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Starting a Bonsai

Updated on June 4, 2010

Bonsai Starter

 The supermarket can be a good place to buy bonsai starter material as long as we remember that the trees are being kept indoors, so, as soon as you see them on the shelf, make your selection and buy.

Photo steps

Typical Acer palmatum, Japanese Mountain Maple, this cost 3GBP from Tescos, all supermarkets have them but this was the first I saw.  It was a stroke of luck, it is either a twin-trunk, or, when the trees were potted, two were bunged in together.
Typical Acer palmatum, Japanese Mountain Maple, this cost 3GBP from Tescos, all supermarkets have them but this was the first I saw. It was a stroke of luck, it is either a twin-trunk, or, when the trees were potted, two were bunged in together.
This has exceptionally free compost, the roots are quite loose from the root-ball, normally, expect a tight, root-bound condition.  It is two trees, but I've decided to keep them together to create a mother and son bonsai.
This has exceptionally free compost, the roots are quite loose from the root-ball, normally, expect a tight, root-bound condition. It is two trees, but I've decided to keep them together to create a mother and son bonsai.
All the straggly roots trimmed and the top pruned, leaving plenty of buds to develop and choose.
All the straggly roots trimmed and the top pruned, leaving plenty of buds to develop and choose.
Compost, a mixture of John Innes potting compost, and natural aquarium gravel, 7:3
Compost, a mixture of John Innes potting compost, and natural aquarium gravel, 7:3
The tree in it's new home, a 5-inch half pot, it will be allowed to grow free until next spring, then it will be assessed, root and selective top pruning.  Maybe put into the ground for a couple of years, or just into a larger pot.
The tree in it's new home, a 5-inch half pot, it will be allowed to grow free until next spring, then it will be assessed, root and selective top pruning. Maybe put into the ground for a couple of years, or just into a larger pot.

Bonsai close

I will plan for next spring as the tree develops throughout this growing season; the important thing is to maintain a vigorous, healthy tree. Water in well and then keep evenly damp for the first month, protect from the sun during the hottest part of the day.

After the first month, if all seems well, give a general purpose feed once per week until the end of July then transfer to a low nitrogen feed until the first week in September

Do not bring indoors during the winter, it will need some protection, a sheltered area of the garden, the floor of an UNHEATED greenhouse, or just under the bonsai bench with a sheet of polythene draped over the front to protect from freezing wind.

Good growing

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    • MickS profile image
      Author

      MickS 5 years ago from March, Cambridgeshire, England

      Thanks for the visit and comment vespswolf

      best

      Mick

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      The photos and instructions are very helpful. I always wondered how bonsais are done. Thanks!

    • MickS profile image
      Author

      MickS 5 years ago from March, Cambridgeshire, England

      Thanks for the visit and comment Sherry. Most bonsai are killed by two things, incorrect watering and keeping them indoors. Remember that there is no such thing in nature as an indoor tree, in the cold weather, those that are tender will need some form of heated sheltter but they need water misted every day and plenty of light. I don't do much with my bobsai now as early last year I suffered a stroke, it's just a question of keeping them ticking over unttil I am well enough to continue.

      best

      Mick

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      How's your Bonsai tree doing now? I'd love to see an update. My husband tried to do this a couple of years ago, but he killed all of his trees.

    • profile image

      MickS 7 years ago

      thanks for the visit and comment William

      best

      Mick

    • profile image

      William Anderson 7 years ago

      I found www.bonsaitreeanswers.com which has some great info on this art...

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 7 years ago from Yorkshire

      Hi MickS

      thanks for the tip

      good luck

      Tony

    • MickS profile image
      Author

      MickS 7 years ago from March, Cambridgeshire, England

      Thanks for the visit and comment, Ann.

    • esatchel profile image

      PDGreenwell 7 years ago from Kentucky

      I remember my husband and I intended to start a bonsai the year we got married. Never got around to it. It would have been lovely by now, almost 23 years later! Ah well, no time like the present... Thanks for this Hub; I ook forward to the progress. Ann

    • MickS profile image
      Author

      MickS 7 years ago from March, Cambridgeshire, England

      Thanks for the visit and comment Tony.

      Are they growing in bonsai trays or patio tubs? With young cuttings, we can get away with being more vigorous with root pruning, as trees age, we need to be more careful, ensuring we leave a relatively large root-ball and just trimming the edges. Prune the branches after you prune the roots to give shape, and a balance between top and bottom, and to prevent bleeding in the branch cut ends.

      best

      Mick

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 7 years ago from Yorkshire

      very interesting article, I have a couple of Japanese maples that are now about twenty years old and doing really well, but i think they both need re-potting this year, i'll use some of your tips.

      cheers

    • MickS profile image
      Author

      MickS 7 years ago from March, Cambridgeshire, England

      Thanks for the visit and comment Silver P.

      If you think about it, no tree grows indoors. In a temperate climate we have to protect tropical and subtropical trees during the winter months. To grow efficiently, trees need to be out in the sun, wind, and rain. The safest, and easiest, tree to grow indoors is the Chinese Elm, Ulmus parvifolia, although I leave mine out all year around, even in this cold winter (UK). There are others, sargeretia and serrisa, but these need bottom heat when transplanting, and often, just in their growing.

      All trees grown indoors need plenty of light, but not on a sunny window sill, and will need water misting several times a day.

      best

      Mick

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 7 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      You said do not bring indoors? What types of bonsai trees would do well indoors?

    • MickS profile image
      Author

      MickS 7 years ago from March, Cambridgeshire, England

      Thanks for the visit and comment, Deb.

      best

      Mick

    • medor profile image

      medor 7 years ago from Michigan, USA

      Thanks for the very simple, yet precise instructions. I just moved into a home so I can begin gardening for the first time in a decade... always wanted to bonsai... or shape trees. so cool it is in my gardening information folder as i write...you rock MickS

    • MickS profile image
      Author

      MickS 8 years ago from March, Cambridgeshire, England

      Thanks Tony, I do believe that there are a number of bonsai societies in South Africa.

      best

      Mick

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 8 years ago from South Africa

      I've always wanted to get into bonsai but really have little knowledge. This will help me a lot.

      Thanks so much.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • MickS profile image
      Author

      MickS 8 years ago from March, Cambridgeshire, England

      Thanks Ethel,

      over feeding can cause coarse growth in 'finished' trees; however, at this stage we need heavy, development growth.

      best

      Mick

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Doesn't feeding make it grow too large? Interesting hub. Something else which I think I might have a go at.

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