Bonsai - What to do at this time of year? - and Bonsai Tree

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What to do at this time of year?

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First let me say this information is for those of us in the northern hemisphere, for all those down south  it will be a little (approx. 6 months) out of sync. People keep asking me what to do with their Maple Bonsai in the winter. Well the answer is not a lot, if your bonsai is an outdoor tree leave it outside. You can protect it from the worst frost or winds to stop it drying out but that is about it.


The winter is a dormant period for most trees, so let it rest. Whatever you do do not feed as if there is a break in the weather you bonsai may start to sprout new growth. This could be a disaster if the cold weather returns again.


Here is an article outlining a basic yearly schedule for Bonsai growing, hope this is useful.


The Maple Year
Author – Craig Coussins

To facilitate readers in other countries I have used seasons as well as UK months. Please remember that you must take into consideration the variables found within temperature in your own country.

Early Spring (February to March)
Although you can repot almost anytime this is the optimum period for the majority of Maples. Kashima and Kiyohime will have started to move at this time. Make sure they are protected. / Feed o.10.10. (Zero Nitrogen) every 7 days to stop lush growth but only after the buds have opened.

Throughout Spring (March to May)
Start plucking out the bud centres

Early Summer (June)
After the first two feeds start feed High Nitrogen feed to build stamina on young trees. If you want good Autumn colour cut down your High Nitrogen food. If tree is healthy then consider full or partial defoliation. This can be followed with selective wiring. Remember that the tree will have to be looked after as the same as February to May or Spring. The problem in Summer defoliation is Sun Burn rather than winds.

Mid Summer (July)
Wire trees with Cage (not tight) or protected wire and do any major pruning at this time during summer dormancy. Reduce feeding until mid August or late mid summer.

Late Summer (August)
Start a weekly feed with low Nitrogen food. Last time for defoliation before fall.

Early Autumn / Fall (September)
Trim all leaves that grow out of the planned shape. Stop feeding if leaves start to change colour. It should be noted that good fall colour is achieved with little of no feed….but the question is whether or not you want to risk the tree’s health for a short term benefit.

Autumn / Fall (October)
Complete your feeding with low or Zero Nitrogen Feed

Late Autumn / Early Winter (November)
Remove any dead leaves and make sure that the trees are protected against winter frosts and wind.

Winter (December to January)
This is the other time when you can perform major surgery on your Bonsai.

Author – Craig Coussins


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1 comment to What to do at this time of year?

  • Adam

    I live in Los Angeles. Because of the high summer heat and low humidity, my maples usually have a pretty large amount of leaf scorch by August. Since this happens every year, I’m fairly certain that it isn’t caused by any pathogen.

    I keep them shaded and relatively protected from the wind. Still, some leaf scorch is inevitable.

    Thus my question is whether and at what point scorched leaves should be removed. Usually the browning starts at the leaf tips and progresses inward until the whole leaf dies. Should I cut them when they first show signs of damage? Or should I cut off the damaged tips? Or just leave them alone?

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