The concept of growing trees in containers was introduced thousands of years ago by the Chinese. This imaginative concept was refined by the Japanese, after being introduced to their region around 1195 A.D. Although the art of bonsai has evolved throughout the years, the basic steps of creating bonsai remain the same.
Tree selection is an essential process in successful bonsai growth. The tree that you select for bonsai must be able to thrive in your growing zone if you grow the bonsai outside. Since bonsai trees are natural trees, there is a wide array of trees to select from, from deciduous to evergreen. Not only must you consider your growing zone, you must consider whether or not you will grow the bonsai indoors or outdoors. The location is an important aspect because not every tree species can thrive in the indoor environment. Along with these aspects, your tree selection should be a healthy one. A healthy tree will have a trunk that is free of injury. Its branches will be well-positioned and its foliage will be healthy. Always avoid trees with an unhealthy appearance, weak branches and spotted or drooping foliage.
The potting container is what confines the bonsai and helps to promote miniature growth. Deep, wide potting containers promote large trees because their roots are able to spread and expand. Therefore, a shallow potting container is ideal for bonsai. Your container selection should have a depth that is equivalent, or slight larger, than the trunk’s diameter. The diameter of the container should be one-third to two-thirds the height of your selected tree, as explained by Bonsai4me. The container must also have at least one hole at the bottom to allow the water to flow away from the roots.
Your bonsai’s soil should be fast-draining and water-retentive while promoting good aeration. This loamy soil should contain, at bare minimum, equal amounts of organic compost, peat moss and fine, clean sand. Not every bonsai soil contains actual soil, because general potting soil can be too heavy for the fine roots of bonsai. Still, general potting soil can be used successfully when it is incorporated with compost, moss and sand.
Once you have provided your bonsai with the proper environment, your bonsai will need general care and your patience. General bonsai care includes watering, fertilizing and placement. The bonsai should be watered according to its individual needs rather than on a schedule. You should check the soil’s moisture levels daily and irrigate the bonsai only when the soil feels somewhat dry. Fertilizing should be completed approximately one each month throughout the growing season, using a well-balanced, water soluble feed. Your bonsai will require ample sunlight to create and transport the nutrients it needs to grow. Always place your bonsai in a warm, sunny location that receives at least six hours of sunlight each day, as explained by Bonsai West.
In bonsai, pruning is the process of promoting healthy growth and developing shape. Not only must you remove the dead, dying and wilted areas from your bonsai, you must trim and prune it so that it can grow in the desired shape. This pruning process includes the branches, stems, foliage and roots of the bonsai. Your chosen shape should not only encompass the shape you desire but embrace the natural shape of the tree. The ideal bonsai shape mirrors the natural shape of its full-size counterparts. This pruning process should be completed in the early spring, just before the growing season begins. Rather than completing the entire shaping process in one season, the shaping and training process should be completed over the course of many seasons to prevent growth stunt and death.