How to Make a Bonsai Arrangement

Bonsai is a Japanese art form that allows you to create attractive living arrangements from a wide variety of plants. If you have seen a bonsai arrangement, you know the beauty and special nature of a miniature tree that has been trained in an attractive manner. Many plants can be used as bonsai specimens: common plants are schefflera, Malabar chestnut, pines, and many others. One of the objectives of Bonsai is to suggest nature in its various moods. The container you use for your bonsai arrangement is an important part of the design: containers should supplement rather than detract from the bonsai's beauty and should never dwarf the plant that goes into it.


How to start your bonsai arrangement

Step 1

Purchase an appropriate container for your bonsai at a specialty nursery. Pottery containers with drainage holes are best, but be sure that the inside is not glazed.

Step 2

Select the young tree or plant you want to use in your bonsai arrangement. Prune any growth that does not compliment the appearance, such as side shoots on the main trunk.

Step 3

Remove your plant from its nursery pot and then clean it thoroughly by removing all soil. Trim the roots it they are ungainly and large.

Step 4

For round or square containers, place your plant in the center. For oval or rectangular containers, place your plant one third of the way from the far side.

Step 5

If you need to support the plant while it is young, brace the plant in the position you want it with strong cord or plastic strips. After your plant has developed a strong root system, you can remove the supports.

Step 6

Add your soil mix to fill the container and the crevices between and under the roots of your plant. When it is full, brush away the excess soil from the top of your container.

Step 7

Water your new arrangement well. Bonsai need quite a large amount of water, so be sure to give your new plant frequent, thorough soakings, making sure that any excess water is removed through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.

Step 8

To achieve an artful shape for your bonsai, continuous training and pruning is needed. The ideal or artistic proportion for large tall-growing specimens is 80 percent tree and 20 percent container. For low spreading trees or dwarf shrubs, the proportion should be 60 percent for the plant and 40 percent for the container.

Tips and Warnings

Most plants used in bonsai thrive best in natural conditions in limited shade outdoors. If you want to use a bonsai arrangement indoors for a short period of time, it can add a dramatic accent to your dinner table or other place of interest, but be sure to return your bonsai to its outdoor home after your guests depart. Fertilize at least four times a year, starting when new growth begins to appear. Use a special fertilizer recommended for bonsai. When planting your bonsai plant, you can use a chopstick to fill small areas with soil. Keep the soil line about 1/4 inch below the rim of your container to allow for ease of watering. Bonsai need to be repotted more often than other potted plants because they are grown in such small amounts of soil and can quickly become rootbound. Some growers like to use a fine moss as a groundcover for their bonsai arrangements. This enhances the bonsai's appearance and helps the soil to retain moisture. Never allow the roots of your bonsai to remain waterlogged: The plant can easily drown if you keep it too wet. During hot weather, bonsai benefit from a cool mist of water for two to three hours.

Things You'll Need

Plants suitable for bonsai such as schefflera, Malabar chestnut, flowering trees or pines, Special ceramic container designed for bonsai, Soil mixture containing topsoil, compost, peat moss and sand, Trowel

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.

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