Bonsai Tree Care for Beginners

Bonsai image by Photo by Foxspain Photography


Bonsai is the art form of growing plants and trees in containers. Trees are pruned and trained into the miniature shape of an old tree. Many different types of plants and trees can be grown in bonsai form. The care instructions and tips here are general tips for beginners. More specific information can be found on the species of your particular bonsai.


How much water your bonsai needs depends on the size of the tree and pot, as well as the soil and climate. In general, water your bonsai tree when the soil begins to dry out. Do not allow it to dry out completely. Water in the morning, before the soil has a chance to warm up. Water thoroughly, but gently, soaking the tree until water drains out the drainage holes. Be careful not to wash away soil during the watering process.


Bonsai trees need two different types of pruning. Style pruning should be done in the early spring or late autumn to shape the tree and give it a general style. Continue maintenance pruning during the growing season to keep the shape and maintain compact growth. In the early spring or late autumn, just before or after the growth season, prune away all the dead wood. Aggressively prune the top to keep the tree from shooting upward. Prune the outer parts of the tree to encourage compact growth on the inner parts of the branches. Once you have determined the general shape and size of the tree, continue to trim away growth that is outside the bounds of the style on a regular basis. Trimming during the spring and summer growing season will keep the shape in bounds and encourage the bonsai tree to grow healthy foliage. To prevent dead foliage at the cutting site, hand pluck pine trees and conifers. Avoid using a knife or scissors on pines and conifers. Wound paste is available at most bonsai supply stores to protect the cuts and promote healing.


Since bonsai have a limited root system and soil, they need regular feeding during the growth season from early spring to mid autumn. Fertilize trees growing indoors year-round. Most fertilizer contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). In the early spring, choose a fertilizer high in nitrogen, such as NPK 12:6:6. During the summer, use a balanced fertilizer like NPK 10:10:10, and reduce the nitrogen in the autumn to NPK 3:10:10. To encourage blooming, use a higher potassium fertilizer such as NPK 6:6:12. Special fertilizer is available labeled for bonsai use, but any fertilizer with the proper balance will work. Follow the instructions given on the label and do not over fertilize.

About this Author

Diane Watkins has been writing since 1984, with experience in newspaper, newsletter and web content. She writes two electronic newsletters and content around the web. Watkins has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Clemson University. She has taken graduate courses in biochemistry and education.

Photo by: Photo by Foxspain Photography

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