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How to look after bonsai trees

  17/12/2013 at 16:39 pm

First we must ask the question what are bonsai trees? Bonsai literally means “a tree growing in a pot”. Traditionally bonsai trees were seen as miniature plants that could only be grown by specialist growers, and was an art form confined to Japan. For the record the art of growing bonsai trees originated in China and many centuries later was adopted by the Japanese. I am astonished how many seed suppliers advertise in their catalogues selling bonsai seed, as they do not exist. No grower has yet to come up with this genetically modified seed that will grow into a miniature bonsai tree.

Any woody shrub can be grown as a bonsai tree, its all down to how you manipulate the growing conditions of the plant. But we must remember there are always certain plants that lend better to the art of bonsai, due to their growth habit and natural form. Good examples of plants that are really suitable to bonsai are Acers or better known as Japanese maples.

Pruning bonsai trees is the real secret to their success. Prune regularly during the growing season, this is usually from April to August. You must keep the top growth in proportion to the pot, or you will have major problems with the plant drying out too fast. There are no hard and fast rules regarding root-pruning and re-potting, as this will vary according to plant species. Old and slow growing varieties will only need potting on every five to six years.

Watering is perhaps the most important part in looking after bonsai plants. Unlike many potted plants; bonsai plants are usually grown in small pots to restrict their root growth, hence must be checked every day to assess their water requirements. When watering indoor bonsais; remember to use tepid water and allow excess water to drain away. Do not leave plants sitting in water, as plant roots need air to breathe!

Feeding bonsai plants is important and should only be carried out during the growing season. You would be surprised at just how many people have the misconception that bonsai trees are created by starving them of food. Outdoor bonsai can be fed from late spring right through to late summer. Indoor bonsai need feeding regularly throughout the year, as many are continually in growth.


To do list:

1. Don’t forget to feed our feathered friends. Tip: I am often asked “can we feed birds our left over food”? Well this simple answer is yes providing we follow a few simple rules. As birds are unable to digest salt, ensure you never give them food containing high salt content. On no circumstances ever feed dry roasted or salted peanuts!

2. During cold weather ensure bird feed is high in oil content, as this is essential for birds to survive the winter cold. Tip: Peanuts are one of the best sources of fat content for providing high energy and is especially important to small birds. When we are experiencing extreme cold weather, crush peanuts and place on bird tables, this prevents small birds wasting valuable energy trying to extract small pieces of nuts from feeders.

3.When you hear weather forecast predicting minus temperatures you know its time to cover up vulnerable evergreen plants. Tip: Bay Laurels (Laurus nobilis) are very susceptible to wind and frost damage. If possible move them into a garage or shed when severe frosts are expected. If you are unable to move them in; wrap the heads with fleece, then cover over with a plastic bag and remember to remove when frost has passed.

By Eamonn Wall