Tips on Bonsai Tree Care

Tips on Bonsai Tree Care image by K. Kiser,

The Chinese started growing bonsai trees about 1000 B.C., calling the trees "pun-sai." The term "bonsai" came about after the Chinese introduced the art to the Japanese during the Kamakura period, which was from 1185 A.D. to 1333 A.D. Today, people all over the world grow bonsai trees and they are a rewarding hobby if you follow certain care techniques.


Water your tree when the soil is partially dry. Test it by sticking your finger in the soil about 1/3 inch deep. If your tree is indoors, you can water it any time; if it's outdoors, water in the morning. Soak the roots with a first watering until the water comes out the drainage holes; give a second watering approximately 10 minutes later. Rainwater is best so put your indoor trees outside when it rains. Otherwise, use a watering can with small holes to water from above the tree. Never water when the soil is already moist.


To keep its shape, prune your bonsai tree often during the growing season. The tree will grow more evenly and have denser foliage when you trim by cutting the stem right above a leaf. However, for conifers and pine trees, use your hand to pinch off the shoots; this technique makes the shoot snap and you won't have dead brown ends. With deciduous trees, you should remove the leaves in the summer. You'll have to remove large branches for the tree to have its overall shape. Always remove dead wood before pruning. It's time to prune if branches looked unnaturally twisted, are growing vertical, are extra thick at the top of the tree or they hide the front part of the trunk. After you prune the style of the tree, put it outside in a shady place so it can recover.


Outdoor bonsai trees must have fertilizer often during the growing season between early spring and mid-fall, however, fertilize indoor trees all year. If you buy the tree at a nursery, the personnel will help you choose the right type for the tree or trees you have. Follow the directions on the package of liquid or solid fertilizer for the best results.


Almost all container plants need to have new pots occasionally. Repotting is especially important for bonsai trees, because that helps them to grow well. Though older trees can get new pots every 3 to 5 years, how often to repot is dependent on the size of the container and the age and type of tree. A general rule is that if the roots start circling around the root system, it's time to repot.

Pests and Diseases

If the leaves go from green to yellow quickly, you may be under watering your tree. If the process occurs slowly, overfeeding, underfeeding or over watering is mostly likely to blame. Insects such as grasshoppers, carpenter bees, slugs, aphids, weevils and scale attach bonsai trees. If you can't identify the insect, take it to a nursery so you can get the right type of insecticide. Discolored leaves and branches dying may indicate a fungi or virus attack. Move the plant away from other plants and apply a fungicide.

Keywords: bonsai tree, care, watering, fertilizing, repotting, pests, diseases, pruning

About this Author

Ellie Kuykendall has been writing and editing professionally since 1997. Her travel and insurance articles have appeared in national magazines. She's contributed to four books and is currently writing her own book. She received a bachelor's degree from University of San Francisco.

Photo by: K. Kiser,