Written by Geoff Vaughan in Gardening
Viewed by 43 readers since 01-09-2009
I am generally known to have a green thumb. That is, I can grow a garden and produce vegetables, and I can take care of a common houseplant with the best of them. That is, when I have the time and motivation to water it and make sure it has the proper sun. But one type of plant has always proved difficult for even me, and that is the Bonsai Tree. These little guys are one of the most challenging types of potted plants to keep alive, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility to keep them around for years and years if you are careful and engaged in the process.
One important factor in your tree’s health is the type of soil in which it sits, since the soil will affect most everything about the tree, including feeding, rooting, and watering. Sometimes an individual Bonsai species will require its own mixture of soil, so if your tree came with instructions to this effect, by all means follow them. But if there are no guidelines with your type of tree, generally a mixture of 70/30 grit to humus will work for evergreen Bonsai trees, and 30/70 grit to humus for non-evergreens. If you don’t know what this means, feel free to consult your local gardening store for help.
Branch pruning is one thing that can be done that will keep the plant healthy as it grows. If the tree develops too much foliage up top, it can put a strain on the root structure since it has to feed, water, and otherwise support all of that plant matter. In addition, you might want to prune in certain areas to shape the tree and make it more attractive. Just go easy since these trees are such slow growers. If you have any doubt at all about whether a branch should stay or go, it should probably stay since you cannot exactly put it back if you change your mind later. Some examples of branches that can be pruned are those that obviously stick out from the overall design, those that stick straight down, and branches that cross each other.
The most important factor in your Bonsai tree’s health, though, is watering. In most cases where a Bonsai tree dies prematurely, it’s because it is dehydrated. However, over watering will damage a tree as well, so it’s important to find that perfect balance of water amount and frequency. When you do water the tree, do not just water the soil, as the plant takes water in through it’s foliage as well, to the tune of 35% of its intake. Watering the leaves also washes off any dirt or dust which can clog up the leaves’ breathing holes.
With careful practice and dedication, one can excel at taking care of Bonsai trees just like a Japanese apprentice. With the proper soil, a regular pruning schedule, and just the right amount and frequency of water, your Bonsai tree will live a long and healthy life.