Q. Are all bonsai evergreens?
A. No. Bonsai literally means tree in a pot or tray. It does not refer to a specific type of plant material. Evergreens produce excellent bonsai material, as do many deciduous outdoor materials (materials which lose their leaves during winter), and subtropical and tropical materials (plants and trees that are suitable for indoor growth).
Q. My tree died, what went wrong?
A. Hopefully its winter, your tree is an outdoor tree, is outdoors and has just lost its leaves for the winter.
Failing that, what often looks like the ideal bonsai is not suitable for your particular growing conditions. For instance, if the tree was a conifer but was kept in a typically warm house, its ideal growing needs were not met. Even if it’s too cold for you outside, these plants need the chill of winter months. If you recently purchased an outdoor plant from a greenhouse, it’s quite likely that it was not readied or hardened for cold conditions. In this case the plant should be kept in a bright, cool (below 50F, if possible) room through the winter and should be brought outdoors after the final frost.
Your tree could’ve died for any number of reasons. Most likely it was an issue of improper care. Please see our care guide for more information on the care for your particular tree.
Q. My tree has wire on it, how long should it stay on?
A. We recommend that trees remain wrapped with wire until the wired branch or trunk can hold the bend that the wire was used to shape. In some cases small branches wired during the growing season (mid-spring to summer) only need wire for a few weeks.
Q. How often are bonsai repotted?
A. During the first 3 years the tree should be root pruned and repotted annually. When repotting use fresh bonsai soil and remove only enough root to get the tree comfortably back into its pot. We suggest that beginners remove no more than 1/4 of the roots during the first root pruning.
Q. My tree is loosing leaves. What’s wrong?
A. Have you moved your tree recently?
This often causes trees to shed older leaves while adjusting to new light sources. It is important to make sure that your tree receives the proper amount of light. If you’re not sure check the lighting conditions as outlined in our care guide. If you discover that the tree needs more light, either move the tree or supplement its light with an appropriate artificial light source. We recommend fluorescent, mercury vapor, and sodium lights. Incandescent lights have a limited spectrum and produce heat that can damage your plants when too close.
If young leaves are dropping, it is often indicative of a root problem.
In either case, we recommend that you back off on your watering schedule. As trees lose leaves they lose the ability to transpire (get rid of water), and don’t need as much water.
Q. How do I know when to water and how much should I water?
A. First, make sure you know the trees’ watering needs. For that, see our care guide and its watering requirements section, plants are listed as either moist, moderately moist, or dry.
A tree that likes moist soil should not dry much below the soil surface. Trees that prefer moderately moist conditions should be allowed to dry to at least the middle of the pot and can dry slightly below that. Trees that require dry soil should be allowed to dry to the bottom of the pot.
No one can say exactly how frequently your tree will need water. It is a living thing and its needs change throughout the year. During the short cloudy days of winter trees may not need as much water as they do during long sunny summer days. It also helps to remember that different soil mixes affect watering schedules.
Here’s an effective little trick. If you are unsure of a tree’s watering needs, take a toothpick or bamboo skewer and stick it into the soil, making sure that it touches the bottom of the pot and is located halfway between the base of the trunk and the edge of the pot. Leave the stick in the soil and check it before watering. The level of moisture on the stick will tell you how much water is in the pot.
Q. Should I mist?
A. Misting is fine. But only hit the foliage with a brief spritz, don’t drench it. Drenching the foliage will keep the topsoil too wet. If you’re misting because the indoor air is too dry, a cool mist vaporizer set on low can add extra moisture to dry air, benefiting you and your trees without soaking their foliage.
Q. I just bought a starter plant. Should I pot it as a bonsai today?
A. Whenever you purchase or move a plant, it’s best to give it two weeks of time to adjust to its new environment before repotting it as a bonsai. This also gives you some time to think about what you would like to do with it. If you buy the tree during the winter season it is usually best to wait until spring before repotting or doing anything that might traumatize your plant. It is best to repot in the spring when the tree is beginning its growth cycle. During its growth season the tree will root into its new soil and pot conditions faster. The tree can be trained, wired, and pruned in its growing pot. The growing pot and soil also ensure more growth in a shorter period of time. Bonsai soil mediums encourage slower growth habits.