Bonsai Basics

By Ruth Morgan

A bonsai is often given as a gift to someone with no previous experience of growing a bonsai tree. That frequently results in internet searches for ‘bonsai basics’.¬†Searching for information on how to care for a bonsai is much better than simply treating it as a houseplant and hoping for the best!

Remember that a bonsai is a ‘tree in a pot’. This is not its natural environment and so it needs special care if it is to survive.¬†Here are 2 important areas that you need to consider.

Firstly, if you want a healthy bonsai tree then it must have the right amount of water. It is a common mistake not to give the bonsai enough water and this is the main reason why bonsai trees don’t thrive or die. The amount of water required varies depending on the species, time of year, location and conditions. So do some research on your particular species.

During the spring, summer and autumn you should check your tree daily to see if it needs watering. One of the ways of doing this is to push your finger or a chopstick into the soil. Outdoor bonsai require less frequent watering in winter.

The best time to water is in the early evening – you will then avoid leaf scorch from the sun. There are various methods of watering but one way is to water from above using a fine rose or spray.

Japanese Akadama soil

Secondly, you must use the right type of soil. Your bonsai tree is totally dependent on the small amount of soil in its pot to provide all the moisture and nutrients that it needs to survive.

So ordinary garden soil or normal compost are not suitable. What the bonsai tree needs is soil that can hold enough moisture and nutrients to provide a steady supply to the roots.

Therefore, substances such as gravel, sand and granite are important components of bonsai soil. It is possible to buy bonsai soil ready for use or you can experiment with mixing your own.

For more information on how to look after your bonsai tree visit

Topics: Bonsai, bonsai care

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