Caring For and Identifying a Bonsai Tree

Japanese White Pine Bonsai Tree (Pinus parviflora) by Steve Greaves

TheGardenLady received this question about her Bonsai tree from Judy.

I just bought a Bonsai tree which has needles and not leaves and I am not sure what kind it is. How can I tell the type it is? Also I would like to know, when watering do I water at the soil or water from the top to get the needles wet?

There are so many evergreen trees (trees with needles) that are made into Bonsai trees that without a good clear photo of the needles, it is impossible to tell what type of tree you bought. TheGardenLady attempted to bonsai what is known as a red cedar tree but is really in the Juniperis family. It was used because it is supposedly an easy tree to learn how to make a bonsai. Yours might be a juniperis because it is also one of the cheaper evergreen trees.  See here.

Without seeing your Bonsai tree, no one can guess what kind of tree it is. Most stores selling trees usually tell you what type of tree it is. Also, the store should have given you instructions on the care, which includes watering of the tree. If this is a reliable store, you should go back to the store if possible to get the type of the tree and at least basic care information, including watering information.

If you were sold a true bonsai, you should treat it like a tree, not a plant because true bonsai are not really indoor houseplants. It should be kept outdoors all year round. TheGardenLady thinks this is a fairly difficult plant to maintain for a beginner. Most die because of improper care, especially improper watering.

Please read this link for information on the care of Bonsai. Evergreen Gardenworks tell you that when you water, the plants must be watered thoroughly when they become slightly dry. You must test the soil to see if it is dry by sticking your finger in the soil. Watering should be done from the top (of the soil), not by submerging the plant, and the bonsai should be watered until they are saturated. You will see water pour from the drain holes when they receive enough water. This method of watering helps to prevent salt buildup in the soil. Since you will be leaving the plant outdoors all year round, it will get some rain as well. In times of drought you may have to water more than once a day. You can bring the Bonsai tree indoors when you have company or to admire its beauty and then return it to the outdoors.

People who are really bonsai enthusiasts take care of them like babies, some even taking their bonsai trees on vacation with them to be sure that they get the proper care

How Much Light Does A Bonsai Tree Need?

Cotoneaster by OpenEye (on flickr)
Cotoneaster by OpenEye (on flickr)

If you bought a Bonsai  tree you might wonder, as one of my readers did, how much light it needs. The amount of light needed for aBonsai tree depends on the species. When you buy a Bonsai or create one, you should have directions on the amount of light it needs. If your bonsai flourishes better outdoors, pick a spot that provides six or more hours of sunlight. Though Juniper bonsai tree needs filtered or shaded light. You must allow your Juniper bonsai to get low intensity morning sunlight when possible and avoid the direct afternoon sunlight. Indoor bonsai need two to four hours of natural light near a  window, or artificial light.

Because Bonsai trees are artificially created, they need special care and you should ask a specialist to advise you on the care of your particular bonsai.

Chrysanthemum Bonsai in Japan

Bonsai bon·sai  n. pl. bonsai is the art of growing dwarfed, ornamentally shaped trees or shrubs in small shallow pots or trays. Bonsai appeared first in China over 1000 years ago but once bonsai was introduced into Japan in around the 12th century- some say earlier, the art was refined to an extent not yet approached in China. The word means means a tree planted in a container.  Read this for some history of bonsai.

While in Japan, TheGardenLady visited what is considered one of the 3 most beautiful gardens in Japan which is also one of the most famous gardens in Japan since the Edo Period-for over 300 years. This magnificent garden is called Korakuen and is in Okayama. Because it is Chrysanthemum time, the garden had an exhibit of Chrysanthemum Bonsai.

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Growing Plants in Containers


TheGardenLady received this question from Yoonsin Park:

I live in a condo with a small patio.  Due to that I can only have container plants.  I don’t want to get larger & larger containers as the plant grows.  I just want to get one container and the plant to retain itself in it.  What is the best way to do that?

Container growing is one of the hottest methods of having an outdoor garden. There are a profusion of books on the subject. lists 1514 books on container growing. One authority on the subject is Sydney Eddison whom TheGardenLady had the good fortune to hear lecture and see the slide show of her container garden.  Read this article by Eddison.

This summer at the Perennial Plant Conference at Swarthmore College I had the pleasure of hearing, seeing her slide show and meeting, briefly, Rita Randolph of Randolph’s Greenhouses in Jackson, Tennessee. Rita’s canvases are her containers which she sells; some you can  see on her website.

Continue reading “Growing Plants in Containers”