Bonsai cannot be called simply indoor or garden plants. They are objects of art, living sculptures, the embodiment of a whole philosophy, which are not measured by the same standards as ordinary plants and even the rarest collectible crops. Special should be a special approach to growing bonsai. After all, these plants require a completely non-standard treatment. They not only embody philosophy, but also require dedication and peace of mind from their owners. Caring for bonsai is not easy, but the pleasure is quite special.
The art of bonsai
Bonsai are not plants for everyone. They open a new philosophy to their owners and reveal the essence of oriental world-views, and the main thing - they force to take a new look at the communication with the wildlife and the relationship between people and plants. To buy bonsai is not just a decision, and weigh the pros and cons. After all, they will not suit those flower growers who are often on the road or like simple care. Bonsai need to be engaged constantly, sometimes you have to look for a creative approach for proper care, and some procedures are very specific. With such an indoor pet you will have to give up the rush and fuss. And when they say that for bonsai you need to grow spiritually, is not exaggerated. But if you were given even a small bonsai or if you, given a temporary impulse, became its owner almost by chance, most likely the plants will open for you a completely new world and will make you love them with all your heart forever.
Bonsai is not only the art of creating a reduced copy of nature, the application of ancient traditions of a special formation of trees and bushes, but also a special kind of care for the plants. Treating bonsai the same as any other indoor plant is simply impossible. Not only will you not succeed, but you will negate years of work with your traditional treatment of it. Bonsai vary in the complexity of the care required, and in fact need to be personalized as much as any other houseplant. But personalization of care is the only thing that bonsai cultivation has in common with conventional indoor flowering.
The most unassuming and easy to grow are by right considered olive tree bonsai and testudinarium. Tea-trees and elm trees require a lot of care if you can grow them in a normal living room. Other plants such as carmona, birches, podocarpus, ficus, ligustrum, etc. - The others - carmona, birchwood, birchclaw, podocarpus, ficus, ligustrum, etc. - need outdoor space during the warmer months. Most care procedures need special skills, training, and listening to your inner voice. With bonsai, you have to trust your intuition - and constantly explore the world of this amazing art. If you want to succeed, educate yourself more often, attend workshops, don't hesitate to ask the experts.
Comfortable conditions and the need for fresh air
Any single, comfortable conditions for all bonsai can only speak conventionally. After all, each type of tree and shrub used to create bonsai partially retains its individual preferences. The most comfortable for these living works of art is considered an average, restrained temperature of 18 to 25 degrees Celsius during the active phase of growth. Virtually all bonsai need cooler maintenance in the winter. If the usual room temperatures are maintained and not lowered by at least 2-3 degrees, the reduction in light will lead to problems with their health. The minimum temperature is limited to 10 degrees for conifers and 12-14 degrees for other bonsai species.
Lighting for these plants is chosen purely individually. Most bonsai feel fine in diffused bright light, but the ability to grow in a sunny place or in penumbra should be checked for each plant separately. In winter, bonsai of any kind will not refuse bright light, and if you compensate for seasonal conditions, you can achieve stunning results.
There are quite a few varieties of bonsai that are sold mostly as purely indoor plants. But still most of these living art objects prefer fresh air and are much less comfortable indoors. Noble and expensive plants in the warm season will only thankfully respond to placement on a balcony, terrace or in a recreation area - where they can "breathe" plenty of air. Buying bonsai, be sure to clarify whether the plant is accustomed to such a summer mode and how it relates to airing and draughts. But for most bonsai, you should still choose sheltered locations and more stable conditions.
Watering and humidity
The vast majority of woods used to produce bonsai are sensitive to humidity. It will be very difficult to maintain the attractiveness of the forms and greenery of these plants without measures to increase the humidity of the air. Installation of special humidifiers is ideal, but it is possible to increase the air humidity by means of both water jars and sprinkling (tolerance to the latter should be checked for each type of plant separately).
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Bonsai watering requires much more effort than for ordinary plants. The flat shape of the containers necessitates a schedule of more frequent procedures. There is no general requirements to watering and their frequency for bonsai plants, but it is important never to forget one rule: to let the roots of bonsai plants dry out in no way. Drying out is destructive for these valuable plants. But souring the soil is also unacceptable. Stable light to medium humidity - these are the conditions in which most bonsai will feel comfortable. In the cold season watering is reduced (for deciduous bonsai it is minimal, and for evergreens - decrease twice the humidity of the substrate), still not allowing complete drying out of the substrate. But there is one "but": such plants prefer watering with a sprinkler nozzle. It is necessary to resort to dispersing water so that the water is distributed more evenly over a wide container. An alternative method of watering is to immerse the container with a larger container of water to saturate the substrate, followed by a full drainage of "free" water.
Feeding for Bonsai
The fertilization regime must be specified when purchasing the plant. The classical way is to apply fertilizer only during the active vegetation phase, with a frequency of 1 fertilizer every 2 weeks. In midsummer, you can make a "skip" to stop the growth of shoots and improve the woodiness. Fertilizing doesn't stop also in winter (only for evergreen bonsai), but fertilizers with frequency of 1 time in 6 weeks and halving the usual dosage.
Fertilizers for bonsai are selected by special fertilizers (both companies specialized in this art and the best known manufacturers of fertilizers with a wide rang of products).
Trimming and shaping bonsai
While for most indoor plants regular trimming and shaping is rarely considered a necessary condition for cultivation, for bonsai trimming is a vital condition for maintaining attractiveness. To keep a living work of art as it is, branches must be periodically trimmed, unwanted shoots removed, pruned and otherwise shaped. Each bonsai species has its own pruning requirements, but in general the pruning strategy depends directly on the rate of growth. Slow-growing plants are gently pruned once or twice a year to keep them in shape. Fast-growing ones need to be controlled and shaped much more often, every few weeks from spring to autumn.
Bonsai pruning rules are very simple. They usually try to leave only six pairs of leaves per shoot, mercilessly removing everything superfluous. The upper part of the bonsai is always trimmed more, not forgetting to remove all branches that are damaged, dry, growing down or inside, excessively elongated, just like any other indoor plant. For bonsai it is also important to thin out leaves which are growing too densely in time. But just doing pruning is only lip service. Miniature plants require such a special approach to themselves, so complex in pruning, that here you need a lot of skills and imagination. And mistakes are much easier to make than success. For the first few times, it is better to ask an expert and attend a master class, and find out all the necessary information at specialist centers. Only after gaining skills and mastering the technique, dare to start pruning.
Forming shoots and trunks, giving them "artificial" curvatures and directions is a difficult and unordinary task. For bonsai, the shaping is done with a wire (anodized copper or aluminum, always thick wire is used). With its help, fix the turns of the trunk or branches, give them shape, direction and angles. Shaping is done by winding the wire from bottom to top, literally rewinding the trunk and branches with it, and then already guiding their growth. But it is very difficult to find a balance between sufficient compression and non-injury. And it is necessary to remove the wire in time: after the plant "goes" in a given direction, but not before the film starts to grow into the bark.
When working with bonsai, sharp, disinfected tools should be used. It is advisable to buy special wound balms for treating wounds. A set of special tools suitable for each type of pruning and specific work with bonsai can be found today in flower shops and on specialized resources. Miniature loppers and scissors of various shapes, brushes and miniature tweezers, forks and tweezers help to do almost jewel-like work. If you do not have special tools, try using new and disinfected manicure tools.
You can also find special products for artificial aging, decorating, changing the color of the bark, etc. They are used to make the plant more attractive and expressive. © Jonas Dupuich
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Transplanting, containers and substrate
Bonsai are grown in special flat bowls, the depth of which is many times less than the width. When choosing, you should pay attention to the fact that the volume of the container should exceed the volume of the roots, and in the most often there should be at least one hole for the outflow of water. Soil in such a bowl is not very much, especially since a large percentage of the free space in the container is occupied by drainage and mulch. And accordingly we have to transplant bonsai much more often than we would like - once in 2-3 years.
Bonsai, as well as all indoor trees and bushes, better to transplant at the beginning of the active growth stage - in spring. But there are certain types of plants, such as the large-leafed podocarpus, which prefers transplanting not in spring but in autumn. Check all information carefully before buying.
The right choice of substrate is critical for these plants. For bonsai use a special purchase substrate with a water permeable structure, high clay and sand content. It is difficult to independently check the water permeability and air permeability of the soil, so we recommend using a special soil for bonsai.
Just as the above-ground part of the plant was formed in a special way, its rhizome, which is held back and trimmed, is also formed in an absolutely amazing way. When transplanting, root pruning is usually done to prevent overgrowth and to make room in the small container. Pruning the rhizome optimizes nutrient uptake and thickens the crown. A layer of coarse drainage is sure to be placed at the bottom of the container. The substrate is completely replaced with new and fresh substrate, and the plant is gently reinforced by lightly crimping in the soil and using stones or pebbles to stabilize if needed.
Bonsai are almost never grown with "bare" soil. For these plants the method of decorative mulching is actively used: the substrate is covered with pebbles, stone chips, sphagnum or other decorative materials. Such covering is chosen to achieve the highest decorative effect and expressiveness.
To do without prevention
Healthy, ideally shaped, able to bloom or enjoying the magnificent leaves of bonsai, as we see it in stores and bring home, needs continuous prophylaxis. Preventing both diseases and the spread of pests is much easier than fighting them on these special plants. Reducing the risk of infestation of bonsai by using only disinfected tools, maintaining comfortable temperatures and lighting, and controlling air humidity. Watering and fertilizing should not be excessive or sparse, and plants that prefer fresh air should get as much of it as possible. But the main key to success is constant inspections. You need to keep an eye on the leaves and branches, check them for signs of unwanted problems, remove damaged and diseased leaves and shoots immediately, and check the condition of the roots.
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