Ready to take your bonsai practice to the next level? Create a show-stopping specimen with these 6 expert secrets to bonsai tree care.
1. Master the Basics
When we’re excited about a new hobby, it’s easy to get a little ahead of ourselves. We want to learn everything there is to know to master our budding passion. But there are no shortcuts on the path to bonsai expertise—first you need a solid command of the basics.
At Bonsai Resource Center, we’ve created a full family of beginner-friendly resources to help set you up for success from day one.
Bonsai Tree Care Resources
- General care: The Ultimate Guide to Bonsai Trees
- Placement/light: How to Pick the Right Location for Your Bonsai to Grow
- Watering: Know When to Water Your Bonsai – 3 Simple Methods
- Fertilizer: The Ultimate Bonsai Tree Fertilizer Beginner’s Guide
- Soil: The Best Soil Mix for a Bonsai Tree
2. Make it a Daily Practice
Master bonsai tree care by making it part of your daily routine—just like eating breakfast or brushing your teeth. By tending to your tree every day, you get to know it better! You’ll get familiar with the speed at which it grows; you’ll learn how it signals it needs more fertilizer, or it’s ready for a drink; you’ll spot the telltale signs of a pest invasion sooner.
The more time you spend observing and caring for your tree, the sooner you’ll notice when something has gone wrong, and the sooner you’ll be able to remedy it. You’ll also get more in tune with your tree’s growth patterns and unique traits, empowering you to make maintenance decisions that preserve its natural beauty and vitality.
3. Work on Their Schedule—Not Yours
Bonsai tree care is all about timing. The trick? Follow their schedule, not yours. Your job as a caretaker is to emulate what your tree would experience in the wild. If you structure maintenance around your spare time, you risk missing short windows of time that help keep your tree in its natural rhythm.
Instead, familiarize yourself with seasonal care requirements and build proper timing into your schedule. By carefully observing your tree, you’ll know when it’s just about time to repot, fertilize, or prepare for winter dormancy. Make space for upcoming maintenance at the top of your to-do list to keep your tree healthy and happy for years to come.
Ready to learn more? Master your tree’s timeline with the only bonsai tree care calendar you’ll ever need.
4. Let Them Live Outside
While it’s becoming more and more common to grow bonsai indoors, they’re still trees. And trees love the great outdoors! Select a tree that’s compatible with the conditions where you live, and let it spend its life out in the elements. Our guide to the best outdoor bonsai trees for beginners will help you select the perfect species for your region.
Determined to grow indoors? If you don’t have an outdoor space—or you’d simply like to keep your practice inside—you can still enjoy the rewarding art of bonsai. Start off on the right foot with The 6 Best Indoor Bonsai Tree Types & How to Care for Them.
5. Use the Right Tools
You can paint with any old paintbrush. You don’t need specialty blades to cook. But the right tools can be the difference between a hobby and a master’s touch. When it comes to bonsai tree care, the right equipment can be a major game-changer. Bulk up your tool kit with the following to take your practice to the next level:
- Pruning shears: Cleanly cut delicate shoots and twigs with a sharp pair of specialty shears.
- Concave cutters: Avoid scarring or marring your tree by pruning branches flush to the trunk with concave cutters.
- Root rake: This tiny rake helps you safely remove soil around the bonsai roots during repotting. It’s also useful for weeding and loosening up compact soil.
- Training wire: Master growers achieve impressive shapes by using training wire to direct new growth.
6. Get Down to the Wire
Pruning and trimming can create a nice bonsai tree, but training wire is essential for creating dramatic shapes quintessential to bonsai art. By wrapping wires around the branches of your tree, you can direct new growth to your liking. Here’s what you need to know:
- Who: You, new master grower; you’ll do great!
- What: You will use one of two types of wire to train your trees. Aluminum wire works best with deciduous trees, while copper wiring is better suited for pines and conifers.
- Where: Wire any branches you want to encourage to grow in a particular direction. Double wiring is a common technique that involves wiring together two branches of similar thickness for added support.
- When: You can apply wire at any time of the year, but deciduous trees are much easier to wire in early winter, as they’ll have dropped their leaves for the season.
- How: Choose wires that are about ⅓ of the width of the branches you’re wiring. If you’re wiring most of your tree, start from the trunk and wire from the thickest branches outward.
After wiring: Closely monitor your tree after applying your training wire and remove once it gets tight around the branches. This can take anywhere from a few months up to a year, depending on the intensity of your wiring and the speed of your tree’s growth. Always remove before the wire digs into the bark to prevent scarring.
What’s YOUR favorite secret to bonsai tree care? Leave your personal pro tips in the comments below!
Bonsai With Us!
The Bonsai Resource Center is here to help you learn the best bonsai tree care and provide you with the tools you need to keep your tree healthy and strong. Explore our other articles, visit our online shop, and connect with other bonsai lovers in our Facebook group to learn everything you need to know about this rewarding hobby!
More Bonsai Tree Care Resources
The Ultimate Bonsai Plant FAQ Cheat Sheet
How to Grow Bonsai: The Ultimate Reading List
Best Bonsai Tree Types for Beginners