Bonsai Care and Feeding

The very word “bonsai” conjures so many thoughts to many people. Almost a warrior sound yet in reality the word bonsai implies a miniature tree.

Where Bonsai Started.

Most of us associate bonsai with the Japanese. Apparently the art of bonsai care and development as we know it today originated in China and was known as Pensai in China. Pensai as it was known has been traced back to around 600 a.d. and subsequently made it’s way to Japan

Bonsai maple

Bonsai maple

Bonsai maple

The word “Bonsai” comprises of two parts “bonsai” meaning tray and “sai” meaning plant, which when literally translated equates to “tray plant”. We are so emphatic to ensure that we correctly call bonsai trees when part of the derivation of the word does in fact mean plant.

In the care of bonsai trees we”ll take a few clear topics:-

o Watering bonsai
o Light and Humidity for my bonsai tree
o Bonsai Feeding

How frequently to water a Bonsai?

The first question most budding bonsai carers ask is “How often should I water a bonsai tree?” and the answer depends on many different factors. Watering and caring for a bonsai tree is a constant balance between too much and too little.

Variables to consider are when caring for your bonsai tree are:-

o The type of bonsai tree.
o The time of year is it winter, summer, spring or autumn (fall).
o The location of the bonsai tree within your house or garden.
o The location of your property i.e. Alaska or Arizona.

How should I water a bonsai tree?

The “best” way to water is to first wet the soil a little, this will improve the soil’s ability to take in or absorb a larger volume of water, and then you should water thoroughly until the soil is saturated. Make certain that the entire soil mass gets wet – every time – you water and wait for the excess to run out of the drainage holes to be sure.

When should I water a Bonsai tree?

The “best” time to water is probably early in the morning, before the bonsai tree begins its day of growing activities. Also take a look during the day if the bonsai tree located in a particularly hot and dry place. Bonsai trees do not grow when the soil is too wet and they do not grow when the soil is too dry. A bonsai tree takes in water and nutrients during the “in between” periods.

Work out a sensible watering schedule that is realistic and achievable and try and maintain a regular caring plan for your bonsai tree.

What kind of water should I use to water a bonsai tree?

Water your a bonsai with room temperature tap water. If the water is too hot or too cold it may shock the tree”s roots. If you have the ability, facility and time to collect rain to water” great.

Light and Humidity for my bonsai tree.

How much light does a bonsai require?

Providing the correct amount of light for your bonsai is crucial to keeping it healthy. However, there are no simple answers as to how much light bonsai trees in general “require”. Light requirements are specific to the type of tree and are further dependent upon specific variations in the location they are kept – namely your home. It is a good idea to speak to your local bonsai supplier or a fellow bonsai enthusiast that has experience growing bonsai in a setting very similar to your own.

What kind of light is best?

Bonsai Moon

Bonsai Moon

Bonsai Moon

Sunlight is by far the best type of light for bonsai trees and most other living creatures on earth. As such, the brightest window in your home is arguably the best spot for your indoor bonsai trees. However, the brightest window in your home may be located next to the fireplace. So, in a case like this you need to find an alternative and more practical location and use some type of artificial lighting system.

What kind of artificial light should you provide?

A grow light and timer are a simple solution for providing additional light. Set your timer for 12 to 16 hours of supplemental lighting and position your bonsai within 1 to 4 inches of your light source.
Why is humidity important for bonsai?

Although indoor bonsai trees slow their growth in winter and do not need as much water, they still do require sufficient humidity. Humidity helps to reduce water loss through the processes of transpiration. Transpiration will have a negative effect on your bonsai’s ability to retain water and remain healthy.

How can I improve humidity for my bonsai tree?

The sometimes dry climate of a home or apartment can be altered to benefit your bonsai tree. You can place your bonsai on a “humidity tray” filled with decorative pebbles, that should be kept wet at all times, this will help increase humidity levels. Another solution is regular misting. Misting or spraying is the most common humidifying method. It has the additional benefit of removing dust from your bonsai, which blocks sunlight and interferes with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Be sure to mist using room temperature water.

What else is helpful to prevent dry conditions?

Keep your indoor bonsai trees away from draughty doors or windows and from heat sources such as vents, radiators, or fireplaces.

Bonsai Feeding

Why Do Bonsai Need Fertilizer?

The bonsai environment is “artificial” and therefore requires our intervention, help and care in order to maintain the health and development of the bonsai tree. The simplest way to achieve a healthy bonsai tree in addition to frequent watering is a frequent dose of fertilizer to the soil.

LifeSize Bonsai

LifeSize Bonsai

LifeSize Bonsai

What type of fertilizer to use?

Use a balanced fertilizer to feed your bonsai tree – typically 20-20-20, at 25% strength, every other week. The numbers 20-20-20 are the percentage, by weight, of the N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) contained in that fertiliser. These elements will enhance the growth of your bonsai tree.

What Does N-P-K Stand For & What Does It Do?

o N – Nitrogen is responsible for the size and amount of new growth and, to some extent, the green colour of the leaves. Nitrogen is required for cell division and, also, protein manufacturing.
o P – Phosphorus is also necessary for cell division and is associated with good root growth and flowering.
o K – Potassium activates cell enzymes and is related with overall healthy cell activity.

Bonsai Fertiliser Notes

1. Always water your bonsai thoroughly before fertilizing and never use fertilizer on a dry tree.
2. Never fertilize a sick tree, as fertilizer is not medicine.
3. If you are not sure how much fertilizer to use, follow the directions on the label and never use more than recommended.
4. Fertilizer is a good thing, but too much is a bad thing.

Peter Williams has his own website with many useful tips & hints, resources and links about bonsai care [] and how to look after your bonsai tree Some nice pictures too!