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Caring for your bonsai tree: A beginner’s guide

So you’ve got a new family member: baby bonsai tree. And boy, what a fusspot this little guy is! You have to feed it, make sure it gets enough sunlight – but also not too much, and give it regular pot changes. Taking care of the tiny temperamental shrub can be a really tough learning curve for bonsai parents, especially if it’s their first. If you need some help taking care of your bonsai tree, don’t be shy or embarrassed – everyone’s a beginner at some stage. So let’s explore the tips and tricks of bonsai care so your little tree can grow up to be big and strong (for a bonsai, that is).

bonsai tree

Watering your bonsai tree

How often you should water your bonsai tree depends on its size and species. But there are few general principles that apply to all bonsai trees when it comes to watering: 

1. Water it when its soil gets dry 

Press your finger about 1cm into the soil, and feel if it’s dry. If it’s dry 1cm down, but not deeper, don’t water the tree. If the dryness extends deeper than 1cm, give it some water. You shouldn’t water your bonsai tree if its soil has a lot of moisture still in it, and you should never let the soil dry out completely. In our hot and dry climate, many bonsai species need daily watering, but less so during the cold winter months. So be sure to adjust your watering routine accordingly!

2. Don’t rely on a watering routine 

It’s better to observe your bonsai tree individually and not water it according to a schedule. Once you get used to the needs of your bonsai, then you can set up a schedule.

3. Use the right soil mixture

The type of soil in your bonsai tree’s pot influences its need for water. We recommend a good-quality bonsai medium or potting soil rich in compost. If you can’t water your bonsai on a regular basis, choose a potting soil with a high concentration of akadama or potting compost as this will help it retain water. 

Fertilising your bonsai tree

It’s important to fertilise your little friend during the growing season (early spring to mid-autumn) to replenish the soil’s nutrient content. The nitrogen in fertilisers stimulates plant growth above the ground (leaf and stem). A phosphorus component encourages healthy root growth, and that of flowers and fruits. And the potassium boosts the overall health of the tree. If you’re looking for a bonsai tree fertiliser with these beneficial nutrients, try Pokon Bonsai Food. Its nutrient concentration is ideally balanced for healthy bonsai growth and maintenance.

Giving it some sun

Bonsai trees need direct sunlight, but not when it’s too harsh. We recommend a little morning sun or indirect sunlight for healthy growth. Just be sure to keep your bonsai tree out of the sun during the peak heat of the day, as it can dry the little thing out. 

Repotting your bonsai tree

Typically, you should repot your bonsai tree every two years, and in early springtime. Fast-growers might require repotting every year, while older trees usually only need it every fifth year or so. Again, it’s important to observe your tree individually to determine when you should repot it. Check to see if its roots are circling around the root system. If so, it’s time to repot. If the roots are still contained in the soil, leave it for another year.

Choosing the right soil 

Your bonsai tree needs good quality soil in order to grow properly. When choosing your potting soil, make sure it delivers on the following: 

1. Water retention

The soil needs to retain enough water to supply the tree between waterings.

2. Drainage 

Good quality soil will not only retain water adequately, but drain the excess too. You don’t want the root system to sit in a pool of water as it can cause the roots to rot. 

3. Aeration 

The potting soil should consist of large enough particles so that there are air pockets between them, allowing for aeration of the roots. 

bonsai tree

Are you a bonsai beginner?

Every first-time bonsai parent feels a bit of pressure growing their little bonsai tree. That’s normal, and it’s very common to make a few mistakes along the way. So don’t stress, enjoy this special time with your new family member, and build a bond that will last for years to come. 

If you need to stock up on pots for your fast-growing bonsai tree, we’ve got you covered. Explore our range.

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