Trimming & Caring for Small Bonsai Trees

Overview

Bonsai trees are regular trees that have been trained to maintain a healthy, miniature state. The art of bonsai involves finding a healthy balance that allows the tree to produce foliage and fruit that is proportionate to the rest of its size. Like their full-size counterparts, bonsai trees have their own requirements that create the perfect balance. Though the amount of pruning and care varies for each tree, with observation and patience, growers can identify those needs.

Step 1

Keep the pruning and trimming to a minimum. Complete one hard pruning each year, preferably during the bonsai tree's dormant period. Remove branches to promote the desired size and shape. Reduce the tree's size gradually over the course of several years to prevent damage. Use sharp, sterile scissors or shears to make the pruning cuts.

Step 2

Thin interior branches and foliage to increase air circulation. Complete the thinning process while doing the hard pruning. Use angular cuts to promote rapid healing.

Step 3

Trim dead or dying foliage from the tree. Remove these dying areas as they appear to redirect the tree's energy to viable areas. Keep the bonsai's container free of defoliated debris to reduce the potential for disease.

Step 4

Irrigate the bonsai thoroughly and infrequently. Check the soil's moisture levels prior to each watering by sticking your finger 1 to 2 inches into the soil near the roots. Irrigate the bonsai when the soil feels somewhat to completely dry. Maintain drought levels according to the individual needs of the tree. Succulent bonsai prefer somewhat dry soils, while fruit tree bonsai prefer moderately moist soils.

Step 5

Feed the bonsai tree regularly throughout its growing season. Use a well-balanced, slow-release fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 or 20-20-20. Distribute the fertilizer evenly, at half strength, throughout the potting container and irrigate thoroughly. Feed the bonsai about every 60 days.

Step 6

Keep the bonsai in a warm, well-ventilated area. Choose a location that also provides at least six hours of full to partially shaded sunlight. Keep the bonsai away from direct sources of heat or drafts, such as heating vents and air conditioners.

Step 7

Dust and mist the foliage of the indoor bonsai daily to reduce the potential of disease and to maintain acceptable humidity levels. Inspect the bonsai regularly for signs of disease and insect infestation. Treat disease and infestations immediately to prevent injury to the bonsai.

Step 8

Repot the bonsai every one to two years. Lift the bonsai from its container and gently remove the excessive soil from the root system. Trim the root system with sharp, sterile scissors. Cut away any dead, dying or wilting roots. Remove no more than 1/3 of the root system.

Step 9

Replant the bonsai in a clean container. Mix equal parts fine, clean sand; organic compost; and nutrient-rich soil, and plant the bonsai in the mixture. Make sure that no roots are showing from the surface. Press the soil firmly around the tree to secure the bonsai.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears or scissors
  • Water
  • Fertilizer

References

  • Bonsai West: Caring For Your Bonsai
  • Bonsai Gardener: How to Prune a Bonsai Tree
  • Bonsai Gardener: Bonsai Tree Care
Keywords: pruning bonsai, bonsai care, repot bonsai

About this Author

Charmayne Smith is a business professional and freelance writer. She has worked in management for successful organizations since 1994. Smith draws on her business background to write articles, and her work has appeared in a variety of online outlets. She holds a degree in business from Cleveland State University.