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Basic Bonsai Care


Think about it, there are no such thing as indoor trees! Most “indoor  bonsai” are Tropical or frost tender. They need good light but direct sun through glass is too strong for many species. Some succulents can take full sun though. All plants will do much better if they are outdoors, once all frosts are past. In summer, water as the soil begins to dry out and keep almost dry in winter.

Feed fortnightly with any houseplant or garden fertiliser at the strength recommended on the box. Only repot when you have read up on the plants needs.

Trimming of most species can be done once new growth is extending, back to two leaves, to retain shape. If any part needs to be thickened or extended, let it grow. 


Keeping trees alive in pots is basically a matter of watering and feeding correctly. If you can do this with plants in containers you are half way there.

Read the articles on watering and feeding to get all the information you need to get started.

Repotting is necessary when the trees have become slightly pot bound. This depends on the size and age of the tree. It should only be undertaken at the correct time of year, which for most trees is in early spring. The soil mix should be gritty and free draining for most trees.

Bonsai is a much larger subject than it would appear from a superficial glance. It is an absorbing pastime and an art. Good bonsai requires three essential elements: vision, skill and patience.

There are so many species that exact care needs must be determined by reading up on them from specialist books. Read all the books you can, there is a huge selection available. Good UK authors include Dan Barton, Harry Tomlinson, Craig Coussins, Peter Adams, Colin Lewis and David Prescott. Overseas authors works also contain much valuable advice. Among the best, in my opinion, are Herb Gustafson, Deborah Koreshoff, Charles Ceronio, the late John Naka, and the late Yujii Yoshimura. Our book review section is here.

Most public libraries have a reasonable selection and can order others in for you. Some cut-price book stores also occasionally have real bargains from some of  these authors.

Join a club. This really is the fastest way to move forward. In North Wales there is only one club and it is based in St Asaph. The Vale Of Clwyd Bonsai Society meets in the Sports Centre on the first Sunday of every month between 6pm and 8pm. You are guaranteed a warm welcome with many enthusiasts discussing the techniques of the art. There is a monthly raffle, a large library and free refreshments.  If you are interested, please go. Your first meeting is free of charge.  

There are clubs in many areas. Some are listed on Federation of British Bonsai Societies site but not all clubs are members.

All Text, Diagrams & Photographs © Kevin Bailey 1998 - 2008