How to Care for a Bonsai Plant

Overview

Bonsais are miniature trees that originated in China and eventually became very popular in Japan. Caring for a bonsai is much easier than many people think. Keeping soil moisture at the proper level for most varieties is very easy. Simple pruning can help maintain the miniature stature of the tree, and most trees can be trained using bonsai wire. By careful pruning, training and root trimming, you can maintain a healthy, beautiful bonsai for many years.

Step 1

Place your bonsai tree in proper sunlight. The amount of sunlight each type requires varies. Azalea and Japanese maple bonsai will not do well in direct sun. However, jade, bougainvillea and juniper prefer a lot of sun. Chinese elms are very tolerant and do well in anything from full shade to full sun.

Step 2

Keep your bonsai's pot in a pan of water. By keeping it in a pan of water, the soil stays moist and you will only have to add water to the pan as its level drops to maintain a healthy bonsai. One exception to this rule are jade bonsais. Let the soil dry out between watering jade bonsai to avoid root rot.

Step 3

Prune your bonsai at the appropriate time. This will vary, depending on the type of bonsai grow. Azaleas should be pruned right after they are done flowering, and all dead flowers should be removed. Prune jades and bougainvilleas almost any time, but prune slowly so you don't stress the tree. Prune Japanese maples in late spring. Junipers need to be pruned in late spring and, sometimes, the fall. With junipers, remove the plant from the pot every other year and trim the roots, but don't remove more than 30 percent. Prune your Chinese elm in the spring. In many cases, you can prune your bonsai by pinching off new growth with your fingers. In other cases, you will need to use a very sharp pair of scissors or small pruning shears.

Step 4

Remove your bonsai from its pot every two or three year to trim its roots. One exception is the juniper, which needs to have its roots trimmed every other year.

Step 5

Wire your bonsai to change its shape and direction of growth. Bonsai wire is designed to direct your tree, yet not damage its bark. Some trees, like jades, will quickly adapt to the new wired position. With a jade, you can remove the wire after about a month. With other trees, you may need to leave the wire in place for several months.

Tips and Warnings

  • Be sure you prune your bonsai at the correct time of year. Although many can be pruned year round, some can be damaged by pruning at the wrong time of year.

Things You'll Need

  • Bonsai tree(s)
  • Plate or dish
  • Sharp scissors or pruning shears
  • Bonsai wire

References

  • How to Care for Your Bonsai
  • Bonsai Care and Upkeep
Keywords: bonsai training, bonsai care, miniature trees

About this Author

Although he grew up in Latin America, Mr. Ma is a writer based in Denver. He has been writing since 1987 and has written for NPR, AP, Boeing, Ford New Holland, Microsoft, RAHCO International, Umax Data Systems and other manufacturers in Taiwan. He studied creative writing at Mankato State University in Minnesota. He speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, English and reads Spanish.