and Train Your Bonsai Tree

One of the most interesting (and perhaps tedious at times) aspects of caring for bonsai trees is pruning the tree’s branches and training the tree with wire.

Young trees (1 to 3 or 4 years old) can be wrapped in wire and bent and shaped, or trained, however you please. This aspect allows you to create unique bonsai trees each time you make one.

Each year, you can remove the wire, check the tree’s new “natural” shape. You can follow up by rewrapping it and further directing its future shape and development in general.

Likewise, pruning your tree also enables you to promote the sort of growth you want from your tree while discouraging undesired growth.

Pro Care Tips For Growing Bonsai Trees

A gorgeous old folwering-type bonsai growing in a large concrete flower bed outdoors.
A gorgeous gnarly old bonsai tree flowering in all of its glory.

Now that we’ve discussed the basics of caring for bonsai trees, let’s have a look at some tips that help keep your tree happy and thriving!

Provide the Right Humidity for Your Species of Bonsai

Understanding the right level of humidity for your bonsai trees revolves around knowing what species the tree is (bonsai is not an actual species itself).

Many bonsai trees are originally tropical or subtropical species, which require a decent amount of humidity.

That said, bonsai may be made from any tree species, including those that don’t need much humidity at all, like most evergreen types (for example, pine, spruce, or juniper).

The correct level of humidity for your bonsai tree is whatever the preferred humidity level for the parent species is.

Keep Things as Natural as Possible around Your Bonsai Tree

A thick old bonsai tree with moss covering the entire surface of the soil in its massive container.
A group of stout old bonsai trees growing in large pots outdoors (note the thick blankets of moss!).

Adding moss, stones, and other little touches of genuine nature to your bonsai tree’s pot makes the living environment more aesthetically pleasing (and organic).

In fact, the traditional Japanese art form of caring for Bonsai Trees demands such additions.

Some bonsai fans go as far as installing fairy doors, miniature pathways, and other fine details into the pots of their trees. It is quite something to see!

Keep The Bonsai Tree Away From Colds Drafts and Heaters

Just like most other houseplants, the bonsai tree needs to keep away from sources of extreme heat and cold.

That means you shouldn’t place them too close to heaters, air vents, or drafty windows or doors. Otherwise, the tree may go into shock and make it hard to care for.

Take Your Bonsai Outside as Often as Possible

A breath-taking pink and orange flowering-type bonsai tree outside in a large white pot.
A flowering bonsai tree outdoors in a large pot.

Take your bonsai tree outside for 5 or 6 hours per day on sunny days, when able. Not only will your tree appreciate the sunlight, but it will also benefit from the fresh air as well.

This little tip only takes a minute, and it makes your tree happier and healthier.

This video was shared from the Bonsai Empire YouTube channel. Did you learn something new about Mini Palm Care? If so, why not smash that like button?


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