General Care for our Bonsai Varieties

Chinese Elm

Chinese Elm Bonsai

If you are keeping your bonsai indoors, one of the most important things is ensuring that your Bonsai tree is getting enough light. In general, being placed in a south facing window will ensure that it is getting enough light for as long as possible during the day.

If your indoor space is lacking enough natural daylight then a grow light will be useful to ensure that your bonsai is getting enough light.

Some Bonsai are unable to cope with the higher temperatures and lower humidity inside your home. These trees are best kept outside all year round. In general, they need to be kept in an open bright part of your garden, patio or balcony. During summer, they may need to be placed in a spot with some afternoon shade if it’s particularly hot. This will help to avoid leaf burn. In Winter, wrapping the plant pot with fleece or with bubble wrap will protect the roots from freezing. Some species may benefit from being brought into an unheated greenhouse (or unheated conservatory) to protect it from the coldest temperatures. If temperatures are dropping below freezing, then avoid overwatering beforehand.

Chinese Myrtle

Chinese Myrtle Bonsai

Myrtles like long hot summers with a higher rainfall. To emulate its natural environment, place it in a sunny spot in the garden or in a south facing window if indoors. (Make sure it’s away from radiators!) Protect the plant by placing it in a semi shaded spot if there is a long stretch of scorching heat (to avoid leaf burn). If they have a warm and sunny summer then they may blossom.

The myrtle’s roots should remain constantly moist (water daily in the heat to avoid it drying out Bring in over the colder months as this tree is very averse to frost! Over Winter, the tree needs to be in a sunny south facing window. If you don’t have anywhere in the house with enough light then consider using a grow light to help it out during the cold and dark months.

Mandarin Tree

Mandarin Bonsai Tree

Mandarin trees are great for beginners! They have a lovely green leafed canopy that grows quickly which makes for great trimming practice and allows for lots of artistic influence in shaping and training. They like full or partial sunlight, but watch out for leaf burn on scorching hot days!

They can be kept outdoors or indoors provided there is lots of light. Like other vigorous growing bonsai trees, they like a bit more feed over the growing season and like to be left without for the dormant season. Be a bit more generous with the bonsai feed or fertiliser for this hungry plant. Check the plant’s soil daily before watering. If the soil feels moist then don’t water. If the soil is firm and you can’t easily feel the moisture then soak the soil with water and allow the excess to drain. Remember, to allow the soil to dry slightly again between watering to avoid root rot.

The Golden Larch

Golden Larch Bonsai Tree

Although this tree is in the Larch group, it is not a true larch as it is deciduous. The golden larch’s foliage turns a vivacious golden colour in Autumn before the leaves start to fall. They are native to cool temperate climates so are an outdoor only plant! The Golden Larch is pretty frost hardy, however, as a bonsai you need to make sure that the pot, soil and roots don’t freeze. Bring it into a greenhouse or wrap with fleece or bubble wrap in the winter to prevent this from happening. Avoid keeping it in an area that is exposed to too much wind. You can avoid sun-scorch or leaf burn in the heat of summer by placing it in the shade of another larger tree in the outdoor space.

Water every day from April through to October and on hotter days water twice daily. Like other plants, in very hot weather you need to water outdoor Bonsai in the early morning and late evening. Humidity trays can help in the summer to avoid the tree drying out too much. Golden Larch are not drought tolerant.

If repotting make sure you give time for the roots to establish themselves in the soil or media before giving any bonsai feed or fertiliser. Fertilise the tree from April to July. Shaping and pruning the tree should happen in Spring when the buds are about to sprout. When shaping, raffia should be used with the wire on thicker branches to avoid any damage to the bark.

Dawn Redwood

Dwan Redwood Bonsai Tree

As an outdoor bonsai, the Dawn Redwood must stand outside all year round. A full sunny location is well suited. In midsummer a semi-shade location is advantageous as the Dawn Redwood needs a lot of water. Check soil and water daily (except when expecting frost or freezing temperatures). Place in a bright and cold place in winter. Bring into a greenhouse in the cold of Winter or protect the roots and pot by wrapping in fleece or bubble wrap. Fertilise in springtime only, however, avoid fertilising for a few weeks following a repotting session. This will give time for healthy roots to establish first.

Pepper Tree

Japanese Pepper Tree

The pepper tree has a more circular waxy leaf so is more tolerant to leaf scorch in summer than some other bonsai. When the leaves are bruised or while pruning, a beautiful spiced peppery aroma is given off from the oils in the leaves. Like most indoor bonsai, the tree should not be kept too wet or too dry. When the surface of the soil is dry and firm to touch, you can give it a good soaking, allow it to drain, then make sure you give the soil enough time to dry out so that it’s firm to touch again. In the heat of summer, the soil could dry and need watering every day, so it’s important to keep checking! In the Winter, this plant might only need watering once or twice a week. The pepper tree is not one of the most vigerous growing plants so puning can be done less often than varieties like Chinese Elm or Myrtle.

White Pine / Juniper

henoki cypress Bonsai Tree

These are beautiful rugged looking trees with bundles of character. They like to be outdoors all year round as they thrive off a good eight hours of direct sunlight a day and don’t like the dry humidity of houses indoors. Junipers are particularly hardy and frost tolerant plants, but may need a little help in extreme winter cold temperatures as they are stuck in a pot and are not protected by being underground. Give them a fleece or bubble wrap blanket around the pot to prevent the soil from freezing the coldest points of winter. Try to avoid giving them a good watering before you know it’s going to go below freezing.

During the growing season, sufficient watering of white pine (or juniper) bonsai is required, but the soil should not be constantly wet. Good bonsai media with a permeable substrate will stop the soil from becoming waterlogged. The soil needs to dry slightly between watering to avoid root rot and to allow the roots to uptake oxygen. In winter, the White pine should be kept rather a bit more dry. In springtime, they will benefit from some bonsai feed or fertiliser, but avoid doing this for a few weeks after repotting.

Wiring is best during the winter months. If older branches are being wired then it may be better to use raffia to avoid wire marks or bruising in the bark. For pruning needle leaved junipers, find the shortest length of candles (new needle growth) on the bonsai tree. Pinch out all of the new candle growth on the other branches to the same length. Each branch should split into no more than two branches at any one point. If there is three or four branch bifurcation at any point then remove the excess branches.

Banyan Fig

Banyan Fig Bonsai Tree

Ficus works well as an indoor bonsai within a UK climate as they do not endure cold or frosty conditions. They prefer lots of light, so make sure that it is in a very sunny spot within the house, but away from any heat sources, such as radiators. They are relatively tolerant to the drier humidity indoors due to their waxy leaves. If the leaves and trunk are misted daily however, they will thrive and should begin to push out aerial roots. Remember that misting is not a replacement for watering, so the soil moisture should be checked daily too. The soil likes to be a bit more on the moist side with this bonsai due to its tropical native climate.

But, as with most plants you need to allow the solid to dry slightly to allow the roots to take up oxygen and keep healthy. It will not tolerate being waterlogged for long periods. Fertilise using a liquid bonsai fertiliser or a solid feed twice a month during the summer and only once a month if it is still growing in the winter. To prune the Fig bonsai, cut back the leaves to a maximum of the first two leaves on the branch. You may want to leave some branches slightly longer depending on the shape that you desire. Only re-pot your Fig bonsai in spring, every two to three years depending on size and age.

Buddhist Pine

Buddhist Pine Bonsai Tree

The Podocarpus or Buddhist Pine can be kept indoors all year round, as its frost averse and is native to a warmer climate. Don’t use the tap to water this bonsai if you are located in an area that has hard water. In this case you would do better to feed your bonsai rain water. Use a liquid fertiliser weekly in the growing season then once monthly in the winter while indoors. For pruning, let the new shoots grow to roughly 10cm, then cut the stems back without cutting the leaves (Any cut leaves will dye back and look unsightly!).

When wiring, take care not to crush any leaves and allow the newer shoots to harden slightly before wiring. Re-pot this bonsai every 2-5 years depending on the age of the tree. The older the tree the less often you need to re-pot. They also prefer slightly acidic soil with good drainage.

Fukien Tea Tree

Fukien Tea Tree Bonsai Tree

The Fukien Tea Tree or Carmona Bonsai should be kept indoors with the exception of warm summer days over 20 degrees celsius. They like the warmth of indoors but may benefit from sitting in a good humidity tray full of small stones and water just beneath the top of the stones. Tea trees also benefit from lots of sunlight for long hours, this can be a little more difficult in winter with our shorter daylight hours, so grow lights can help to improve growth and plant health over winter. Checking the soil daily to ensure that this Bonsai doesn’t dry out is a must. The Tea Tree doesn’t like to dry out, but also doesn’t like to be standing in water. Little and often is the key!

When fertilising, a solid feed works best as this causes less damage to the sensitive roots. Fertilise from Spring to Autumn.

This Bonsai tolerates regular pruning throughout the growing season and will produce thick foliage pads when regularly trimmed. Thicker, older branches snap easily, so bear this in mind when wiring. Re-pot this bonsai every two years in springtime and be a little more reserved when cutting the roots back than with other bonsai. Be mindful to clean all tools before pruning or cutting this plant to avoid disease or die back. Like the Buddhist Pine, this tree doesn’t like hard water, so if you are in a hard water area, try to use rain water where possible instead.

Satsuki Azalea

Satsuki Azalea Bonsai Tree

The Azalea is a flowering bonsai that usually blossoms between late April and June. The flowers can last up to 6 weeks provided the plant is kept in semi shade away from intense summer sunshine and is not subjected to heavy rainfall or excessive watering over the flowers. They can be kept outdoors or indoors during summer in full sunlight except on especially hot days. They will thrive outdoors, however they need to be protected from frost in cooler conditions. If kept indoors then ensure that it is placed in a cool and sunny spot away from any heated radiators in winter.

Azaleas prefer slightly acidic soil so try not to use tap water if you have hard water in your area (try to use rain water or filtered water instead). Wait until the surface of the soil becomes firm to touch before giving it a thorough soaking, allow the water to drain away then wait until the soil becomes firm to touch again before repeating. Use Bonsai feed during the growing season, but stop fertilising when blossoms are coming. The bonsai feed only promotes foliage growth, so feeding may reduce the number of flowers and affect the lifespan of the blossoms.

These Bonsai require less frequent pruning than other more vigorously growing species. The Azalea tends to have stronger branches and more foliage at the base of the plant than on the top. To balance this, prune more rigorously at the bottom than above. The best time to prune is after the flowers have fallen. The buds of the flowers for next year will begin to develop in Autumn. Hard pruning just after the plant has finished flowering will encourage more flowers to bloom next year. If the plant has been pruned too late in the season then there may be little or no flowers the following year. Once the flowers have wilted, deadhead just below the base of the flower.

Repotting this Bonsai is best in spring or after flowering and should happen every two years.

Japanese Holly

Japanese Holly Bonsai Tree

The Japanese Holly is a small leafed hardy plant that can do well outside all year round. It will however need protecting from harsh wind in the winter and from freezing temperatures. An unheated greenhouse or cold porch with lots of light over the harsher winter months will protect the bonsai from harsh Winter conditions. When watering, give the plant a good soaking when the surface of the soil or media starts to dry to touch. Fertilise once a week during the growing season with a liquid fertiliser or use solid fertiliser monthly.

Wiring and pruning is best from April to early August to allow the flowers to bloom later on in the season. Repotting and root pruning is recommended every two years around March when the buds are just about to open.

Deshojo and Nomura Maple

Deshojo Maple Bonsai Tree

The Deshojo and the Nomura Maple both do well in an outdoor light location. During full summer sun they may require moving to a semi shaded area to avoid leaf burn. They are very frost hardy as bonsai but would benefit from a frost jacket or bringing into a greenhouse when Winter temperatures drop below minus ten degrees celsius.

Keep the plant well watered during the growing season and try to use rainwater if you are situated in a hard water area. They need to be kept well watered during the summer growing season. Fertilise during the growing season with a granular fertiliser.

Pruning younger growth can be done all year, however larger branches should be cut in summer or Autumn. Partial leaf pruning can be done during the growing season. This involves removing the leaf between the top of the leaf stem and the bottom of the leaf to encourage a bigger flush of smaller leaves.