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» Grow a Bonsai Tree

How Did I Do It? > Home & Garden > Grow a Bonsai Tree
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While one might think of the Art of Bonsai as something that’s only from China and Japan, historians have evidence otherwise. Small trees appear in Egyptian tombs dated to 2000 years ago, and five hundred years after that people in India were growing miniature plants. It’s not until about 700 AD that art in China illustrates the “pen tsai” (meaning potted tree), which is also the word from which we get bonsai. As far as the little trees making an appearance in the public forum, that happened at the Paris World Exhibition of 1878.

There are two types of trees cultivated for bonsai – temperate and tropical. Tropical ones are best used for indoor decorating since they are far more sensitive to temperature changes. However, to keep a healthy tropical Bonsai, it does need time outdoors in sunlight regularly. Temperate ones still need some protection against severe weathers (such as a box filled with hay or a space on a porch that’s covered against ice. In either case, this type of plant needs ongoing care to keep it healthy and trimmed in an eye-pleasing way.

There are a variety of Bonsai on the market that have already been started by greenhouses (go to a knowledgeable source or you’re likely to buy a tree that’s really dying already). Some are more complex than others to keep hearty. The most popular one, and among the easiest to maintain, are the slanting trees that people use in meditation rooms and in homes where there are Oriental motifs. Another popular one is the dragon tree, that’s twisted around itself. Both of these seem to appear more in indoor decorating.

For outdoor landscaping there are small trees that are used as edging, garden highlights and statuary. These are called Bonkei.

Both indoors and out evergreens are best sellers in the Bonsai world. One word of warning, those indoor ones will need periods of cold weather to rest, otherwise it will get stressed and die. One solution is using an enclosed porch or garage. Spending about 10 weeks in that environment works beautifully. Another option is a cool cellar if it gets below fifty degrees. This should be done at least once every two years.

Beyond that, Bonsai need humidity and hydration. I use a hand spritzer that I purchased in a drug store to spray the foliage, and water the entire surface of the soil evenly. Or, if you’re uncertain about how much water to give it, soak the tree’s pot in a cool water bath. When you see no more bubbles, the soil is saturated and you can let it go for the rest of the week unless it gets very hot or very dry.

Even with trimming your Bonsai will grow some. Keep an eye on that growth. Your pot needs to be half as deep as the tree measures upward from the top of the soil, and about as wide. Last but not least, be patient with yourself. Learning the art of the Bonsai can be a life-long endeavor. You’ll get the hang of it with time.

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