Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Advanced Tools for Create and Maintenance Bonsai

As your trees become heavier and thicker and you work on larger material, your skills will become more advanced and you will want to add to your tools collection. Heavier pruners and shears will allow you to make cleaner cuts and will not tear at the plant. A clean cut not only looks better, but makes for a healthier tree. As you begin to use heavier wire, heavier wire cutters will also be needed.

Advanced Tools for Bonsai

Also available are various sizes of branch benders, or levers, which are used when a large trunk or branch, in addition to being wired, must have additional pressure to bend it slowly into different position. Actually the bender works as a combination vise-lever, moving the branch or trunk until it attains the desired placement.
Bonsai lever is for bending branches and is the unlimited lever for controlling difficult branch movements.

Bonsai Branch Bender/ Lever
Bonsai Branch Bender/ Lever

Another tool to consider is a folding saw, which is useful for removing a large branch close to the trunk. The folding saw is also good for working on a heavy root system. Saws of several sizes are a must when you collect trees.

Bonsai Folding Saw
Bonsai Folding Saw
Saws are a must for most root pruning.  Regular root pruning is as necessary to bonsai as regular pruning of branches and foliage.  The main advantage to using a saw instead of your shears is two-fold.  First, using your bonsai shears to cut into the root ball would damage their fine cutting edge.  Second, when using a saw there are not two metal blades coming into contact with one another to sever a root.  We recommend a Japanese style bonsai saw which cuts on the pull strokes. Cutting on the pull stroke prevents the blade from bending, reduces binding and improves smoothness of the cut.

There are many more types of tools needed for the creation and maintenance of your bonsai. But as a bonsai beginner, you only need basic tools as described in Introduction Tools for Creating Bonsai.

The bigger your bonsai, and more expert you are in the bonsai-making techniques, tools that you need increasingly both in number and size, for example bonsai brooms to help keep everything neat and tidy.  You can clean and brush away dead leaves and other debris and even smooth out top soil on your bonsai.  Also very good for keeping your work area clean.

Another tools like digging tools, sharpening device, trunk splitters, turntables, watering devices, graving tools etc. Do not worry you will have to buy it once, you can buy it one by one according to the needs and growth of your bonsai.

Bonsai Trunk Splitter
Bonsai Trunk Splitter
How to Care Your Bonsai Tools?
Taking good care of your tools is an important part of successful bonsai growing. Do not use your bonsai tools for anything other than working on trees. Keep an old pair of scissors on hand for cutting screen and other chores.

Your bonsai tools will come in contact with sap and moisture during their use, causing corrosion. Remove the sap with a cleaner such as turpentine after every use, then wipe them with an oiled cloth and store them in a dry place. With proper maintenance, your bonsai tools will give you years of reliable use.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bonsai Variation: Forest and Groves

Your bonsai experiments do not have to be limited to single plants. Multiple planting is a creative and fun way to utilize inexpensive materials. In this site, multiple plantings are referred to as forests and groves.

Forest and Groves

Forests and groves basically differ in the number of trees used. A forest utilizes many trees, so many that the actual number is not important. A grove usually has a few as three trees, or as many as eleven, but always an uneven number. This is because an uneven number of trees is easier to position in a natural way. An even number, on the other hand, often looks as if the trees were line up by man, not created by nature. In a grove the eye is able to discern the approximate number of trees, which should all be of the same species.

Bonsai Variations: Forest and Groves
Bonsai Variations: Forest and Groves
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When you are selecting material for a multiple planting, you can use smaller, less expensive trees. However, your dominant tree, the one on which the planting is centered, should be chosen with great care. This tree should have the thickest trunk and the best branch arrangement. The other trees need not be perfect, and probably would not be good enough to make a single bonsai.

Look for trees with different heights and trees with trunks of different thickness. If the trees heights are too similar adjust them by pruning. The variation in the thickness of the trunks enables you to create perspective. Though trunks can vary in thickness, they should all be of the same line, that is, all straight or all slanted in the same direction. If some of the trunks need wiring to conform to the line, wire them before planting.

Design Your Landscape
Before you plant your landscape, arrange and rearrange the trees until you are satisfied with the overall design. Create this design by giving the most prominent place to your dominant tree. For a more natural arrangement, avoid placing the dominant tree in the center of the container. Position the other trees so their trunks are visible. Do not place one tree directly behind another, and do not plant trees where their trunks might cross in front of another’s.

The strongest branching should occur on outside trees and, of course, at the tops of tree. The design of a multiple planting is created by the line formed by the outside trees and treetops, as though the entire planting were a single tree. It is important to remember that the foliage on the top of trees in a forest shades the rest of the branches. You do not see as many branches on the trunks of old trees growing together. To create a similar effect in a multiple planting you may want to cut back inner branches.

Containers used in forest plantings are necessarily large, to allow for the numerous trees and also to create un-planted land area. As these containers hold more soil than a regular bonsai container does, you should check different areas of the container to determine if the trees need to be watered.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Variations in Watering Bonsai

The origin of the plant is a clue to its water needs. Obviously plants from a rain forest have different water needs than plants from a desert. Also, plants water needs change with the temperature. The warmer the air, the more water a plants needs. When air is cool, plants requires less water. In cool, damp weather, do not over-water, especially during dark, rainy spells. Plants also have different water needs at different growth stages.

watering bonsai
Watering Bonsai

Factors That Affect Watering Bonsai

Dormant plants should be watered less, but even dormant plants need enough water to keep the root ball from drying out. During active growth plants use more food and water and need to be watched more closely. Plants setting flower buds need more water, less when the flowers open. Finally, plants change with age, older trees grow more slowly.

Junipers and pines require dryness between watering wherever they are – in the ground, in a nursery, or in a bonsai container. The important difference is that a juniper in a container does not have extra soil to act as a buffer if the tree does not receive water on time. You must water it at the first sign of dryness.

Moss used as ground cover is another factor affecting watering. When moss covers the soil, the soil is not exposed to the air and does not dry out as quickly. Moss often feels dry when the soil is not. Pick up a corner of the moss to feel the soil before watering. Water if the soil is dry, but not if only the moss is dry.

A newly potted bonsai, one with new soil around the root ball, will dry out more slowly than when it was root bound. With bonsai in need of re-potting, the roots fill the pot. There is no extra soil around the roots, and the tree requires more and more water. When you notice a plant needing more water, you should root prune and re-pot the plant.

Signs Between Dryness and Over Watering

Over-watering, this causes roots to rot, can be a long, slow process. The decline of the tree is gradual and often not visible for a long time. One sign of too much watering is large weak growth. And large weak growth is also caused by too little light.

Another sign of over watering is dry foliage that appears over a long period. Because the foliage feels dry, you may think it is due to lack of water. However, the key is that the dryness has occurred over an extend period, usually because of the slow rotting of roots.

Trees are harmed less by a little dryness than from too much water, but be careful that your plants do not dry up. At times total drying out occurs, and the tree is lost. Other times the drying out is partial, only the foliage is lost, and you may be able to save the tree. Foliage approaching the danger stage of being too dry appears dull and has lost its shine. This is most obvious with serissas and azaleas. Bonsai in this condition should be misted, watered a little, and then given a complete watering several hours later.

If foliage is limp, check the condition of the soil. If the soil is wet, the problem is over-watering. If the soil is dry, water and mist the plant the same way you would dull foliage.


Friday, October 19, 2012

How to Use Artificial Light for Bonsai

In areas where outdoor bonsai are in storage from late fall to early spring, growing indoor bonsai has become more common. Artificial lighting can give your trees light during the winter, but taking plants indoors presents special problems. Heating outlets are sometimes located directly under windows, creating drafts of hot air that dry trees out. Incandescent bulbs also give off too much heat, which means you cannot place trees too close to those types of lighting.

What is the Best Artificial Light for Your Bonsai?

Fluorescent tubes, the coolest lighting available, are your best indoor light source. They are readily available and are also the least expensive to operate. Plants utilize the same rays from fluorescent tubes that they do from the sun. In terms of the color spectrum, the blue rays keep plants healthy and compact, and the red and the far red rays promote flowering.

artificial light for bonsai trees
Artificial Light for Bonsai Trees
image source:

There are several lengths of fluorescent tubes available, with the four-foot and eight-foot models being especially popular. All tubes lose a great deal of light output over time and need to be changed every year. Prices vary greatly. Some fluorescent “plant tubes” are expensive and do little more for plants than cool white (fluorescent) or a combination of cool white and warm white. If space is available, use two four-foot tube fixtures and a reflector.

The Best Intensity with Artificial Light

The light intensity drops off greatly two to three inches from each end of tube, no matter what kind of tube you use. With artificial light, there are no dark, gray days; instead, everyday is the fourth of July and it’s always noon. Artificial light allows you to do the following:
  1. Provide strong, consistent light
  2. Control the length of the day, and thus the flowering of trees by providing longer days.
  3. Set up trays under the lights, thus making watering easier. This is especially true if there is a bed of stones in the bottom of the tray for excess water to drain into. The bottom of the bonsai container must be kept dry.
  4. Set the tree on an upturned pot to keep it above the water. This arrangement creates a more humid area, a great benefit to trees.
  5. Group trees, thus making them easier to care for.
Place trees so their tops are six to eight inches from the fluorescent tube. If the new growth is overly large or leggy, consider placing the trees closer to the tube or lengthening the hours of light. Ten to twelve hours is a good starting point that should keep your trees healthy and compact. If flowering does not occurs, increase light time by several hours. As consistency of the light is important, consider purchasing a timer to turn lights on and off.

Bonsai growing under artificial light go into dormancy, but in most cases the dormancy is unnoticeable. Remember that for trees growing under lights, every day is a sunny day. Such trees often require more water than trees on a windowsill. Watch for new growth, a sign of an active tree. If plants are actively growing, they may need fertilizer.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Adjustment Periods of Bonsai to Light Change

When trees recently root pruned are returned to normal light after a period of recuperation, they need a period of adjustment. Also needing adjustment time are newly purchased bonsai being introduced to a different environment.

Indoor Bonsai Moved to Outdoor

Indoor bonsai that are moved outdoors should be acclimated to stronger light slowly. Once they are outdoors, gradually move them from shade into partial sun, and, if the species requires it, into full sun, until the desired amount of light is reached. Trees outdoors, receiving more light and moving air around them, dry out faster than plants indoors. Check for water daily, twice a day in hot weather. When preparing to bring trees back indoors, move them into less sun for two or three weeks to give them a period to acclimate to less light.

adjustment periods of bonsai to light change
Bonsai and Light Change
image source:
Indoor bonsai do not usually have the problem of too much light, however, if the sun is too strong, the leaves will burn, becoming scorched across the middle of their surface. These leaves will lose their rich green (a color not to be mistaken for the vigorous light green color of new growth). From too much light the foliage will press down, as though pushing away from light and heat.

Outdoor Move to Inside

The move inside will be less stressful to your tree if you keep in mind you are changing its environment. For one thing, the light indoors is never as intense as that outdoors. With the changes in light, temperature, and humidity, the trees’ water needs will also change. Do not water automatically; instead, check the soil to be sure the tree is ready for water. Also, to increase humidity begin misting on daily basis.

To allow the best light to reach all parts of the tree, turn your bonsai at least once a month. Turning is especially important when you grow plants indoors on a window sill.

Once you move a tree inside, decide the best location for the tree, then leave it there; do not move the tree from spot to spot or it will never adjust. Bonsai like serissa foetida will have a few yellow leaves whenever you change its position, whatever light it is in. Just let it adjust to its new setting. Other species too may have a few yellow leaves for one or two weeks. This is normal, but you should always remove discolored foliage, so you will know if and when discoloration stops.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Basic Point for Bonsai Care

An important consideration in selecting bonsai is that species vary the amount of attention they require. Still, whichever species you choose means a commitment of your time. If you can not envision checking and watering your plants regularly, then the joy of bonsai may not be for you. But taking care of bonsai is not all that difficult. By paying attention to five important points – light, soil, water, temperature, and humidity, pests and insects  – you should be able to meet the environmental needs of most plants.

Light for the Bonsai

Light is the most important factor governing you trees’ health. Photosynthesis proceeds at the appropriate rate if your trees is in the amount of light proper for the species of plant. Too little light will slow down the rate of photosynthesis. The lack of nutrients will damage the tree’s health, affecting production of new growth as well as the nourishment of existing foliage. New growth will be weak and elongated, with greater space between the leaf nodes. The foliage will become larger, as the plant develops a larger leaf surface to trap more light. Trees is too little light use much less water than usual, another sign of poor lighting. Bonsai in too little light are easy over-watered, but not if you are checking the soil first and not simply pouring water into the soil by habit.

basic point of bonsai care
Basic Bonsai Care
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A problem that many beginners have is trying to use too many different soil types. Remember that growing four bonsai in four different or unknown types of soil calls for four times the amount of thought and care. It is easier to grow bonsai when you used a soil mix you are familiar with. Knowing which soil mixture your plant is potted in helps take some of the mystery (and some of the danger) out of bonsai.

Japanese bonsai masters believe it takes years to learn to water bonsai properly. Unfortunately your trees cannot wait years for you to learn this skill. And no one else will be able to give you a useful watering schedule. If you are given one, view it not as information but as misinformation. Still, watering is an art that can and must be learned because most plants are lost to over-watering  and many others dry out, usually because their pots are too shallow.


Some trees grow in all temperatures but others are much less tolerant. Your selection should be made according to your ability to provide temperatures needed by those species. This is especially important when you grow indoor bonsai during the winter. A sunny window is usually fine for subtropical and tropical material.

Humidity is an important factor in growing tropical bonsai indoors in the winter. In the northeast and other cold areas of the US, houses are extremely dry during winter months.

Pests and Insects
The same pests that harm other plants also harm bonsai. Avoiding pests is the best policy, since it is easier to prevent problems than to save plants infested with insects. If you develop an insect problem, segregate the tree. Wash the infested tree, then wrap the pot to the trunk level in aluminum foil or plastic, and spray the foliage with any kind of liquid soap and water. Seek further advice at your garden center.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Prepare the Container of Bonsai Tree

Prepare the container by covering the holes of the pot with piece of fiberglass screen about an inch larger than the holes. Next, put in a layer of small stones (about ¼” in diameter) to cover the bottom of the pot about 3/8” deep.  On top of this, place a layer of your prepared soil mix about the same dept.

Adjust The Container With The Bonsai

As a general guide, Juniperus procumbens nana looks best in brown terracotta containers that are oval or rectangular. The one-gallon nursery stock usually comes in a round growing container approximately 7 ¼ “tall and 6” wide. The bonsai pot you will put the raked-down tree in will be about 7” long, 5” wide and 2” deep.
bonsai containers
Bonsai Containers
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Most bonsai are designed to be asymmetrical. The tree will appear more natural if placed slightly back of the center and slightly to one side. Choose the side that allows the heavier foliage to be over the wider expanse of soil. If the longest branch of the tree is on the right side of the tree, place the tree slightly to the left side in the container. This position allows the tree to look balanced in the pot; otherwise, the tree will appear to be falling out of the pot.

How to Place the Plant in the Container?

After the tree is properly placed in the container, cover the root ball with the abundance of fresh, loose soil. Take your slightly sharpened bamboo chopstick and starting at the outer rim of the container, work the new soil gently under the root ball. Use the chopstick to fill in the soil around the root ball and to tamp new soil into the pot. While chopsticking, be sure to hold the trunk of the tree in the proper position so the tree doesn’t walk across the pot.

Chopsticking should be done with a light, quick touch. Each time you pull the chopstick out, the hole will fill with soil. Continue to work the soil gently under and around the root ball. After a few minutes you will feel resistance to the chopstick from the added soil. Continue until the root ball is covered and the tree sits securely in the container.

Proper chopsticking of the soil is important for a number of reasons. First, it provides new soil for the fine feeding roots to grab onto as they grow. Second, chopsticking eliminates air pockets that allow for water accumulation and eventual root rot. Third, chopsticking firms up and stabilizes the tree in the pot. When a tree trunk moves in the pot, the roots are torn and new roots are not allowed develop. Proper potting of the tree ensures its health and growth.

Place the potted tree in a deep tray or saucer, and pour in enough Superthrive solution to fill half of the pot. Make sure the water used in the solution is tepid. The tepid water will be absorbed by the soil through the drainage holed in the pot. You will know it has been absorbed when the top of the soil is moist and dark. Remove the pot from the tray and let the excess water drain.

Place the potted tree on the upturned nursery pot and lay collected moss on the moist soil. Use thin moss, piecing it together and firming it onto the soil with the spatula end of your tweezers. Roll the moss in along the edge of the pot so the moss complements the tree. In addition to making the tree look good, the moss prevents the soil from washing away when the tree is watered.

Now is the time to continue refining your design. At this point you must be sure that enough top growth has been removed to compensate for the amount of roots pruned.  At the same time it is important to leave enough foliage for the newly trimmed tree to photosynthesize and manufacture food.

Photosynthesis is the process by which a plant manufactures sugar and starches to nourish itself. The leaves of the plant, through their pores, take in carbon dioxide during daylight hours and give off oxygen at night. Sunlight falling on the green leaves of plants is absorbed by chlorophyll in the leaves, and water and carbon are converted into the sugar that feeds the plant. Photosynthesis is continuous as long as sunlight falls on the plant. Roots supply water and essential minerals. Transpiration is the process by which leaves give off excess moisture, it too occurs during daylight hours. The processes of photosynthesis and transpiration enable trees (and humans) to live.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Prepare Your Plants For Bonsai Tree

Juniperus procumbens nana lends itself to all styles of bonsai. Do not accept only the manner in which the tree has been grown at the nursery. Wiring allows you to wire a trunk into one of the upright styles, or to create a trunk in cascade, semi-cascade, or windswept style.

Take the tree out of the pot by gently tapping the bottom of the pot and sliding the tree out with the root ball intact. To avoid root damage, do not pull the tree out. Turn the empty pot over and place the root ball on the upturned pot. This allows you to look into the heart of the material. Make sure that enough of the trunk at the base of the soil is exposed. This can be done by removing the soil around the trunk with tweezers or gently with your fingers.

bonsai preparation
Bonsai Preparation

Where is The Best View of Your Bonsai

Turn the tree to view it on all side, so you can determine which is the best view of first the front, then the sides, and finally the back. Continue turning your tree, looking for the best view of the trunk. That view is where the trunk looks the strongest and gives you a feel for the overall design of the tree. The best view of the trunk will become the tree’s front. Place a marker in the root ball to remind you where the front is.

Now that you have determined the tree’s front, clear out all debris within the tree. Remove dead and broken branches, crossing branches, and branches growing inward toward the trunk. Remember that all growth should flow out from the trunk. Cut out young, thin branches growing below what you have chosen as your lowest, heaviest branch. Remove the same kind of growth if it obscures the view of the trunk. Also remove anything growing straight down or straight up from the main branches. Eliminating these signs of youth will expose the older wood.

Continuing this pruning will reveal the clear, clean lines of your chosen design. With the size and design of your tree decided, now give your attention to potting the tree before the roots dry out. Keep the roots moist by wrapping them, but pot the tree as soon as possible.

Rake Down the Soil from Plant

The next step is to rake down the soil from around the trunk and all sides of the root system, with a rake, chopstick, or tweezers. Do this with a gentle raking action, not by pulling and tearing at the root system. More soil should be loosened from the bottom of the root ball than from the sides, as the root system must be shallow enough to fit into a bonsai container. When one-third to one-half of the old soil is removed and many roots are exposed, it is time to root prune. When pruning roots, use sharp scissors and make clean cuts. Do not tear the root.

Remove heavy roots, especially those with few fibrous feeding roots. Also remove any corkscrew or wiry roots that will not allow the root ball to sit flat in the bonsai container. The inner root ball, directly under the trunk, should be compact, with many loose, fine roots all around. When placed in the container, the root should gently spread out on all sides to receive the new soil. When potting your tree, always use fresh soil mix and be sure to discard the used soil.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Selecting Plants to Start Making Bonsai

You should look for a tree or woody shrub with compact growth and small leaves or needles, characteristics that help improve the proportions of your overall design. Juniperus procumbens nana fits this description and is readily available. It is excellent plant to start with because it grows rapidly, making it a forgiving material for the novice. Its ability to send out new growth on hardwood is another useful characteristic. Because juniperus procumbens nana grows fast, it provides the opportunity to practice and learn the techniques of pinching and pruning.

How To Do Plant's Inspection

In the next posts i will lists the parts of a tree to be considered when you select stock plants. You should begin with the trunk, which should be thick. Gently move the foliage away so you can select a plant with the thick trunk. At the same time, make sure you choose a plant with a multitude of branches, as that will allow you more choices in designing the tree.
juniperus procumbens bonsai
Juniperus Procumbens Bonsai
image source:

Since the amount of roots pruned and the amount of foliage removed should be roughly equal, you should select the largest plant available to guarantee more than enough foliage to compensate for root pruning. Some branches will need to be pruned and others wired or pinched. Underneath all the mass of foliage, you will discover a tree that had not been visible in the nursery container. It is upon making this discovery that many people become hooked on bonsai. Another important lesson to be learned from beginning with mature plants is that you will realize all the time that is lost in waiting for cutting or small plants to grow large enough to work on.

Improve Your Ability About Bonsai

To try different styles of bonsai, buy two or three stock plants of the same species. Having to care for plants with the same horticultural needs is easier for bonsai beginners. Also, you will become more comfortable with the techniques of design by repeatedly using them on plants of the same species. Choosing several styles of the same species gives you the opportunity to improve your ability to find a tree in a stock plant.

If you live in a climate where winter temperatures are freezing and below, the trees that grow naturally in your area are outdoor bonsai. Their life cycle is based on a period of winter dormancy at temperatures natural to your areas. Many trees are lost because their owners do not understand the importance of outdoor wintering-over for those species that require it. Indoor bonsai, tropical trees that will not survive a freezing winter, are kept indoors for the winter months.

Understanding your tree’s needs is very important. Do not proceed without essential information about material you are interested in working on. In cold climates, where tropical’s will not survive the winter, the garden center will keep the min greenhouse. However, do not assume anything about the care of your trees. Ask!


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