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Bonsai Tree Instruction Guide


Bonsai represents the artistic use of gardening techniques to develop a tree into a miniaturized version of its counterpart in nature. Bonsai is not a specific type of tree; rather many types of trees go through the gardening process of bonsai.

About Bonsai

The origin of the term bonsai, pronounced bone-sigh, is derived from the Japanese term bon meaning tray and sai meaning tree. Thus, the literal translation of bonsai means tree in a tray. Often times bonsai is misspelled "bonzai or bonzi".

When the word "bonsai" is mentioned, we all conjure up ideas of the Juniper in it's majestic windswept appearance. But there are thousands of equally beautiful examples of Bonsai found in Azaleas, Elms, Maples, Evergreens and many others.

Bonsai has its origins first in China, then, later in Japan, where it was and remains an expression of the harmony between man and nature. The spiritual roots of bonsai lie in the Oriental philosophy of life, which strives for perfect harmony between man and nature. Bonsai may be viewed as an object of meditation. The act of creating bonsai by itself is a contemplative, meditative exercise - a practice of Zen. The bonsai trees can be seen as a celebration of Nature and the healing powers extended by an intact natural environment. Creating and taking care of bonsai will draw you closer to Nature, enabling you to experience it in a more direct, intimate way.

The attainment of overall structural unity in bonsai is critical. In addition to deciding on an appropriate bonsai container and determining the tentative placement of the bonsai, the artist will consider the bonsai tree species, number of bonsai trees to be used, their sizes, trunk angles and the design of their foliage mass. The Bonsai artist will then choose decorative rocks and stones for their size, color, shape, surface details, and compatibility with the bonsai. Next the bonsai artist will add the finishing touches on the bonsai by selecting Decorative Moss and an appropriate Figurine. In the end, every element in the design needs to relate to all the others so that the entire nature-scape now appears as a single, all-embracing, encompassing entity.

Bonsai artists do not seek to create perfection. As a matter of fact, Bonsai trees trained into highly stylized forms where every angle and every root and branch placement has been meticulously calculated by a rigid formula do not suit their tastes. Apart from being beautiful, an outstanding Bonsai must look entirely natural. It should look as if Nature itself had spontaneously created it - like a marvelous accident of Nature.

Basic Bonsai Care

Bonsai Trees thrive for years with proper care. Most important is bright lighting and moist watering conditions. Most bonsai prefer the outdoors with plenty of fresh air, light, and water. Some Bonsai Trees will thrive indoors with bright lighting and proper watering.

There is a distinct balance between the amount of light a bonsai requires and the amount of water it requires. The more light a bonsai gets the more water it needs. The less light, the less water. Depending on the amount of light and temperature of your environment, this may mean watering your tree to saturation daily. NEVER allow the soil to dry out. You will also want to spray or mist the foliage often. If using a tray under your bonsai, make sure the tree does not sit in water by using pebbles on the tray to keep the pot above the water.

Most bonsai can withstand temperatures below freezing; however, we recommend that they be brought inside during severely cold weather and kept in a room near a window with good light.

Please remember that Bonsai Trees are not house plants and need a balanced diet of fresh air, natural light, and water to remain healthy.

Bonsai Repotting

Bonsai should be transplanted when the roots begin growing out the sides of the container. We recommend pushing your finger down along the inside of the bonsai container to examine if the roots have reached the sides of the bonsai container. For the majority of bonsai this occurs every one to two years. In northern climates where there is only a four-month growing season, repotting should be done every two to three years. Repotting the Bonsai and trimming the roots is not a hazardous operation, if done at the right time of the year. And, if one is careful not to take away too much soil from the tree providing it is done just before the new growth begins in the spring.

Repotting Instructions:

  1. Carefully take the tree out of the container without disrupting the soil around the roots. The soil should be moderately dry. Tree placement in the container is important, so before removing the tree from the container, take a good look at where it is placed.
  2. Untangle the roots from the soil-root-ball mass.
  3. Remove approximately one-third of the of the soil from around the soil-root-ball mass. Be careful not to disrupt the soil from around the trunk of the tree.
  4. Carefully trim off the roots that are now exposed due to the soil removal with a pair of sharp scissors, leaving one-inch of the roots still extending beyond the soil-root-ball-mass.
  5. Cover the entire bottom of the container with a layer of pebbles. This will be used as the drainage field for your tree.
  6. Using a good grade of potting soil mixture designed for bonsai, place enough soil in the container so that when the tree is replaced within the container, the top surface of the soil is even with or slightly below the edge of the container.
  7. Place the tree back into the container and locate it where it was prior to its removal.
  8. Fill the sides of the container with the soil mixture packing the soil firmly into the container to ensure that there are no air pockets around the roots.
  9. Water the soil to saturation. Always water after packing the soil, not before.
  10. After repotting, continue to water and care for your bonsai as you did before repotting.
  11. A vitamin mixture call SuperThrive or a stronger dose of Bonsai Master Fertilizer is recommended when repotting your tree.

Download Bonsai Repotting PDF

Bonsai Trimming

Trimming and pruning can be performed on your tree throughout the year. In the case of deciduous trees, such as maples and elms, pruning and trimming is best performed during the growing season. Junipers, pines, and cypress are finger-nipped throughout the growing season to keep the tree shaped. Trimming the under and inner growth is needed monthly.

A well-shaped bonsai tree needs to have its small branches, buds, and new shoots removed in order to keep its proper shape. Before you begin trimming, make a mental picture of what you want your bonsai tree to look like. Then, using bonsai trimming shears, slowly begin to trim your bonsai tree into the shape you desire. Basically, if two branches are growing opposite one another, remove one of them directly at the trunk. Likewise, do the same if two branches are growing forwards, directly above one another or at the same height.

Make sure that your cuts are smooth or slightly concave to help the wound heal quickly. Add pruning paint to the surfaces you cut if they are brown in color, a sign of a mature branch of the bonsai tree.

Bonsai Wiring

The wiring of Bonsai trees to attain desired shaping is used in association with your long-term trimming plans. The use of good wiring techniques permits us to train Bonsai trees in virtually any shape or style. For example, it is used if you want to make a Bonsai tree look older by means of low-hanging branches, or if you want to keep a bend in the trunk or want one eliminated. The best material to use is copper anodized Bonsai Training Wire . It is always advisable to use the thinnest training wire that will hold a branch in the desired position. We do not wire our Bonsai trees after they have been repotted. Always give your Bonsai tree adequate time to recover from one technique before you start another.

Always wind the training wire in the direction the branch is bent in order to prevent loosening of the wire. Do not put the wire on too tightly because it will cause physical scarring to the branch. Wrap the training wire around the branch just tightly enough to get the job of styling done properly. Begin to wire your Bonsai tree at the base of the main trunk and slowly rap the training wire around the trunk so that it becomes the anchor of the training wire. Continue wrapping the training wire along the branch you are planning to train. Repeat this process with each branch until you are finished.

The wiring process takes approximately six weeks to six months before the shape will be complete. This depends on the thickness of the branches and the variety of Bonsai tree being shaped. In any case, the training wiring process, as the Bonsai tree process, is an ongoing process throughout the life of the Bonsai tree.

Bonsai Styles

Apart from being beautiful, an outstanding Bonsai must look entirely natural. It should look as if Nature itself had spontaneously created it - like a marvelous accident of Nature.

When you have chosen the bonsai style you desire, first, imagine which branches you would like to trim using bonsai trimming sheers. When you trim any branches, trim the branches as flush to the tree trunk as possible and apply pruning paint to the newly trimmed branch. Then, you can begin trimming away the unwanted foliage. We remove all the foliage from the underside of each branch so the foliage is not so thick as to obscure the branches, tree trunk, or general design of your bonsai tree.

Wiring techniques can be used to train the branches of your bonsai tree to grow in virtually any direction you desire. You should first anchor the end of the training wire in the soil. Then start using the training wire in back of the tree trunk and wrap the training wire in a diagonal direction up the trunk and out to the branch to be trained.

Wrap the training wire snug, but not so tight as it causes any harm to the growing limb. Now begin to bend the limb in the direction you desire. Only a partial bend is used for the first month. Then you may bend the limb more until it has reached the position that you desire. In this manner you can begin positioning two or three branches at a time without putting undue stress on the tree. The training wire should be checked often to ensure that it is NOT growing into the wood.

In some cases, removing the training wire takes great care and must be performed slowly and delicately. You will sometimes need to use trimming shears to clip off pieces of the training wire as you are unwrapping it to avoid damaging the limb.

Chokkan Bonsai Style

Chokkan Style

The formal, upright style, the trunk in this Bonsai style is straight with branches growing just above the roots continuing to a tapering point at the top of the tree. This is the ideal shape for pines, junipers, and cypress.
Shakan Bonsai Style

Shakan Style

The slanting style. The trunk in this style is cultivated at a slant, imitating trees found growing along mountaintops or windswept beaches. Junipers and pines are readily adaptable to this shape.
Sokan Bonsai Style

Sokan Style

This style has two trunks of differing diameters growing from a single root. It is also called a parent and child bonsai. Junipers, pines, blue moss cypress and most deciduous tees can be grown in this style.
Ikada Bonsai Style

Ikada Style

This is often called the raft style. In this style, the trunk is buried horizontally in the soil with the branches arranged vertically so they will grow like trunks.
Yose'ue Bonsai Style

Yose'ue Style

This bonsai style is a group of trees planted and arranged to resemble a small forest. This is a very popular style because it reminds people of a miniature forest scene. Almost any group of trees can be used for this style.
Kengai Bonsai Style

Kengai Style

This is the cascading or hanging bonsai style. The trunk and branches are styled to hang down over the edge of the container, which is usually placed, on a pedestal. This style is designed to look like a tree growing out of the side of a mountain. Pines and junipers are ideal for this style.


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