Maintaining a bonsai : 4 tips for success

It is very tempting to treat yourself to a bonsai, that is to say a miniaturized potted tree. Many species lend themselves to this art, so that there are indoor bonsai as well as outdoor bonsai. These plants need special care and it is better to rigorously apply the four golden rules which are essential if you want to keep your bonsai in full health for many, many years. Watering, fertilization, repotting frequency, pruning/wiring: let’s take stock.

1 – Watering the bonsai, the key to success

As we do for all other plants, before watering our bonsai, we check if it is really necessary because excess water is never beneficial. This is also the reason why it is essential that the pot be fully drilled several holes, which promotes drainage. But in a pot, the substrate dries out quickly and if care is not taken, this can lead to the death of the bonsai. If it suddenly loses its leaves, it is because it is suffering from a lack of water. The right solution is therefore to water very frequently but moderately so that the growing medium is always fresh.

The sun, the wind, the type of substrate, the temperature are all elements that have an impact on water needs. Note that in summer, bonsai grown outdoors may need to be watered twice a day if placed in full sun. But whether it is cash for outdoors or indoors, one must always water them according to their individual needs.

We can pools, that is to say, water in fine rain until the water runs out through the drainage holes, which also has the advantage of dusting the foliage. In this way, you can be sure that the substrate is very well irrigated and that the root system is perfectly hydrated. At the same time, it is welcome to mist the foliage from time to time in order to temporarily increase the level of humidity in the air, but this in no way replaces watering!

If you don’t have a moisture tester, just stick a finger in the substrate to assess water needs, a daily gesture. If the soil is particularly clear and it is dry to a depth of 2.5 cm, it is time to get out the water bottle (but this does not allow soaking), the bonsai watering can (in copper or plastic) must be equipped with a very fine hole apple, or the pipe (for outdoor bonsai). As we have pointed out, watering the bonsai may be necessary twice a day at certain times of the year, so everyone chooses the equipment they consider most practical.

When we have to going away for a week or moreeither you entrust the care of your bonsai to a trustworthy person who is very available and who will follow the instructions to the letter, or you opt for an automatic watering system such as drip or water dispensers with drippers adjustable that can be found in garden centers or on specialized websites.

2 – Fertilization of bonsai

Fertilizer supply is crucial for ensure the survival of a bonsaiand it is essential to fertilize it regularly throughout the growth period, with the exception of bonsai which have just been repotted. They must not receive fertilizer for four weeks.

Due to the principle of cultivation which consists in installing the plant in a very small pot, the root system is not very extensive. As a result, the miniaturized tree cannot dig deep for the nutrients it needs, as it would in its natural environment where it would have its normal size. Fertilization therefore helps it to stay alive.

We use a fertilizer that containsNitrogen (N)from Phosphore (P) a you Potassium (K) to stimulate the growth of leaves, stems, roots, flowers and fruits. But it is advisable to choose a fertilizer adapted to the cultivated species in order to perfectly meet its specific needs. This is because NPK ratios vary from fertilizer to fertilizer. Note that the elderly subjects must benefit from a reduced nitrogen dosage.

It is crucial to always follow the instructions on the packaging, both in terms of dosage and frequency of use. But let us know that when it comes to fertilization, it is better to fish by default than by excess. When in doubt, do not hesitate to ask for advice at the time of purchase to have the liquid or solid fertilizer best suited to your bonsai.

3 – Repotting the bonsai

This is at the very beginning of spring that we repot a bonsai because it is still dormant. Thus, the possible damage that this can cause will be reduced, and if there is damage, it will be quickly repaired when vegetation resumes.

Nevertheless, we do not systematically repot a bonsai every year. The frequency varies according to the age of the subject, the species cultivated and therefore its growth rate. An old subject can only be repotted every 4 or 5 years, while a still young specimen with rapid growth needs annual repotting. Others are content with repotting every 2 or 3 years. A visual check is therefore essential before starting. To do this, we take the small tree out of its pot with delicacy in order to observe its underground part. It is only useful to carry out a repotting if one observes l’winding of the roots around the root bread.

Repotting consists of a renewal of the culture medium which depletes over time. The bonsai thus benefits from a sufficiently nutritious substrate. We take advantage of this operation to check the condition of the roots and cut those that are too long, dried out, damaged. On the other hand, it is not necessary to opt for a larger pot.

To repot a bonsai, the method to follow is the following.

  • Gather chopsticks, scissors, root hook, binding wire, wire pliers, fine grid.
  • Cut the anchoring wire which passes under the pot and which makes it possible to maintain the bonsai.
  • Use the root hook to carefully remove the small tree.
  • Carefully observe the roots.
  • Remove the substrate with the chopsticks without damaging the roots.
  • If necessary, reduce roots that are too long by cutting them with scissors, taking care to retain at least two-thirds of the root mass.
  • Clean the pot and cover the drainage hole(s) with the grid then secure it from below with ligature wire and also place another wire which will be used to anchor the bonsai.
  • Place a little new substrate on the bottom.
  • Replant the bonsai which must be kept in a good position using the ligature wire initially provided for this purpose.
  • Complete with the rest of the potting soil or other growing medium.
  • Water copiously.

In less than 15 days, the newly repotted bonsai finds a beautiful vigor and of new shoots Are growing.

4 – Wire and prune a bonsai

These processes make it possible to control the small tree and to give it a very specific form.

Wire a bonsai

The ligature is a branch orientation correction technique using a in de ligature in aluminum or copper that must be left in place for several months so that the desired shape can be preserved. Do not overtighten the ligature wire so that it does not cause injury by becoming embedded in the branches which grow very quickly.

Cut a bonsai

There are two types of sizes, namely:

  • structure size : it concerns only the large branches which have developed too much or which are badly oriented. The size therefore makes it possible to give a particular style to the miniaturized tree since it impacts its shape. It is used to maintain the desired architecture. It should be done in early spring, only if necessary.
  • size in green : It’s about a maintenance pruning which tends to favor the branching of the bonsai and is also useful for preserving the shape and style of the small tree. We therefore remove dead wood, useless or surplus branches, badly oriented branches that unbalance the foliage, those that grow towards the center, preventing light and air from entering the heart of the bonsai. Maintenance pruning is carried out between April and October, that is to say throughout the growing period.

Before pruning a bonsai, care is taken to clean and disinfect the tools and once the pruning is finished, a healing mastic must be applied to the pruning wounds.

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