How to care for a bonsai

Caring for a bonsai is within the reach of anyone who admires nature, who knows how to appreciate the satisfaction of shaping a tree by recreating landscapes, mountains and forests.

What is a Bonsai

If we translate the word literally from Japanese bonsai, means "tree that grows on a tray". But a tree doesn't grow on its own in a small pot. The different care you receive: irrigation, frequent subscriber, transplants and pruning, among others, permiten al bonsái “expresar en su totalidad la grandiosidad de los árboles que viven en la naturaleza”.

Where to put the bonsai

How to care for a bonsai - Where to put bonsai at home

Bonsai even if they are small, son “tan árboles como sus hermanos mayores”. If we understand this well, It will not be difficult for us to understand where we have to place them. The bonsai, They have to live where they receive the sun and the air, where they can receive the rain with joy and above all, where the humidity of the night reaches them well. A porch, balcony, garden or just a window, it will be the ideal place to place our bonsai. Naturally, high temperatures and strong summer sun or winter frosts can affect them.. When these extreme temperatures hit, the bonsai will appreciate that we protect them. But as soon as the moment of danger has passed, we will put the trees back where they live comfortably.

How to protect bonsai from the summer heat

Trees draw water from the ground through the roots and lead it through the trunk and branches to the leaves. The leaves evaporate a large amount of water. If the weather is dry and hot, the leaves evaporate even more water, similar to hanging clothes, which dries much faster on sunny and windy days. Although we do not stop watering them, if the heat is extremely strong, the leaves may evaporate more water than is reached through the roots. If this happens, we can have burns on the tips of the leaves, especially in trees with large and tender leaves. To prevent this from happening, we will protect the bonsai from the wind and the sun, simply leaving them in the semi-shade of a larger tree or plant.

How to protect bonsai from frost

When winter comes the temperatures drop. Bonsai slow down and prepare to endure the cold. If the temperatures are not extremely low, although at night it gets to freeze, most of our trees do not need any special protection. This does not apply to bonsai of tropical species, indoor calls, that although it does not freeze, they cannot withstand low temperatures. These trees of tropical origin, you have to protect them from the cold, placing them where frost does not reach, in a greenhouse or putting them indoors.

How to place bonsai inside the house

There are no indoor plants but indoor conditions that allow the cultivation of plants. Bonsai are no exception to the aforementioned rule. As we have seen, whenever possible, bonsai should be properly located outdoors. This does not prevent them from living, even for long periods of time indoors. However, indoors there are usually not the right conditions for the development of a tree, lack of light and humidity, what limits the life of bonsai.

The adaptation of a bonsai to the interior of a house, It will depend on the location meeting the following light and humidity conditions:

Light: the ideal place to place a bonsai at home is always very close to a large and well-lit window (no curtains). The maximum distance to the window will be approximately one and a half meters.

Humidity: the environment of the houses is generally too dry for the proper development of the trees. The best place to have bonsai indoors is a cool room, and we will place them away from heating appliances, fireplaces and appliances that give off heat such as television.

What species of bonsai are best suited to the interior

In general bonsai of tropical species (Ficus, Sageretia, Serisa, Carmona,etc.) better withstand indoor conditions. At the other end, conifers and deciduous trees (pins, junipers, beech, etc.) they resist poorly or do not resist indoor conditions.

How bonsai are watered

How to care for a bonsai - How bonsai are watered

Why you have to water a bonsai

The simple reason to water bonsai, it is because plants without water die. Plants that live in the field, reach with the roots to the water stored deep in the soil. Plants that live in a pot find no more water than there is in the pot, For this, all plants that live in pot and of course bonsai, require more or less frequent watering.

How often to water a bonsai

The only rule for watering is the following: Water only when the bonsai needs water. If we continuously water a bonsai, gets to drown. It's like they make us drink without thirst. When the surface of the potting soil begins to dry out, is when you have to water again. We will see that the earth takes on a paler hue, but the bonsai still shows no signs of wilting. Too, fingering the surface, we will find it dry. This is the ideal time to water a bonsai again. How the plant dries more in summer than in winter, more if it is in the sun than in the shade, it dries more if the wind hits it, etc., we cannot know exactly how often you will need water, because we don't know in advance, the environment in which its owner will place the bonsai. We cannot therefore, recomendar nunca “riéguelo cada día” o “riéguelo una vez a la semana”. The proper advice is: Learn to water only when the tree needs it”, which is when the potting soil begins to slightly dry out on top.

How to water a bonsai

When we see that the plant needs water, we must water thoroughly, which means "water until all the soil is completely soaked". To get this, a watering can with a rose with very fine holes is required, so that the water comes out smoothly.

How to water a bonsai

Bonsai are top watered for the first time, so that moisture opens the pores of the earth After a few minutes they are watered thoroughly again, until the water comes out of the drainage holes. The tray that accompanies the indoor bonsai serves so that the excess water does not drip on the furniture. After irrigation, this tray must not be filled with water. The level should not touch the holes in the pot. An always wet bonsai rots its roots.

There are bonsai, instead that, because they have a very pasty land, They cannot be watered well by this system as the water runs down the sides of the pot and does not penetrate well. They are the bonsai that come from China: Carmona, Sageretia, Ulmus, etc.

Watering a bonsai by immersion

So that the soil of these bonsai is well soaked we can put them in the plastic tray that accompanies the indoor bonsai, and leave them for about ten minutes. Bonsai that have inadvertently become dry and do not soak well should also be watered in this way. Never water with a spray that is used to remove dust and give moisture to the plants: NOT USED TO WATER. They only moisten the surface of the pot and the water does not reach the roots. summarizing: You have to water with an appropriate watering can or do it by immersion.

With what water to water a bonsai

The best irrigation water is rain or spring water, that is, the one that has little dissolved lime and few salts. Running water in cities usually contains chlorine to disinfect it, which is harmful to trees. Chlorine evaporates if water is allowed to stand in an open container. Instead, the lime remains in the water and is not removed. If the water is not very calcareous, the still water can be used with confidence. If we water with lime water, the bonsai will have to be transplanted more often and we must try not to wet the leaves too much with watering, since they get dirty with lime.

What is spraying a bonsai

Spraying is spraying bonsai leaves with water dispersed under pressure in the form of a fine rain.

Do you have to spray a bonsai?

Spraying a bonsai

Trees that live in the field often receive morning dew, what is an important vital source for plants, that absorb this water through the leaves. In the wild valleys of the mountains, the amounts of water collected by dew exceed those of water received by rain, which gives us an idea of ​​the importance of dew for these plants. Bonsai that live in cities, And let's not say those who spend long periods inside the houses, they hardly ever receive this dew. The bonsai that live in the houses, They do not receive rainwater either and the leaves are filled with dust. It is important then, to clean leaves from dust and to vitalize trees that live in dry environments, sprinkle the leaves from time to time.

When to spray a bonsai

If what we want is only to clean the leaves, with once a week we spray the plants, generally enough. If what we want is to revitalize a tired bonsai, it will be necessary to spray the leaves every day. The best time to spray is at sunset. Avoid spraying bonsai in full sun, at noon, for the harmful effects that can occur.

How to spray a bonsai

The plants must be sprayed with a sprayer or with a hose that has a rose that allows the water to be thrown like a very fine rain. You have to spray from top to bottom and from bottom to top, so that the water reaches all the leaves of the tree.

With what water to spray a bonsai

Rainwater and dewwater are clean waters, that do not have dissolved lime or other salts. The purer the water with which we spray, better will. The best water to spray will be rain or spring water that has few dissolved salts.. If we spray with water that has a lot of lime, instead of revitalizing the plants, what we will do is cover the pores with lime and white spots will remain on the leaves. Plants that have tough, shiny leaves will be the ones that will stain the most (Ficus, olives, naranjos,) For this type of bonsai if better water is not available, It will be convenient to soak the leaves only once a week to remove dust.

How to keep bonsai well watered when we are away from home

Frequent watering of bonsai can become a problem if we have to leave our usual home. If we have a large quantity of bonsai, there are numerous irrigation programmers on the market that regulate the frequency and duration of the same in our absence. If we only have few bonsai, it will be cheaper to buy an irrigation hydrobonsai. This is located under the pot, and dosing the water to the tree through a wick.

How are bonsai fertilized?

Why you have to pay bonsai

We all eat every day. Food is essential for life. Plants feed on the nutritive salts they extract from the soil. The bonsai, how they live in small pots, can consume all the nutrients in the earth. We have to replace the elements consumed by the plant through the subscriber.

When to pay bonsai

It is necessary to pay especially in the moments of strong growth of the plant, that is, in spring and late summer. To avoid excessive growth, unlike other crops, it is better to fertilize the bonsai more in autumn (end of summer) that during the spring.

How to pay bonsai

You have to pay the plant without surprises. It is much better to pay in small amounts but frequently, to do it in excess and from time to time. We do not have to wait, that the tree becomes weak and yellowish to return to fertilize.

What are the best bonsai fertilizers

There are two different types of fertilizer for bonsai: liquid and solid fertilizers.

Liquid manure for bonsai

Liquid manure dissolves in irrigation water, or it is applied with the vaporization water above the leaves.
Advantages of liquid manure: It's fast and clean, does not produce unpleasant odors and is easy to apply.
Precautions in the use of liquid fertilizer: NEVER EXCEED THE INDICATED DOSES.

Liquid fertilizer to care for a bonsai

Solid fertilizer for bonsai

Solid compost is placed on top of the soil in the pot, uniformly, avoiding that it is in direct contact with the trunk of the trees.
Advantages of solid compost: is long lasting, does not burn plants and greatly improves bonsai soil.

How to care for a bonsai - How are bonsai fertilized?

When not to pay a bonsai

We will not pay in winter, nor during periods of extreme summer heat. The same as us, that when we get sick we go to the doctor, and we do not pretend to cure ourselves by eating more, do not expect to recover sick bonsai by fertilizing them. First you have to see what the cause of the disease is and apply the appropriate treatment. The subscriber will be postponed for when the plant begins to recover. For the same reason, we will not pay for newly transplanted bonsai or those that have been inadvertently dried..

How to shape bonsai

There are three main techniques to improve the shape of bonsai: Pruning, the clamping and the wiring.

Pruning bonsai

Pruning a bonsai

Pruning is directing the formation of a tree. With pruning we will eliminate the defective branches (those that intersect) or unnecessary (those that come out in an unwanted area of ​​the trunk). The best time to prune is generally towards the end of winter, when trees are at rest and not as much sap comes out from pruning wounds. To prune we will use suitable concave cutting tools, that make clean cuts and easy healing. When pruning wounds are large, it will be convenient to cover them with sealing paste to ensure their perfect healing.

The pinching of the bonsai

We call pinching the trimming of the fine branches of bonsai. Unlike pruning, clamping is also carried out during the growing season of the trees. With the pinching we will be able to increase the density of the bonsai foliage, and decrease the size of its leaves. How trees have different growth modes, we will not clamp all the trees equally.

How to clamp broad evergreen bonsai

We will apply this technique to bonsai that do not lose their leaves in autumn such as Ficus, he olivo, the Sageretia, the Serissa, the Carmona,the orange tree, el Boj, etc.

How to clamp broad evergreen bonsai

How to Pinch Scaly Leaf Bonsai Conifers

In Junipers like the Sabine Women or the Junipers.

How to Pinch Scaly Leaf Bonsai Conifers

How to pinch single-year-old deciduous bonsai

We will apply to trees that lose their leaves in autumn, and that make a single strong bud in spring, such as Acer palmatum,Hague, etc.

How to pinch single-year-old deciduous bonsai

How to clamp bonsai pines

Pinus pentaphylla, etc.

How to clamp bonsai pines

How to clamp actively growing deciduous bonsai throughout the growing season

Technique to apply to bonsai that lose their leaves in autumn, but they do not stop growing from spring to late summer, like elm,the higuera, he pomegranate, he manzano, the Pyracantha, el Cotoneaster, he Ligustrum, etc.

How to clamp actively growing deciduous bonsai throughout the growing season

The bonsai wire

We use the wiring to correct the inclination of the branches. Wiring allows us to use branches that we would otherwise have to prune. In a way the wire substitutes the force of the weight of the branches, in the big trees of nature.

We will wind the wire around the branches and trunk, not too tight, so that the wire is not marked in the bark of the tree. It is convenient that there is a space between the wire and the branch where a sheet of paper passes. As the branches get thicker, due to its growth, we will remove the wire before it "sticks" into the bark.

The wire currently used is anodized aluminum wire, old copper color. It is an extremely flexible and resistant wire. The thickness of the wire depends on the force it has to exert to bend the branches, in general the thicknesses range from 0.5mm to 5 mm. The golden rule of fence is not to leave any sign of your passage in the bark.

How to transplant a bonsai

Why transplant a bonsai

The roots of all trees grow to find the water and nutrients that are so necessary for life. So that, when a tree grows in a pot, the roots grow until they occupy the entire limited space. At the same time, the earth wears out and loses the ability to provide the nutrients that the tree needs. When watering, we will notice that the water penetrates with more and more difficulty in the aged earth. If we lift the tree from the pot, we will see that the roots form a thick and tangled ball. This will then be the time to transplant.

When to transplant a bonsai

The favorable climate for transplanting, usually at the end of winter slumber, just before the tree begins its growth period.

How to transplant a bonsai

The first thing we must do is have the pot well prepared, tools and land that we are going to use, so as not to have to constantly interrupt the transplant in search of the lost tool.

Then we will lift the tree from the pot, we will remove the old earth untangling the roots helped by a kumade(small rake) and even the stream of water from a tap or hose.

Now we will trim about a third of the roots.

We replant the tree with new soil that we will make enter between the roots with the help of a stick, trying not to have "air pockets"

Water well, until the water runs clear from the holes in the bottom of the pot.

How to transplant a bonsai

What lands should be used to transplant a bonsai

Bonsai live well on grainy soils like Akadama (yellow japanese land, special for bonsai) mixed with drainage such as volcanic soil or river sand. The proportion varies by species, but in principle the standard mix is ​​usually equal parts drain and Akadama.

How often should a bonsai be transplanted

Frequency varies by species. In general, young bonsai grow more than mature bonsai, and need a more frequent transplant. The frequency of transplantation can vary greatly from the fruit trees that are generally transplanted annually, to conifers that can be transplanted every 4 a 6 years approximately.

These figures are indicative, since each tree must be observed individually to know when it needs transplantation.

What to watch out for after a transplant

A transplant at the right time does not pose a great difficulty for the tree. But until the roots start working again, we will protect it from the wind and the sun until it begins to sprout, spraying the leaves frequently.

Bonsai tools


There are many tools that a bonsai professional uses, but the basic tools to be able to work a bonsai with a minimum of comfort, son (from left to right in the picture):

  • Fine scissors: serves to pinch thin branches.
  • Thick scissors: used to prune medium branches.
  • Straight concave scissors: used to prune thick branches.
  • Emptying scissors: used to apply pruning cuts.

Phytosanitary products for bonsai

The basic phytosanitary will be those necessary for the treatment of pests or diseases in case they occur, vitamin supplements and liquid manure.

The bonsai pots

Bonsai pots are much flatter than those generally used in horticulture. The color and shape of these pots must harmonize with the shapes of the tree. Evergreens best enhance the darkness of their foliage, with the dark brown unglazed stoneware pots. The brightest foliage deciduous trees, or even better the fruit trees with showy blooms, better enhance their characteristics with enamel pots in discreet colors.

How to care for a bonsai according to the tree

Learn the specificities regarding the care to apply to the main species of bonsai trees.