Trees all over the world have evolved to thrive in the specific environments in which they grow. With the delicate, pot-bound bonsai, however, the responsibility is in your hands. From sunlight, to temperature, to soil—you’re in control.
This can be stressful for new bonsai owners, who are often left wondering: “Where is the best place for my bonsai tree to grow?”
Novice growers, rejoice! This comprehensive guide to bonsai tree placement will tell you everything you need to know.
Indoor Bonsai Trees
Most bonsai trees are happiest outdoors for at least a portion of the year. That’s because it’s hard to replicate the natural elements that regulate growth cycles (light intensity, day length, and temperature, to name a few). However, some species—particularly those that evolved in warmer climates—respond well to controlled indoor environments.
What bonsai tree species do well indoors?
A few popular indoor-friendly bonsai trees include:
- Fukien Tea
- Dwarf Umbrella
- Chinese Elm
- Snow Rose
Every species is unique and will require different levels of care. Visit our guide to the 6 Best Indoor Bonsai Trees to learn more about caring for the species listed above.
Best Location for Bonsai to Grow Indoors
When it comes to finding a location to grow your bonsai tree indoors, you need to consider four main factors: light, humidity, temperature, and air flow.
One of the biggest challenges to growing a bonsai indoors is providing enough sunlight. Your bonsai needs ample sunlight to power its processes in a restricted environment. This also helps produce small, delicate bonsai leaves.
While some indoor bonsai need less light than other species, most still need to be placed directly in the sun. A well-lit, south-facing window is your best option.
Artificial light: An indoor grow light can supplement limited sunlight in the colder months. Do your research and position the grow lights as recommended to avoid scorching your bonsai. If keeping multiple trees indoors, consider setting aside a space for growing and install some powerful grow lights.
Bonsai trees love humidity! Except for some low-humidity species (like the ficus tree), the best place to grow bonsai trees indoors is somewhere with more moisture in the air. A conservatory or grow room is best, but this can be supplemented with a humidity tray (or even by keeping your bonsai in a well-lit bathroom!).
One surefire way to kill your bonsai is by placing it near a radiator. Bonsai do not do well with concentrated heat, so avoid ledges or window sills near a heat source. Do you frequently channel your inner Iron Chef? Unfortunately, your bonsai can’t take the heat, so get it out of the kitchen.
Bonsai Beware: Overheating is a risk when you supplement with grow lights. LED lights are becoming more common, as they offer the full spectrum of UV light with less heat output. Be sure to buy a quality set from a reputable manufacturer if going this route.
Still and stuffy air is a breeding ground for pests and dust, which can impact your tree’s ability to photosynthesize. The best place for a bonsai to grow indoors is somewhere with decent air flow; this can be supplemented by a revolving fan if needed.
Outdoor Bonsai Trees
Most species of bonsai fare better with access to the great outdoors, and you’ll have the best luck with a species that is well suited for the environment in which you live. Our guide to choosing the best outdoor bonsai for your climate can help you make a winning choice.
Best Location for Bonsai Trees to Grow Outside
Great! You’ve determined your bonsai will be happy outdoors. Now what? Mother Nature will be doing most of the work, but there are several ways you can help. Here’s what you need to keep in mind when choosing a location for your bonsai to grow.
Light & Temperature
During the growing months (spring through early autumn), your tree needs all the light it can get. Look for the brightest space in your yard and place your bonsai front and center. Outside, the biggest temperature threat will come from the sun itself. If you live in a particularly hot or sunny area, look for a space that offers protection from the fiercest midday rays. Some of the best locations for bonsai to grow in these conditions are alongside fences or near larger trees that provide shade for part of the day.
Bonsai is 99% the art of paying attention. You may need to move your tree throughout the season to give it more sunlight (or less!). Get familiar with observing and responding to the changing conditions in your yard.
Rotating Your Bonsai
Due to surrounding structures, other trees, and the angle of the sun, your tree likely receives different amounts of light throughout the day. Encourage even growth by rotating your tree periodically. (This applies to indoor trees, too!)
Best Location for Bonsai to Grow: Winter Storage
While your bonsai might not be doing much growing in winter, it’s important to understand the care it needs during dormancy. Depending on the species of tree and your region’s weather, you may need to move your tree indoors.
If you bring your subtropical trees outside during the warmer months, bring them back in once temperatures dip into the low 40s. Some hardy bonsai can endure winter outdoors; in these cases, you’ll want to cover the pot in Styrofoam, newspaper, or another thermal source to protect your tree’s roots.
In places that experience harsher winters, your tree will be happiest with a barrier from the cold. An enclosed but cool space like a garden shed, grow house, or garage is a great option. Although growth slows during dormancy, plants wintering in these spaces will need to have their light supplemented by artificial sources.
What location tips and tricks have worked for you? Share your best bonsai brilliance in the comments section below!
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The Bonsai Resource Center is here to help you learn the best bonsai fruit 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!