How are Bonsai Trees Cultivated?

Jessica Ellis

Bonsai are carefully cultivated trees forced into miniaturization through pruning techniques. Originating from Japan, these beautiful trees give the impression of age, elegance, and careful design. Growing bonsai trees is a hobby requiring skill and patience, as the process is long and involved.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

A common misconception about bonsai trees is that they are dwarf or miniature varieties. In fact, almost any regular tree can be grown into a bonsai through proper cultivation. By raising the trees in small containers and pruning growth carefully, bonsai trees are kept quite small, rarely more than 3 ft (.9 m) in height.

Different species of bonsai trees will require different cultivation techniques. With most bonsai, careful watering is required. Many species require a continually damp soil covering, but overwatering can cause serious fungal infections and rotting. Proper watering technique takes time to develop, so don’t be surprised if you accidentally kill your first few trees.

Bonsai will need to be re-potted every few years, particularly if they are young trees. Re-potting encourages new root growth, allowing the tree to absorb water more efficiently and maintain a manageable size. As the tree matures, repotting becomes less necessary.

The fantastically twisted and interesting shapes of many bonsai trees are developed during the trees' maturation, before branches have solidified their shape. Using copper or aluminum wiring, branches are bound in the desired shape and anchored to the trunk of the tree or another stable surface. Sometimes, branches are also stripped of outer bark to give them an aged and weathered look.

Foliage and flowers on bonsai trees are carefully manicured to achieve desired looks. Like the Japanese flower arrangement system, ikebana, bonsai pruning strives to provide elegance and simplicity. Some species produce only green foliage, while others, like Chinese quince, display beautiful flowers and fruit. Again, learning how to properly prune your bonsai will take patience. Clip only a little at a time; you can always trim more, but it’s impossible to put branches back on the tree, so proceed with caution.

Bonsai trees are like living art; they make beautiful displays of both plant life and artistic sensibility. Many people find the cultivation of bonsai to be a relaxing and meditative hobby. To learn more about the care and cultivation of bonsai, check with local nurseries and garden supply stores to see if any classes or workshops are available for beginners. As the popularity of bonsai growing is extensive, training sessions are often easy to find in your local area and well worth going to for hands on experience and expertise.

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