How to Grow a Bonsai Tree? A Beginner's Guide
Written by Samantha Agostino
In This Article:
“It is not about the destination; It is about the Journey.”
The above quote is much suitable for growing and grooming a bonsai tree. People may not have an exact idea about what bonsai actually is? Is it a process? Is it a tree?. The answer is that bonsai is an art form. It is a Japanese art form that involves growing and nurturing miniature trees in a pot. It was derived from the Chinese art form “penjing.” Most people interested in this art would start their journey with a pre-made bonsai tree. This is not a bad thing, but the feeling of nurturing your tree will be much more impactful than a pre-made bonsai. Understandably, people choose a pre-made bonsai over a home-grown tree primarily because of the time factor. You can also master the art down the line with sophisticated basic techniques. In the upcoming block, we will see how to grow a bonsai tree with essential steps for beginners.
How to Select the Bonsai Tree for Beginners?
The first step in your bonsai growing journey is to find a suitable bonsai tree, especially tree species suitable for your needs, circumstances, and climatic conditions. For example, a tropical bonsai tree is much more suitable for indoor gardening than outdoor. Also, growing an indoor bonsai will restrict options for you, whereas if you want to grow a bonsai outdoors, you will have a lot of options. For beginners, it is best to go with the indoor species, which gives you enough room to study and learn about the bonsai tree. Also, with indoor species, you don't have to worry about harsh climatic conditions( if that’s the case in your region). In addition, you can control the amount of sunlight and drying wind. Based on the requirements, it is best to go with the “Dwarf Jade Plant Bonsai” for beginners.
|Name of the Plant||Dwarf Jade Bonsai|
|Botanical Name||Portulacaria afra|
|Growth Rate||Slow (3 meters)|
|Color||Bark- Green (Young)
Bark- Red-brown (Aged)
Now that we have selected the indoor species for you, it is time to decide where to get your plant.
Which Is the Better Approach to Get a Bonsai: Online or Offline?
The easiest way to procure one is to buy a pre-made one from an online store or local floral shop. The main advantage of this approach is that you have many options to choose from. With this method, you can choose various options for your bonsai. The one thing you must remember is that the bonsai condition is directly related to its price. For example, old bonsais come with a very hefty price tag, and the younger ones come with a moderate price, which also varies depending on the species you are going for. For beginners, it is best to check out a local floral shop first. In that way, you can choose your favorite plant in-person, and a local shop owner can also help you with important information such as watering, placement, and pruning methods for your bonsai.
If you have time constraints, then, there is no other way but to choose an online approach. Online stores have both pre-made bonsais and nursery stock bonsais that help you achieve better results quickly. But the main disadvantage of using the online approach is that you cannot get valuable input on how to grow a bonsai from a professional and clarify any questions specific to you as online FAQs cover only the common questions.
Another cost-effective method is to get the plant from your natural surroundings. But this approach is not recommended for beginners since it requires considerable knowledge of bonsai or, in general, plants. Another obstacle is that sometimes you may require permission to procure the tree from certain lands.
If you have time on your hand and you want to see and feel the growing of your bonsai tree, then the best way is to procure the seed of a bonsai that you are interested in and implement the techniques such as pruning, watering, placement, and cutting to grow the bonsai from scratch. It takes years (usually 2-3 years) to get a young bonsai tree from a seed, but you will have a sense of accomplishment when you finally see the fruitfulness of your handiwork.
In conclusion, “Opt for the offline approach, since it gives you much information about the plant and bonsai techniques.”
Now that you know how to select a bonsai let us master how to grow them.
How to Grow a Dwarf Jade Bonsai Tree?
Growing a bonsai is tedious, but that is also where the fun begins with styling and shaping where you can implement your creative ideas on how you want your bonsai to be grown. As mentioned before, bonsai is an art form. Mastering it will take some time. Putting all your free time into nurturing your bonsai is unnecessary, but frequently visiting your bonsai and checking new ideas and techniques for growing a bonsai will give you an edge in mastering the art. The following guide will steer you toward becoming a great bonsai tree master down the line.
NOTE: The following guides are not restricted only to dwarf jade bonsai trees.
Let us see the most important technique in growing a bonsai: "pruning”.
Pruning - What Is It?
The primary objective of growing a bonsai is to replicate the growth of a natural full-scale tree in a miniature version. Pruning helps you achieve that. Pruning is a technique that helps you keep the bonsai nice and tidy whenever it grows larger than expected. By cutting down the unnecessary parts, such as thick branches, you help your bonsai grow well and get all the nutrients.
What is the Best Time to Prune a Bonsai?
Usually, spring is the best time to prune a bonsai, but it varies depending on the conditions such as weather, region, and type of species. You can also see when your bonsai needs to be trimmed. The following things can help identify when your bonsai needs a trim:
- When two branches have the same length/same height on the tree trunk, you can go ahead, pick one, cut it, and leave the other.
- You can trim branches with unnatural turns and twists.
- You can prune the tree's top if there is no uniformity.
The next important technique would be “Wiring.” Wiring is the technique that helps train and style bonsai trees. By wrapping the wire around the tree branches, you can bend, straighten, and reposition the branches based on your needs and style. Once you wire the branches, do not disturb it for a few months since it will take months (usually 2-3) to set in place. You can perform wiring at any point in the year, but some trees (shed seasonally), so prefer autumn for wiring. It is recommended to use anodized aluminum or annealed copper for wiring. Keep an eye on the branch. With time, the wiring starts to embed into it. So, before that happens, slowly remove the wiring around the branch.
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Steps to Grow a Dwarf Jade Bonsai:
STEP 1: Placement
As mentioned before, dwarf jade bonsai is an indoor-based species. You can technically grow it outside, but it is much more difficult than the indoor process. It is recommended that you should maintain a temperature of around 5-6℃. It should not drop below that mentioned temperature. The next big thing is an abundance of sunlight. The Jade tree requires a lot of sunlight. You should consider both requirements and fix the place for your bonsai.
Rule of (Green) Thumb: You can check if your bonsai is getting sufficient sunlight by inspecting the tip of the leaves. It should be red if it's getting a good amount of sunlight.
STEP 2: Watering
Unlike other succulent plants, Jade plants can hold much water inside their leaves. But, you cannot be passive about this fact; it is recommended that you water your bonsai as frequently as possible, especially during the summer months. Watering your bonsai much in the summer is not necessary if the bonsai was kept in a cold place during the winter.
Rule of (Green) Thumb: It is best to water your bonsai once in three weeks in winter and two to three times a day during the summer
Related Read: Plant Watering 101
STEP 3: Pruning and Wiring
Since the branches hold a lot of water, it is suitable for pruning and wiring. Since it is difficult to recommend the exact position of the branches that need to be trimmed, the previously discussed steps on how to prune the branches will help you identify the non-uniform branches. You only need to look out for breaking the bark during the wiring process. The bark of the jade bonsai is very soft.
Rule of (Green) Thumb: It is best to use annealed copper for wiring to avoid damaging the bark. As for pruning, it is recommended to use concave scissors to cut branches and leaves.
STEP 4: Fertilizing
Any common fertilizer will be fine and you should fertilize your bonsai every month during the growing season, which is spring through autumn. NPK fertilizers are recommended. Here's why! Nitrogen promotes the growth of leaves and the stem. Phosphorus promotes growth of roots, flowers, and fruits. Potassium helps maintain the overall health of your bonsai.
Rule of (Green) Thumb: Older trees require less fertilization. Indoor trees need to be fertilized all year round.
STEP 5: Repotting
Repotting is the process of replacing the used soil. You should in general do it once a year (preferably in spring). It is recommended to use well-draining soil. Also, don't water the bonsai for a week once you do the repotting. Watering your bonsai after repotting can cause the root to rot and thereby destroy the whole plant. Older trees require repotting once in three to five years and younger fast-growing trees require repotting once in two years.
Rule of (Green) Thumb: If roots are not contained in the soil, it is time to repot.
Related Read: Repotting 101
STEP 6: Disease Prevention
Dwarf jade is a naturally strong plant that is highly immune to pests and diseases. However, it is recommended that you provide enough sunlight and water and follow the essential techniques such as pruning and wiring to help give your bonsai a long life.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How long does it take to grow a bonsai tree?
Usually, from scratch, growing a bonsai will take 2-3 years. The time taken may change based on various factors such as the type of bonsai, weather conditions, region, and techniques. Pre-made bonsais or nursery bonsais may take 6 months to a year to grow.
2. Is bonsai good for home?
Apart from decorating your home, there is no practical use for a bonsai. But, that is the objective here. Growing a bonsai will alleviate your thoughts and bring calmness to your heart in addition to the beauty it adds to your home.
3. Can you grow a bonsai in normal soil?
Yes, you can use normal soil to grow a bonsai. There is no specific soil for growing a bonsai. The one thing to look for is that the soil should be well-draining for better water management
4. How to grow a bonsai tree?
Pruning and wiring are the most important techniques for beginners to grow a bonsai. Also, perfect placement with abundant sunlight, good water, and regular maintenance will yield the best results.
Growing a bonsai is a great experience that brings harmony and peace to your mind and soul. As a beginner, it may be daunting at first, but with the right guidance and dedication, you will become better at growing a bonsai. This article hopes to give enough information to make the whole process less daunting and give the confidence to become a great bonsai trainer.
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