They say good things come in small packages right? And in this case, it is certainly true. Bonsai plants, are uniquely grown and make a fabulous addition to any gardener’s collection, or a gift for people with a special interest in plants willing to take the time to care for them.
BUT Bonsai are not for everyone. They have been slowly and carefully grown to a point and once established, are planted in a display pot before sale. But unlike your average indoor plant, Bonsai are a tree, and the implications of that is that the Bonsai require careful consideration, care and upkeep.
Bonsai are often thought to be simply a dwarfed plant, however dwarfing generally refers to plant cultivars that are permanent, genetic miniatures of an existing species. Bonsai does not require genetically dwarfed trees, but rather is grown from regular stock and seeds and uses cultivation techniques such as pruning, root reduction and potting to produce small trees that mimic the shape and style of mature, full-size trees. Bonsai meaning “plantings in tray”, is often used as a blanket term for all miniature trees in pots. The ancient Japanese tradition dates back over a thousand years.
Bonsai is grown for different reasons than many ordinary plants, that may be grown say for medicinal uses, or for food. They are grown both for the viewers contemplation and the pleasure in the effort in shaping and growing the plant. It is a long term commitment.
A Bonsai may be started from a cutting, seedling or a small tree of a species appropriate for development. They can be created from nearly any shrub species that produces true branches or perennial woody stemmed tree that can be kept small by way of pot confinement, and crown and root pruning. Some species are more popular for Bonsai cultivation as they are more visually appropriate, having small leaves or needles. The species needs to be shaped and kept small to meet the aesthetic standards of Bonsai.
The practice of bonsai development incorporates a number of techniques including;
- Leaf trimming- removal of selected leaves/needles
- Pruning- branches/roots or trunk
- Clamping- using devices to artificially shape the tree’s trunks and branches
- Wiring- artificially designing the formation of the tree’s general form, branches and leaf formation using wire
- Defoliation- removal of foliage
Pot confinement is an effective cultivation technique in keeping the Bonsai small, as a typical bonsai container is under 25 centimeters in its largest dimension and only 2 to 10 liters in volume, this restricts root growth. Similarly, the largest bonsai rarely exceed 1 meter and most specimens are significantly smaller, due largely to the cultivation technique of pruning. These major differences in the plants growth affect maturation, transpiration, nutrition, pest resistance, and other aspects of tree biology, therefore to maintain the long-term health of a tree requires specialised care.
- Bonsai must be regularly watered.
- Bonsai must be repotted at intervals appropriate for the age of the tree/species
- Bonsai must be in an appropriate soil composition (usually loose and fast draining)
- Bonsai may be kept indoors generally but many species will require periods of time outdoors to fulfil the species light requirements. This is species dependant.
If you like a challenge, then the Bonsai could be for you but remember, this is no ordinary houseplant. The Bonsai requires alot of work to get it to the point of sale, so is not a ‘cheap’ plant, and it will also require a long term commitment of care once you get it home. Happy pruning!