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Growing Successful Bonsai

Placement: Indoor tree (tropical and sub-tropical) - Keep it away from direct heat sources such as a fireplace or register. Check the temperature requirements for individual species because some like to be cooler during the night, and some like to be cooler all winter. An indoor tree normally needs a minimum of 5 hours of indirect sunlight daily. When the outside temperature will stay above 55, it is good to keep it outside, in filtered sunlight, so that it may experience fresh air that assists in disease and insect control.

Outdoor tree (temperate) - Winter: It must go dormant by experiencing a cold winter, yet the roots must not freeze. This means that the tree must be kept between 30 and 50 degrees all winter. Some species require protection from frost. Bringing it inside the house will cause a false spring, break the dormancy period, and prevent the tree from obtaining its needed winter rest.

Spring through autumn: Morning sun and afternoon shade is most desirable.

Watering: Generally, bonsai like to be moist, not soggy. That is, when the top half of the soil becomes dry, it is time to water; and soak it thoroughly. One thorough way to water is the "dishpan method" which is placing the bonsai in a pan, with the water level above the soil---when the air bubbles stop, it has obtained sufficient water. Mist-spraying foliage serves to provide humidity and washes away dust on indoor plants. Avoid spraying blooms to prevent early wilting. Trays filled with gravel and water (humidity trays) add humidity around the bonsai resting on top of the gravel. Check the moisture requirement for an individual species because it may vary from the general rule. A few species need to be more dry, and others need to be more dry during certain times of the year. Check daily for water needs---never use a watering schedule, but water when the tree requires it. The smaller the pot, the more often it must be watered.

Outdoor bonsai: Spring through early summer: Water sparingly so not to stimulate overgrowth. Over watering flowering and fruit trees will slow the blooming process.

Summer through winter: Water gently until water flows out the drain holes--- wait two minutes and repeat. Don't water when it is frosty. During dormancy, only check weekly.

Feeding: Use a medium nitrogen liquid fertilizer every two weeks (Fish Emulsion 5-2-2 is available at most any nursery) pour over leaves and let drip into soil. Generally, March through October is the time of year in which your bonsai will need to be fed. Don't feed dry soil or sick trees. The soil should be moist before feeding as this will prevent fertilizer burn. Sick trees should not be fertilized as this may hinder their recovery process. Just keep them moist and work on trying to bring them back instead of pushing their growth.

Training: Pinching leaves: Trees produce smaller leaves than normal if new buds are pinched. Pinch as the new buds appear and then leave the branch to grow until it produces the desired amount of growth.

Pruning branches: the number of branches increases with pruning. It's up to you how dense or sparse you would like your bonsai to grow. By pruning a selective amount of branch work, you can artistically create a tree that you would normally see growing in nature.

Trees that flower in the spring: prune in the summer (after blossoms are gone).

Trees that flower in the summer: prune in the winter.

Needle trees: pinch off new ``candles" at branch ends and new growth will appear at the area where the branch was pinched.

Deciduous: cut at an angle above the bud or branch, usually where you would like new growth to appear.

Shaping: Make low side branches the longest for a broader look, front branches shorter and back ones longer. This will provide an illusion of depth. on larger bonsai, use wound sealer (available at most any nursery) as needed to stop the wounds from weeping and protect against disease and pests.

Trimming leaves & fruit: Cut out some of the smaller branches or even leaves if foliage is too dense. Remove some fruit which may be taking too much sap and exhausting the tree.

Wiring: Imitate the natural curves of trees in nature. Don't water for a day or two before wiring, this will provide more flexibility in the branch and it's less apt to break when bending.

Pests and Diseases: A healthy tree resists pests, but check weekly for signs of withering new growth, foliage turning silver/gray or yellow, leaf curling, chewing marks, sawdust, and missing bark. Keep dead leaves and needles off the surface, remove weeds, and trim away dead branches. The mild Safer Insecticide Soap and stronger 28% Malathion Insecticide (are available at most any nursery).

Soil: Fill container partially with soil mixture, place tree, add more soil and work it around the root ball and roots. Make sure that the plant is firmly potted and secure enough so that it will not work itself loose from the wind or when watering.

Repotting: Repotting refreshes the soil and keeps the tree from being root-bound, follow individual species instructions for time of year, frequency, and other special notes.
A. Break 1/2 of the soil away from roots with chop stick (flowering/fruit - break all the soil away)

B. Young Plants - trim roots back about 1/2.

C. Old Plants - trim only the root tips, keep the new fibrous roots intact. Trim roots in shaded area to prevent the roots will not dry out.

D. Follow planting instructions in the "Soil" section above.

E. Soak the tree, and pot, extremely well in order to settle the soil between the roots and to adequately water the tree.

F. Keep out of direct sun and wind for two weeks, mist it frequently, and don't feed for approximately four to six weeks.


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