Bonsai trees, these miniature trees that look like they were hand-carved, are the ideal partners for any Zen or Asian-inspired decor. Contrary to what one might think, bonsai is not a species in itself, but a tree that is grown in a very small pot and whose branches and roots are pruned to the extreme to keep it small and to give it that twisted look. Although it requires some knowledge and a good level of care, bonsai cultivation is suitable for all types of gardeners, from beginners to the most experienced.
Indoor bonsai or outdoor bonsai?
Originally, bonsai were grown for outdoor use. It was only later that indoor versions were developed from tropical plants to fit our home environment. When making your choice, be well informed: outdoor bonsai can live in the house for a while, but like any tree, they need sun and a winter break at near-freezing temperatures. If you leave them indoors all the time, they will wither and die over time. Even indoor bonsai should ideally spend the summer outside. If that’s not possible, be sure to set them up in front of a very sunny window and move them to a cooler location in the winter to give them the rest they need.
The key to your success with bonsai trees is definitely watering. Since these trees are grown in very small containers and minimal potting soil, watering must be carefully monitored. Let the potting soil dry on the surface between waterings, but not too much. Check often, especially in summer when the plant is growing. You can spray the foliage to increase the humidity.
Lighting is also a determining factor in the quality of your bonsai. These plants need lots of light to thrive, even more so if you choose a species that flowers. If you can, turn your plant’s pot a quarter turn each week so that all sides get their fair share of sunlight.
You should also prune your bonsai for it to keep its shape. You need to prune regularly and don’t be afraid to do so: prune any overhanging shoots and branches. You can do this during the whole growing season. This is called maintenance pruning.
To have beautiful and healthy bonsai, both indoors and outdoors, you must be willing to invest some time. There are several bonsai enthusiast groups such as Groupe Bonsaï Québec and the Société de bonsaï et de penjing de Montréal that offer courses and training on the art of bonsai to begin growing bonsai or to perfect your knowledge in the matter. You will find everything you need to grow your bonsai at home.