deadwood bonsai tree trunk

6 Best Practices to master the Art of Bonsai

Do you think that growing a bonsai and shaping it as you desire is too much of a challenge for you? Follow these simple tips and see how easy it is to be a Zen master!

Beautifully shaped bonsai tree

Start from seed

In order to increase the bond with your tree and develop a strong relationship with it, start it from seed. You can always go and buy an already bloomed Bonsai tree, but if you grow it from seed you will get to know its ways and temperament, notice when it is growing healthy or when it is weak and needs extra mending. When sowing your tree from seed you also know the soil in which it is planted in which makes it easier to care for it, fertilize it and keep it healthy.

Whether you are growing a Japanese Maple tree, a Loblolly Pine, a Black Spruce or a Siberian Elm, trust your instincts and grow it from seed.

Get Natureit's Bonsai Tree Seed Starter kit to start growing your Bonsai trees with 4 common types of easy to grow Bonsai Trees for beginners. 

Once you get your Bonsai growing and ready to be shaped and pruned, follow these practices to get the best out of your tree’s Bonsai potential:

Thicken your Bonsai's trunk

Thickened bonsai tree trunk

In general, Bonsai trees look older an more mature when they have trunks that are tapered, or thicker toward their roots and thinner toward their leaves. Reaching that desired look might take a few years, but patience is an inseparable part of growing a Bonsai, and this patience pays off when you get that perfect miniature look.

To get that fully grown, eye-catching old Bonsai trunk look you should let your tree grow in a large container without pruning it for a few years. Once you’re happy with the thickness of your bonsai’s trunk, you can trim its branches, prune its leaves, and put it in a smaller pot.

Try and experiment with different Wiring Techniques

Wiring a bonsai tree

When wiring your Bonsai you are not only shaping it, you are also encouraging it to grow the right way. A copper or aluminum wire is best to use. These materials are easy to manipulate and handle and are inexpensive.

Whether you are wiring for growth or shape training, one important thing to make sure is to always be careful and gentle with the branches as they may break. Don't use force. Wrap the tree in wire and press the branches slowly and not too far. Bend it into shape using both hands, little by little. 

When you wire to encourage growth it is recommended to wire branches in a way that the inner leaves and buds are most exposed to light and air, which will nourish the parts of the tree that did not get enough sunlight and airflow until now, shaded by leaves that blocked the sun and air. This will allow your tree to sprout new healthy leaves quicker.

When you wire to shape and create the desired Bonsai look, you may go traditional styles such as the broom style (Hokidachi), formal upright style (Chokkan), cascade bonsai style (Kengai), and windswept bonsai style (Fukinagashi), among others.

You can also always choose to shape your bonsai in your own style.

Create Bonsai root flare

Bonsai root flare

Root flare, or as referred to in Japanese - Nebari, is the roots that are visible on the surface and is one of the most distinctive and impressive parts of a mature and mended bonsai tree. 

There are two main ways to create this beautiful addition to your growing Bonsai tree:

Root Pruning

A common way to create the root flare is to prune the downward growing roots when re-potting you tree. This will encourage the root system and stimulate its growth outward to the surface rather than downward into the ground.

When re-potting, focus on pruning the longest roots and fan out the root system in its new soil. 

Tourniquet Method

Another way is to tightly wrap a wire around the base of the tree's trunk. By doing so you slow the nutrients flow from the roots and stimulate new roots growth above the wire.

Like all things bonsai, consistency and patience is key here. Creating a perfect root flare can take many years. But over time, your bonsai’s roots will grow thicker and create a beautiful Nebari!

Creating Bonsai Deadwood

Creating Bonsai deadwood - painting trunk with lime sulfur

Deadwood is a feature that adds a lot of character to your Bonsai tree. It is a well known technique for Bonsai growers and, as anything else with Bonsai growing, requires patience and dedication as it may take several months or years to reach the desired results.

Deadwood features should only be applied to evergreen trees, since deadwood on deciduous trees might rot over time.

To create deadwood you will need some tools - A pair of Jin pliers, sandpaper, concave cutters and lime sulfur.

To create deadwood you'll need to remove the bark from your the branch using the pliers. Then you'll need to round off any sharp edges using the sandpaper. Using the concave cutters, you can add crooks and notches in your deadwood by creating hollow spaces. 

All of the above needs to be done gradually and in the course of a few months, to not damage the tree. 

After going over these processes, paint your trunk with the lime sulfur to bleach the deadwood. It will protect your tree from pests, disease, and infections. 

Defoliate your Bonsai

Defoliated bonsai tree

Defoliation is done to encourage and stimulate growth of new, small and healthy leaves. It's usually done to re-distribute the growth of leaves from more crowded areas of the tree to other areas. It's a process in which leaves are removed from the Bonsai tree, unlike pruning, in which you remove branches to train and shape the tree.

You should defoliate your bonsai tree in the early summer months to give it enough time to grow new leaves before the dormant winter period. 

When defoliating, you need to cut the primary leaf, but leave the leaf stem intact. You will need to use the right tools such as pruning shears or a leaf cutter.

Not all trees are suitable for defoliation. Deciduous tree species are good for defoliating, while younger trees or ones that are weak or neglected should not be defoliated.

Feed and Fertilize regularly 

Fertilizing Siberian Elm Bonsai tree - Natureit bonsai tree seed starter kit

Fertilizing your Bonsai tree is something that should be done regularly to allow you Bonsai to grow healthy and strong. By adding fertilizers to your tree's soil you provide it with nutrients it needs and making sure the care techniques you applied will be implemented correctly. 

When growing outdoors, fertilize your Bonsai tree once a month during spring, summer and fall months. During winter the tree will go into a dormant period, so you can stop fertilizing.

For indoor plants, fertilizing year-round is perfectly safe and a good idea. 

Keep in mind, though, that your bonsai tree is small and delicate. So it’s best to under-fertilize rather than over-fertilize. Too much fertilizer may burn your plant. 

If your bonsai tree starts to develop yellow, wilting, or browning leaf tips, pause your fertilizer routine. Or if you notice a crust of fertilizer on the soil, you’re likely using too much; go ahead and cut back.  


Happy Growing!

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