Have you ever received a Bonsai tree as a well-intended gift but find yourself struggling with its maintenance?
Say that a well-meaning friend purchased an outdoor Bonsai tree for you, and you mistakenly kept it indoors for a few weeks until it died. In this article, you will learn just how easy it is to care for Bonsai trees to prevent this mishap again.
Keep reading to find out the different kinds of Bonsai trees, which ones are best for beginners, and how to take care of both indoor and outdoor Bonsai trees depending on which you have.
What are the Different Kinds of Bonsai Trees?
Bonsai Trees are divided into two categories: Indoor and Outdoor. Although we are used to watching media that only shows indoor Bonsai trees, they are more commonly grown outside to receive a sufficient amount of nutrients that might be harder for them to get when inside.
Indoor Bonsai Trees
An Indoor Bonsai tree is a type of subtropical tree species that requires a set range of temperatures and sunlight exposure year around.
The most common indoor Bonsai trees are:
- Ginseng Ficus
- Hawaiian Umbrella
- Chinese Elm
- Ponytail Palm
- Fukien Tea
Now that you know about the different kinds of indoor Bonsai trees, let’s move on to the outdoor ones.
Outdoor Bonsai Trees
An outdoor Bonsai is a type of Bonsai that changes leaves with the seasons, and they are also referred to as deciduous, or a tree that drops leaves every Autumn.
The most common outdoor Bonsai trees are:
Experts agree that indoor or outdoor Bonsai trees are easy to care for once you’ve learned the basics of Bonsai: pruning, cutting, repotting and shaping.
What Are the Easiest Bonsai Trees to Grow?
The Ficus Bonsai is considered the easiest Bonsai tree to grow for two reasons. First, the plant can survive underwatering, and second, it’s an indoor Bonsai. Indoor Bonsai Trees are considered beginner-friendly by default because they do not have as many needs as an outdoor Bonsai tree does.
Which Bonsai Tools Do You Need as a Beginner?
Although you might be tempted to run out and purchase all things Bonsai-related, experts suggest that only three essential bonsai tools are needed to increase the likelihood that your Bonsai lives as long as possible:
- A sharp pair of shears
- A concave branch cutter
- A bamboo chopstick
With the tools mentioned above, most Bonsai experts believe that you have all the essentials to care for your tree. Now that we discussed the necessary tools for proper Bonsai care, let’s learn what your Bonsai needs to thrive.
Bonsai Tree Care
Bonsai trees live for about 600 to 1,000 years; so, it is crucial to care for them the right way to ensure they live to their fullest potential.
Regardless of the species of your Bonsai tree and whether it is in the indoor or outdoor category, there are a few basics when it comes to caring for the tree, such as:
Now that you know the different aspects to caring for a Bonsai tree, let’s dive deeper into each one.
Watering Your Bonsai Tree
When it comes to watering your Bonsai, moderation is key. According to experts, the number one killer of Bonsai trees is overwatering.
To figure out when it is appropriate to water your Bonsai tree, you can follow one of these three simple methods:
- Pick up the plant: If it feels light, then chances are you need to water your Bonsai.
- Scratch the Soil: Run your nail over the surface of the soil to test how dry it is. If it is dry, then your Bonsai needs watering. If soil is wet, then do not water it.
- Persiano Pick: This method was created by the Internet Bonsai Club. Plant a half of a chopstick or skewer into the soil. If the stick is dry, then water the Bonsai. If it is wet, then your Bonsai is watered enough for now.
There is a lot of confusing information regarding how to properly water a Bonsai tree. Some beginner Bonsai articles suggest watering your trees by placing the entire pot in water, or immersing it.
Experts stand firm that when it comes to watering your Bonsai, you should base it on what the individual Bonsai needs.
Can You Water Your Bonsai Tree with Tap Water?
Yes, you can water your Bonsai tree with tap water; however, you should use caution when watering with this type of water since there is a possibility that you might have “hard” tap water, which has salt deposits or chlorine. If you have issues such as these with your tap water, it would be best to water your Bonsai tree with distilled or purified water.
How Much Sunlight Does a Bonsai Tree Need?
The amount of sunlight your Bonsai tree needs will depend on its species. If you have an outdoor Bonsai like a Juniper, then you will need to water it regularly to maintain the soil’s moisture.
If you have an indoor Bonsai like a Ficus, then you can occasionally skip a watering session, or two. Here you can read more about how much sunlight a bonsai tree actually needs.
Where Should You Place Your Bonsai Tree?
Sunlight is a major consideration when caring for a Bonsai because the lack of it could be fatal. For instance, it is suggested by experts that your Bonsai gets “5 hours of light directed about 2 inches from the tree.”
You should place your Bonsai tree near a south facing window for about five hours for it to get the optimum amount of sunlight.
When Should You Re-Pot Your Bonsai Tree?
It is recommended to repot your Bonsai tree every 2-5 years to cut unnecessary roots from the tree. Removing extra roots ensures that your Bonsai tree isn’t robbed of the nutrients it needs to grow.
According to Bonsai Master Bjorn Bjorholm, he suggests that you don’t need to solely focus on removing the roots. He states, “Adding new soil for those new roots to grow…is going to make the tree healthier.”
The Best Soil for Your Bonsai Tree
Now that you understand the re-potting process for a Bonsai tree, it is time to consider what type of soil you must use to ensure the longevity of your tree. In a nutshell, soil for Bonsai trees is divided into two types: organic and inorganic.
Before you purchase a random bag of soil online, you must first understand the function of soil in a Bonsai tree, which is to “improve drainage and introduce air.”
One way to achieve this is to create the right mixture for your Bonsai based on your tree’s unique needs.
Typical ingredients in Bonsai soil include:
- Volcanic rock
Now that you know what ingredients you might see in Bonsai soil, let’s dive deeper into the difference between organic and inorganic soil when growing a Bonsai tree.
Organic Soil vs. Inorganic Soil
Soil is labeled organic based on specific ingredients such as:
Before you opt into only using organic soil based on the word “organic,” you should always choose the best soil based on your Bonsai species’ needs. For instance, if you have an outdoor Bonsai tree, say a Juniper, because Juniper Bonsai trees need moist soil, the perfect soil may in fact be inorganic soil.
Another drawback to Organic Bonsai Soil is that it is vulnerable to poor drainage.
Moving on, Inorganic Bonsai soil contains almost no organic ingredients. However, this type of soil appears to be the best at drainage and air flow.
We discussed the best type of soil for your Bonsai as well as how much sunlight and water it might need. Now, let us dive into how to find the best fertilizer for your Bonsai.
The Best Fertilizer for Your Bonsai Tree
Believe it or not, when it comes to choosing the best fertilizer for your beloved Bonsai tree, all you need to do is make sure that your fertilizer is balanced and does not dry out your soil.
When looking for a balance Bonsai Fertilizers, check for to see if the following has equal parts of:
Remember, the most important consideration when looking for an excellent Bonsai fertilizer is to have a balanced fertilizer. Okay, you’ve just learned all the important steps to caring for a Bonsai tree as a beginner. Now, let’s compare the cons of caring for an indoor Bonsai Tree and an outdoor Bonsai Tree.
Indoor Bonsai Care vs. Outdoor Bonsai Care
At the end of the day, the only way to make an educated decision is to compare the type of care needed to take either an indoor or outdoor Bonsai Tree. Let’s explore the chart below.
|Indoor Bonsai Care||Outdoor Bonsai Care|
|Indoor Bonsai trees need a simple light source during the winter because they’re sub-tropical.||Outdoor Bonsai trees need more water than indoor Bonsai.|
|Indoor Bonsai trees also require a certain amount of attention to temperature during rest or dormant periods.||These types of Bonsai trees need to have moist soil, which is why they require more water.|
|Depending on the species of Bonsai, you may occasionally skip watering without real damage to the tree.||Outdoor Bonsai trees are sensitive to (warm) temperatures and must be kept outside.|
|Indoor Bonsai trees are vulnerable to root rot.|
Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide which Bonsai is easiest to maintain. For example, although indoor Bonsai tend to be one of the easiest species to care for, the tree needs a certain temperature range.
While this issue might not be a problem for someone living in Florida, it is a major concern if you live in say, Alaska or Canada. Choosing the right Bonsai is as unique as the Bonsai tree itself.
Recommended Bonsai Trees for Beginners
Since choosing the right Bonsai is a delicate choice between tree maintenance, your personal aesthetics, and finding the right species that resonates with you, we have provided several lists of the best Bonsai for both Indoor and Outdoor Bonsai Trees:
Easy-Maintenance Indoor Bonsai Trees
Some indoor Bonsai trees that have easy maintenance include:
- Chinese Elm
- Hawaiian Umbrella
Now that you know some indoor Bonsais, let’s look into the outdoor ones.
Easy-Maintenance Outdoor Bonsai Trees
Some outdoor Bonsai trees that have easy maintenance include:
- Deciduous Trees
- Japanese Red Maple
- Cherry Bonsai
- Evergreen Trees
Now you should know everything there is to know about how easy it is to care for Bonsai trees.
Finding a Bonsai tree species that is low maintenance boils down to understanding how to care for any Bonsai, selecting the right tools for upkeep and understand the individual need of each Bonsai Tree before purchasing one.
It is best to learn as much as you can about this ancient art, and about Bonsai trees in general, to find the perfect Bonsai for you. If you would like to read more about bonsai tree care, stay tuned to our blog.