Looking into growing and maintaining bonsai trees can be an enjoyable investment if the proper care is given. Each bonsai tree comes with its own care requirements and the source of its nutrients should be an investment. Bonsai trees are particular plants that need specific trace nutrients in their fertilizers.
Common commercial fertilizers are not produced to care for bonsai, as there are bonsai-specific fertilizers and soils on the market today. It is important to know which category the bonsai plant falls under, then what variety the tree is, before using any fertilizers. Read on to learn more about the specifics of growing bonsai trees.
Miracle Grow is Not Healthy for Bonsai
There are other options to consider to ensure the health of domestic bonsai. Most bonsai plants are maintained indoors and it is essential to nourish them due to the restricted space the roots have access to. The top three nutrients necessary to promote a bonsai tree’s growth include:
The high levels of nitrogen and potassium found in Miracle Grow help plants to grow large leaves and flowers, but the lack of phosphorus would cause a lack of balance in bonsai.
Miracle Grow soils are also not recommended for growing bonsai, as non-bonsai-specific soils can lead to root rot due to moisture control issues.
For beginner bonsai tree growers, using ratios of Miracle Grow is an experiment saved for the future, when one has more experience with caring for bonsai trees.
However, there are a select few bonsai tree varieties that will survive while using non-bonsai-specific fertilizers. Using Miracle Grow is still not recommended due to the specific soils used.
Fertilizer Options for Bonsai
The variation of nutrient levels depends on whether the fertilizer is organic or inorganic. Organic fertilizers contain animal and plant-based ingredients, which provide natural nutrient sources. Inorganic fertilizers can cause salt to build up in the plant roots, leading to damage and poor plant health.
Solid fertilizers are condensed, releasing nutrients over time, and increase the risk of burning roots due to overfeeding.
Liquid fertilizers are the best option in gardening, as it is a more controlled source of nutrients. Fertilizers available for bonsai come in both solid and liquid forms, as concentrates and pellets.
There are a select number of brands that are well-known in the bonsai community. While each contains the nutrients needed to grow and maintain bonsai trees, their different forms will be more useful depending on the bonsai tree.
Biogold is a well-known solid fertilizer. For liquid fertilizer, brands such as Dyna-Gro are available.
Bonsai fertilizers will often be marketed and formulated as time-release fertilizers. Time-release fertilizers will release nutrients over a long period of time between two and four months.
Fertilizer is only a fraction of maintaining a healthy bonsai, as there are soils produced specifically for bonsai trees. Bonsai soil can also be prepared at home.
A large part of caring for a bonsai is knowing:
- How much fertilizer to use
- What category and variety of bonsai you are growing
- What kind of soil and watering schedule the bonsai needs
Fertilizing bonsai trees centers on ratios and the varying amounts of nutrients needed during the different seasons. Carefully read the directions on the packaging before using any bonsai fertilizer.
Types of Bonsai and Maintenance
Caring for bonsai trees is a careful process and can seem overwhelming during the learning process. There are communities dedicated to their role as bonsai caretakers and are great sources of information for beginners.
The first step in caring for bonsai is to learn about the category and type of bonsai tree. There are three categories of bonsai tree:
Each bonsai tree fits a set of characteristics that identify them with their categories. These characteristics are also what determines what the bonsai tree type needs to grow properly. It is best to research each type of bonsai within their category to avoid making accidental mistakes while caring for the tree.
Conifer, or pine, bonsai trees are similar to other conifer plants, as they have needle-like growth and are evergreen. Beginner-friendly conifer bonsai include pine bonsai and juniper bonsai.
There are fewer varieties in this category, with only 10 bonsai trees to choose from.
- Juniper bonsai grows best outdoors with full sunlight exposure.
- Water the juniper bonsai tree by misting it with water on a regular basis.
- Fertilizer once a month with solid fertilizer pellets or once a week with liquid fertilizer.
- Every two years, this bonsai plant will need to be repotted to avoid drainage issues.
Pine bonsai should also be placed outdoors in full sunlight and misted regularly with water. The pine bonsai tree needs good drainage to avoid moisture-related root rot.
Fertilize pine bonsai from spring to summer every four weeks until the second candle growth has hardened. Resume fertilizing in the autumn season.
Both the juniper bonsai and pine bonsai need to be protected during the winter season. This is easy to do with a plant cover that most gardening centers and nurseries sell.
Broadleaf bonsai trees lose their leaves gradually and replace them with new leaves throughout the year, regardless of the growing season. Beginner-friendly bonsai trees in this category include the popular fig bonsai, jade bonsai, and sweet plum bonsai trees. There are 26 varieties of broadleaf bonsai trees identified to choose from.
- The fig bonsai, also known as the ficus bonsai, grows best indoors or outdoors in warmer climates. Fig bonsai does not tolerate cold climates but requires full sun exposure.
- Water with abundance when the soil begins to dry.
- Fertilize every two weeks during the summer, and every four weeks during the winter.
Jade bonsai can be grown indoors and outdoors and thrives in hotter temperatures. The jade bonsai tree should not be exposed to temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The leaves retain moisture well, so allow the soil to dry before watering. Fertilize this bonsai tree once a month and move to a new pot every other year.
Sweet plum bonsai requires semi-shade in the outdoors or can be kept indoors year-round. Water routinely by misting the soil and base of the tree with water. Fertilize every four weeks when using solid fertilizer, or every week with liquid fertilizer.
Deciduous bonsai are bonsai trees that lose their leaves at the end of the growing season, in the fall, annually. Beginner-friendly bonsai trees in this category include the Chinese elm bonsai tree. There are 24 species of deciduous bonsai trees identified to choose from.
- The Chinese elm bonsai tree grows best in cooler temperatures and can thrive in either full sunlight or partial shade and sun.
- The Chinese elm bonsai cannot withstand drought or over-watering. It is recommended to wait until the soil is dry before watering.
- Fertilize generously throughout the spring and summer seasons.
With any of the categories and varieties of bonsai, repotting and pruning are necessary practices involved in bonsai gardening.
These practices ensure a bonsai tree’s longevity, which helps to keep bonsai trees alive and healthy for many years. In short, begin with fertilizers and soils, then move into practicing pruning and repotting.
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Miracle Grow is not the best option for bonsai trees, but finding the proper fertilizer and maintenance supplies is not difficult.
Getting to know the needs of each bonsai tree is essential in providing proper care, so fertilizers with sufficient nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus are key in their survival.
Routine care is another key factor in healthy bonsai trees, such as repotting and pruning. There are varieties of bonsai trees that are easier to obtain and maintain, which is a perfect place to start for beginners.