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Bonsai growing comes from an ancient Chinese tradition of potting wild trees taken from the wild. This ancestral tradition became an art form which today counts many amateurs. But the art of bonsai requires a constant requirement, reserved for enthusiasts who will be able to show a lot of patience. Indeed, growing bonsai requires years of practice before being fully mastered. But with rigor and a few tips, you can offer yourself the pleasure of admiring bonsai trees at home. No reason to deny it! Before you start, get rid of the preconceived idea that the plants used in growing bonsai are special dwarf species. Indeed, cultivating a bonsai consists of growing a tree or a "normal" bush in a pot. Almost all tree species can do the job! Obviously, some small-leaved species lend themselves better to dwarfing than others. The concept ? The trees keep their small dimensions because they are pruned regularly, otherwise they would simply continue to grow until they no longer look like a bonsai, but an ordinary tree. Fragile due to nanification and the little earth available, these miniature trees carved by human hands require very specific care.
The different species of bonsai
Bonsai is a tree in its own right. Be careful not to consider it as a houseplant or a decorative object! Also it lives preferably in the garden or on the balcony except during very cold weather. It is preferable to choose species according to the climate in which we find ourselves and who can live outside all year round. When you choose your bonsai, you have the choice between tropical, semi-rustic or rustic species. The tropical species, which could be called indoor, require a temperature above 15 ° C throughout the year. They are therefore easier to keep inside homes in winter and would not survive a winter outside in our latitudes. To successfully grow a bonsai indoors, you need as much light as possible, in a room with little or no heat to avoid too low a humidity. The only place your indoor bonsai can live healthy is near a window. If these species stay indoors in winter, they must spend the summer in the garden or on the balcony, protected from the strong sun. Example: Chinese elm, cherry, serissa, hibiscus, Japanese camellia ... These species are particularly suitable if you stay in an apartment. The semi-rustic and rustic species, unlike tropical species, require a rest period (2-3 months): for this the temperature must be below 10-12 ° C. Ideally, bonsai should be placed in a cold greenhouse or in a place where the temperature will be around 5 ° C during the winter months. They will come out of their rest period if you put them at a temperature above 10-12 ° C for 10-15 days. Example: juniper, pine, boxwood, Japanese maple ... Note: it is much more difficult to grow an indoor bonsai than an outdoor bonsai. But more than the choice of the essence, the art of bonsai is mainly due to the implementation of complex techniques of pruning branches and roots, potting and watering.
Watering bonsai: no room for error!
In bonsai growing, watering is crucial. Water is the main nutrient the tree needs to live, and watering the bonsai does not suffer amateurism. The roots of the bonsai are fragile, an excess of water makes them rot and the opposite dries them. Watering should be done mainly by observing the needs of the tree. Also the first rule in terms of watering is that each bonsai must be checked every day (in the vegetative season) but should only be watered if necessary. It should never be routinely watered, so that the substrate is not constantly waterlogged, which suffocates the roots. The surface of the substrate should always start to dry between each watering. To know if it is necessary to water your bonsai, learn to "feel the soil" and scrape the top a little to feel if there is moisture in the mass of the root ball. The bonsai should be watered before the root ball is completely dry, but especially not when it is still very wet. We can say that watering is traditionally done every day in a limited quantity (beware, this is a theoretical frequency). We use the technique of "drenching" which consists of watering in fine rain over the plant. Water trickles over the leaves. But in case of severe dehydration, the pot is immersed in a basin of water until the outer rim is flush. When the water rises naturally in the pot, the bonsai can be removed from its bath and drained. If you use tap water, please decant it to help eliminate chlorine. And of course do not leave your bonsai tree without watering during your absences, in very dry and hot weather, two days without water can be fatal!
The size of the bonsai
Bonsai trees need to be pruned. This is what keeps them in the state of bonsai. A bonsai that is no longer pruned again becomes an ordinary tree. It's the technique to learn, once the basics of location and watering are understood and mastered. Two different techniques exist: maintenance pruning, to maintain and refine the existing shape of a bonsai, and structure pruning, which involves a more rigorous pruning to give the tree its basic shape or style. Bonsai care size The purpose of maintenance pruning is to maintain and refine the shape of a tree. The trees will concentrate more growth towards their apex and their periphery; it is important to trim these growth areas regularly to encourage inward growth of the tree. Maintenance pruning can be done throughout the growing period. You just have to cut the branches / shoots, the branches that have exceeded the desired dimensions of crown or shape. As soon as the new shoots have produced more than 5 to 6 leaves, reduce them to one or two leaves. This is what will promote branching, give density and nanify the leaves. Always stay as close to the trunk as possible to prevent the tree from ending up with large bare branches. If pruning is generally done using scissors, pines, conifers, must be pinched by hand. You have to grab the end of the shoot between your thumb and forefinger and gently pull it, the shoot will break at its weakest point. Bonsai structure size To give a tree its basic shape, you often have to prune large branches. A concave branch pliers is then used to cut dead, diseased, unsightly or superfluous branches at an angle. It is advisable to cover large wounds with a healing paste, a sealant that protects wounds from infections and helps the tree heal faster. Early spring and late fall are usually the best times to prune a tree (just before and after the growing season).
Potting and pruning of bonsai roots
To prevent the tree from becoming cramped in its pot, regular repotting is necessary in order to give space to the roots which will allow them to grow properly. Repotting renews the depleted substrate and removes excessively long roots. Unpotted trees eventually lose their vigor and perish. The frequency of repotting depends on the size of the container / pot and the species of tree. Most bonsai trees must be repotted every 2 or 3 years, or even every year. Mature, older trees only need it every 3 to 5 years. The best time to repot is early spring, when the buds are about to hatch. Do not repot in summer. The evaporation is too great, the tree will be too thirsty. In order to know if it is necessary to repot, it is necessary to lift and examine the root ball. If roots line the sides of the pot or if the root ball is lifted by the roots, you will need to repot. Then carefully remove the tree from its pot, when it is stuck in the pot, gently remove the substrate and untangle the roots a little. Shorten long roots: this will help the tree to develop a denser root system. With a pair of small special bonsai scissors, cut between a third and a half of the length of the small roots, especially without touching the large main roots so as not to injure them. Prepare the new pot by closing the hole with a small plastic mesh to prevent the earth from coming out, but also so that insects do not enter it. The new pot should be slightly larger than the previous one if the bonsai is young and still growing, or the same size if the bonsai is stabilized. Fill the pot with the substrate mixture to about 1 cm below the edge of the pot and finally generously water the tree.
The choice of substrate for its bonsai
It is vital to provide bonsai with a suitable substrate for each potting. Three fundamental elements combine inside a good substrate: water, air and the support material. A good substrate must fulfill the following functions: drainage, aeration, water and nutrient retention. A good substrate must be draining. Garden soil, fine soil and fine sand are to be avoided. To ensure good drainage, the "support material" must be composed of large grains (2 to 10 mm). Each grain of matter acts like a sponge absorbing the water that it can contain or that it can maintain on its surface. When watering, the coarse grain substrate retains only the amount of water that each grain of material can absorb, the rest is evacuated through the holes at the bottom of the pot, thanks to the ease of water circulation. There is thus no risk of stagnation of water damaging to the health of the bonsai roots. The substrate to be favored must preferably contain a high proportion of akadama (akadama is a clay soil of volcanic origin, coming from Japan). Some amateurs use it pure or in majority quantity and associated with pozzolan, pumice, round or crushed gravel, composted pine bark ... But the mixtures and the percentage of each of the components will depend on the climate and case. In a region where the rain is abundant, we will increase the percentage of gravels whereas if the climate is dry we will favor the proportion of pumice. Although the various tree species require mixtures of different substrates, two main mixes can be described, one for deciduous trees and the other for conifers. The two mixtures consist of akadama (to provide ventilation, drainage and average water retention), nutrient-rich soil (water retention) and gravel (drainage). Substrate for deciduous trees: 50% akadama, 25% organic potting soil, 25% gravel. Substrate for conifers / pines: 60% akadama, 10% organic potting soil, 30% gravel. It is preferable to choose a neutral, non-nutritive substrate in order to manage the fertilizer supply according to the needs of the tree.
Feed your bonsai
Bonsai trees need a lot of food and therefore need to be fertilized in order to supply the soil with nutrients again. The three basic elements of any fertilizer are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), each element fulfilling a different role. Nitrogen stimulates the growth of leaves and stems, phosphorus the growth of roots and potassium the growth of fruits and flowers. It is necessary to fertilize during the whole growing season of the tree, from the beginning of spring until mid-autumn but it is preferable to wait approximately 1 month before putting fertilizer on a tree which has just been repotted. The best is to provide regular intakes (approximately every 3 weeks) but in small quantities. video id = "0" / Our practical gardening videos