Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Caring for Bonsai

Bonsai trees can be great fun. Bonsai is a Japanese word, which means tray planting. As you know from cultural references, bonsai trees are tiny, but they look just like big trees. They are neat little plants to get if you are looking for something nice and green that will not require a lot of work. Despite popular perceptions, bonsai trees actually do not take much maintenance.

There are a few varieties for you to choose from, and when you are picking a bonsai tree, you should be sure that you are doing so based on the climate zone that the plant prefers. Maple and juniper are among the varieties of temperate-climate bonsai trees. These plants need to be kept outdoors. When it is freezing at night during the winter months, you can bring them in, but otherwise, they should stay outside. As the name suggests, they are best in temperate climates and really do not like really hot weather. They are not good for people who live in very hot areas.

Tropical and subtropical bonsai trees might really work, however. You should try them out if you live in warmer areas. These plants can be kept indoors, but they are better suited as outside plants. You should be sure that you water the plant everyday or every other day. They are very thirsty plants, and they need to have moist soil to do well all the time. You can touch the top of the soil daily (make it part of your gardening routine), or you can get a cute little terra cotta worm or butterfly. These little figures are made of terra cotta, which looks dry and dusty when it is dry but brightly colored when moist. It will soak up the moisture at about the same rate as the soil, so if your butterfly looks dusty, the bonsai needs water.

The watering is the only real daily maintenance required for the bonsai tree. If you find that yours is beginning to die, then you know that it probably is not getting enough water. You should keep it in a pot with holes on the bottom. Then you will be able to water it until the water drains from the bottom so that you know the soil is completely saturated. Do that everyday for a week or so and then begin a regular water maintenance program.

Bonsai trees cannot survive in strong sunlight, but they do need sun. You should put your bonsai tree in a southern-facing location so that it can get several hours of sunlight everyday. If you have to bring in the plant in the winter or if you are determined to keep it indoors, then you need to be sure that you use an artificial grow light so that it will get enough light even inside so that it can continue to grow.

Finally, you will have to prune your bonsai tree. Some people get overzealous with the pruning, and that can cause a problem. You basically need to create a fir tree shape when you first get your bonsai if it is not already in that shape for you. Then you should just get some small pruning clippers and clip the leaves by the stem whenever they begin to grow outside the shape you have set.

You can be as formal or informal as you would like with your bonsai plant. These plants work really well if you want to create a small hedge, such as around a little portion of your flower garden. Because they look like trees but are smaller, you can be very creative in their placement. They can make flowers look like giants, which can create a really neat effect if you are creative in your design patterns.

Working with a bonsai plant just takes a little time and patience. In the overall world of gardening, bonsai trees are pretty easy to care for. They require the basics: sunlight, water, and trimming. You should be able to start growing your bonsai tree even if you do not have much experience with gardening. You can even use it to experiment with your pruning efforts.

Try one out. You will be glad you did.

By Julia Mercer

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