One of the questions that I find I get asked all the time is what am I supposed to do with my bonsai. People know they
can shape and trim them but don’t know what or when to do things without damaging the Bonsai tree.
Now without specific information I can not answer this directly. The information I would need include the variety of bonsai, the climate, the condition of the tree, what you want to do with it etc.
There are a couple of articles on this site that give a guide as to what to do on a monthly basis throughout the year. But in this article I want to give a very simple two point outline of how to take care of your bonsai tree. These pointers will cover all types Maple Bonsai, Juniper, Cyprus, Chinese Elm Bonsai , it doesn’t matter.
So here we go, rule one take a leaf (pun intended) out of natures book. What do I mean by that, well if the wild maple trees for instance are changing shade or dropping leaves or are bare and look dormant, a rule of thumb is that yours should too.
Bonsai are just small versions of the wild trees and plants found in nature so they should be going through the growth phase or the dormant stage or flowering etc at similar times to the wild plants and trees.
So if the tree is in a dormant phase it stands to reason it needs a rest and not lots of water and feed. If the bonsai tree is in full blume the same as the wild plant then it will need more water as the leaves will be evaporating more moister.
I hope this is clear, essentially Bonsai trees are miniature versions of the wild trees so they should reflect the stages of the natural plant, and be treated as necessary. This includes timing things such as pruning or repotting.
Now having said that point number two slightly contradicts point one. But Bonsai are smaller versions of the mature plants, bushes and trees so they require a bit more care and attention and a bit more looking after.
An analogy would be if you invited an adult round to stay at your house or a child. The adult could fend for themselves and make their needs explicit by asking for more food or drink or for a blanket. But if you had a child round you would be more proactive in taking care of their needs by asking if they needed a drink or something to eat, and ensuring they were warm by tucking them in.
Lets build on this with an example: Your bonsai has its branches thinned out and shaped, the roots are also trimmed and shaped to restrict the growth. Because of these types of actions the plant can’t absorb as much water or as quickly as a wild maple tree for instance. The root system is not as large and doesn’t spread as deeply into the soil to reach reserves of water.
For this reason we need to water a little and more often. Do you see how this translates from the point I made earlier. In the winter wild maple trees have roots that go deeper into the soil and also more of them so if a few at the surface get frozen, so what. But in our Bonsai that could spell disaster so we protect the roots from frost and ice.
This is just one example but should help make the point, treat your bonsai tree like a regular baby plant of the species it is.
So lets recap; Take a look at the fully developed species of your bonsai tree to ascertain what it should be doing, then let your tree do the same but give it a little more attention, this will give your bonsai growing experience a nudge in the right direction.