Your Pressing Bonsai Plant Questions Answered!
At Bonsai Resource Center, we pride ourselves on being your one-stop shop for all things bonsai. This includes providing detailed, easy-to-digest content to get you the information you need—and get you back to growing! This FAQ cheat sheet digs into some of the most common questions we receive from our community.
Take a look, get informed, and go get your hands dirty!
How Hard Is it to Grow a Bonsai Plant?
Bonsai’s reputation for being time- and energy-intensive can give new growers pause. Truthfully, caring for a bonsai tree is not nearly as difficult as it may seem. Because bonsai grow in extremely limited environments (i.e., shallow pots), you’ll need to master a few unique watering, fertilizing, and root care techniques. But once you get the hang of the basics, the only other thing you’ll need is patience (and lots of it!).
Caring for your bonsai is a year-round adventure: Bookmark The Only Bonsai Tree Care Calendar You’ll Ever Need for expert insight, whatever the season!
What Plants Are Best for Bonsai?
While nearly any type of plant can be grown as a bonsai, some will take more work than others. Ficus and jade trees are popular starter varieties because they’re quite hardy, making them more forgiving than other, more sensitive species. Chinese elm and juniper trees are two other bonsai plant VIPs. These durable trees are particularly receptive to training and pruning techniques, meaning even newer growers with less technical know-how can achieve impressive bonsai effects.
Take it outside with our guide to the Best Outdoor Bonsai for Your Region.
Get a little fruity with How to Care for Your Bonsai Fruit Tree (and Our Three Favorites!).
Is Bonsai Cruel?
Because bonsai is a process of restriction, the bonsai-curious sometimes wonder, “Is the practice cruel to the plant?” This is a great question; plants have feelings too after all! Rest easy; bonsai trees actually receive much more tender loving care than trees growing in the wild. And growing in such limited conditions, they need it!
Bonsai care is really not much more invasive than tending to your houseplants. Similar to snipping or deadheading your daisies, cultivation techniques used to shape your tree are not detrimental to its health. Pruning simply forces your bonsai plant to expend the same amount of energy through a smaller area. Wires used for structure and stability are removed once the tree is strong enough to stand on its own, and they should never cut into the bark.
How Often Do Bonsai Plants Need to Be Watered?
The exact frequency with which you will water your tree depends on its species, the time of year, and environmental conditions. A good rule of thumb is to assume your bonsai plant will need to be watered once a week.
Bonsai Beware: Don’t stick to a schedule. Instead, determine if it’s bath time by sticking your finger in the soil up to your first knuckle. If it’s bone-dry, it’s time for a drink! (Precision driven? Soil moisture meters are an excellent solution.)
Thirsty for more? Visit our Guide to Bonsai Tree Watering for every last drop of info.
Why Is My Bonsai Dying?
Since a well-maintained bonsai can live hundreds of years, chances are it’s probably not succumbing to old age. The bad news? You’re probably doing something wrong. The good news? You can fix it! The most common culprits of a struggling tree are too much or too little water, insufficient sunlight, and over-maintenance. (Hey, we all get a little prune-happy sometimes!)
Step 1: Take a deep breath. Step 2: Browse this list of Common Bonsai Tree Problems to identify what’s gone wrong and how to fix it.
How Much Light Does My Bonsai Need Indoors?
Bonsai trees need lots of light during the growing season. How much? Your tree requires at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day, if not more! If the light where it is placed is less intense, they’ll need more exposure time; make sure they receive at least 10 sun-kissed hours per day.
It can be tough to get this much sunlight indoors. Start by placing your bonsai plant in the sunniest window of your home (usually that means a south-facing window). If you suspect your tree is still sun-hungry, supplement with a grow light.
Indoor caretaking can be tricky: Our guide to Picking the Right Location for Your Bonsai to Grow will set you up for success from day one.
Are Bonsai Plants Pet-Safe?
Bonsai plant toxicity ranges from pet-friendly to life-threatening depending on the species. Avoid jade, azalea, boxwood, and sago palms if they’ll be anywhere near your furry friends. Parlour palms, money trees (not jade/money plants), and prayer plants are a few popular pet-safe varieties.
If you’re keen on keeping a more hazardous species, there are a few ways you can keep your animals safe. Consider keeping pets and plants in separate rooms, growing your bonsai plants outside, or placing them on high shelves out of reach (near a bright window, of course!).
Get the 411 on Bonsai Trees for Cats for everything you need to know for successful cohabitation.
How Often Should I Repot My Bonsai Plant?
Like watering, you should never repot your bonsai plant on a strict schedule. That’s because they’re living creatures; every tree is different and environmental factors play a big role in how often your plant will need to be repotted.
Generally, an established tree will need to be repotted every two years. This doesn’t always mean moving your plant to a new pot; sometimes you’ll just be performing root maintenance that allows your bonsai to stay happy where it’s at. Look for runaway roots, increased water retention, and root bind. Each of these indicate that your tree’s roots are running out of space below ground.
Ready to repot? Dig right in with our guide How to Repot Your Bonsai—for Beginners!
What else would you like to know about your bonsai plant? Leave your questions and queries in the comments section 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