Bonsai is not just about horticulture; it is a plant art. Bonsai trees are associated with artistic shapes and forms. Bonsai means ‘tray planted’ in Japanese. This refers to the art of training and cultivating miniature trees in pots and containers. Typically bonsai plants are those that are small-flowered or small-fruit plants. Conifers with small needles or deciduous plants with small leaves are also best adapted for bonsai style. Bonsai art originated in China more than 1,000 years ago, but it has been pursued and developed by the Japanese. Find out how to care for bonsai trees.
Real bonsai plants are not just small trees in pots. Bonsai plants are carefully grown until they attain the desired size and trunk thickness. The core principle of bonsai lies in transferring them to bonsai pots and slowing their growth so as to reduce leaf and twig size. With skill wiring and pruning, the bonsai trees are sculpted. Pruning the roots of the bonsai tree is essential to keep it at the same size. Bonsai trees are able to bear fruit and to drop their leaves in season, thus representing nature in miniature.
Do not mistake bonsai plants to be houseplants. They are most often outdoor plants that need temperate climate. You may be able to find some indoor bonsai. Very cold climates can affect the exposed roots adversely. What is essential in cultivating bonsai trees is to maintain an overall artistic effect, with proportion and harmony in size, color and shape. Miniature bonsai trees range up to about 5 centimeters while small bonsai trees are about 5 – 15 centimeters. Medium sized bonsai trees are about 15 – 30 centimeters tall.
Do not confuse bonsai trees to be genetically dwarfed plants. While bonsai art has its origins in Zen Buddhism, modern day bonsai plants are exquisite artistic creations. Not all bonsai trees are tiny. Most bonsai trees range in height from 5 centimetres to 1 metre. Small leafed varieties of plants are most suitable for bonsai, but any plant can be used, regardless of the size it grows to ordinarily. Over the years, many variants of the classic bonsai styles have evolved.
It is best to adapt a style that is best suited for a plant’s natural habitat. Bonsai plants are kept small by pruning branches and roots, periodic repotting, pinching off new growth and wiring the branches and trunk so that they grow into the desired shape. The bonsai tree is dwarfed by pruning roots and branches. Careful and deft wiring of the branches and trunk gives them their unique and attractive shapes. The wires must be removed before the bark becomes scarred.
Miniaturization is accomplished through rigorous regulation of a bonsai tree's growing conditions. Scaffold branches are selected early on as the only branches to be allowed to prosper, while the excess branches are mercilessly pruned off. Bonsai trees are intentionally allowed to become root-bound in their containers, and the roots, too, are pruned. But root-bound plants won't thrive forever in that condition and, indeed, bonsai trees must be re-potted every two or three years to furnish the roots with fresh soil.
Bonsai plants like conifers adapt themselves to most styles, formal and informal. It is best to cultivate a style that complements the tree’s natural growth pattern. The main bonsai plant styles are formal upright, informal upright, slanting (or windswept), semi-cascade and cascade.
Formal upright bonsai style can be applied to trees where the trunk is straight, tapering naturally and evenly from base to apex. This type of bonsai tree has evenly spaced branches arranged symmetrically. Junipers, pine and spruce are best suited for this bonsai style.
Informal upright bonsai style is characterized by trees that are slightly bent to either side. The trunk usually takes on an unexpected curve or series of twists and the branches are thus positioned to balance the overall effect. The Japanese Maple, Beech and Crab Apple can be styled in the informal upright bonsai style.
Slanting bonsai plants usually have stronger roots growing out on a side away from the angle of the trunk. Most plant and tree varieties are suitable for this style, which is quite easily achieved.
Early on, the bonsai plant needs to be trained at an angle by wiring its trunk till it is a slanting position.
Cascade bonsai style is one where the growing tip of the bonsai tree reaches below the base of the container. It appears aesthetic and pleasing. Most plant species that are not strongly upright can be sculpted into this bonsai style. In a semi-cascade style, the tip of the bonsai tree projects over the rim of the container but does not drop below its base. This is similar to trees that grow on cliffs or overhang water. Flowering cherries and junipers can be fashioned into this style. You can accentuate this style by placing the bonsai tree in a pot that is tall and narrow. The main trunk must be wired to allow it to spill over the rim of the bonsai pot. Keep branches uniform and horizontal.
Classic bonsai plants and trees had a triangular pattern signifying the basic virtues of truth, beauty and goodness. The bonsai plant was always positioned off-center in the bonsai pot for aesthetic effect. Bonsai plants can live for hundreds of years, given the right care and soil. With bonsai being popularly taken up as a hobby by people worldwide, different plants are now being used to cater to different climates.
The bonsai pot is vital to the overall aesthetic effect of the bonsai tree. Choosing the container with the right color, shape and texture is an important aspect of bonsai tree care. Pots to hold bonsai plants can range from cedar boxes to porcelain containers and earthenware planters. A wide and shallow bonsai pot helps in gaining complete focus on the bonsai tree. While cascade styles need tall bonsai pots, other styles are better suited to pots that are about half the height of the tree. Repotting is an essential feature of bonsai trees. The choice of color of the bonsai pot is also important. While conifers can be planted in plain pots, maple can be planted in colorful pots. Flowering plants can be placed in bonsai pots that are colored to complement the flowers.
Bonsai tree care
The bonsai soil tends to drain much faster than usually potting soil. Therefore proper watering is vital to the proper care of bonsai trees. Bonsai plants must be watered thoroughly when they become slightly dry. But do not submerge the bonsai plant in water. Bonsai soils also do not hold nutrients well, so they may need regular doses of fertilization.
- A vital element of bonsai care is to ensure direct sunlight.
- Adequate watering is essential for a healthy bonsai tree. The soil must not be allowed to get bone-dry. Drain off excess water.
- Regular fertilization is essential for bonsai tree care.
- Trimming and pruning is critical to maintaining and caring for the bonsai tree. The roots and foliage are trimmed. Wiring is done to assist the tree into growing in specific positions. Branches and foliage are trimmed to expose the trunk and tree shape.
- Beware of insects such as aphids and spider mites
- Repotting is essential to keep the root system balanced with the top growth of the bonsai plant. Regular bonsai tree care includes repotting every 2 – 3 years.
- Display your bonsai trees to best advantage at eye level.