Grow From Seed or Buy Trees?

There is just something very satisfying about growing a plant from its seeds. Watching a plant grow from germination to maturity give many gardeners a sense of hard-earned accomplishment (and maybe even some bragging rights).

Bonsai Garden
Bonsai Tree Garden by Prazak [Public Domain]
Newcomers to this hobby will often consider growing a bonsai from its seed. Although bonsai plants can be readily bought from any nurseries, there are many bonsai enthusiast who prefer to grow them from seeds.

If you are planning to do the same, you must be prepared to put it a lot of work and patience before your baby bonsai reaches its full glory. In general, it will take anything between two to five years before a bonsai sapling reaches maturity.

The first step in this process is to select the right seeds. There are plenty of companies out there that claim to sell ‘bonsai seeds’. The truth is there are no such things as bonsai seeds. There are currently no special breeds of trees which seeds will automatically grown into miniature trees when sown. The form and shape on the bonsais that we see today are all developed under controlled man-made conditions as the tree sapling grows.

Bonsai Tree Nursery
Bonsai Tree Garden by Prazak [Public Domain]
The ‘bonsai seeds’ on sale are basically just ordinary tree seeds from tree species that are suitable for bonsai cultivation. While shopping around for seeds, basically any tree seeds (from the right tree species) would do. The Chinese Elm, Juniper and Hornbeam seeds are suitable for beginners as they are very easy to grow.

After selecting your seed, the next step would be the sowing of the seeds. It is always a good idea to sow multiple seeds, even if you plan to just raise one bonsai tree. Each seed have its own unique genetic disposition where some may be healthier or more beautiful than others. Putting all you hopes and effort on one single seed will be like putting all your eggs in a basket. If will be very frustrating to start all over again after discovering that the single seed has grown into a plant that is prone to diseases 6 months down the road.

Most of the seeds sold are ‘sleeping seeds’ where they all lay in a dormant state. Sleeping seeds will not germinate as they are in a form of ‘hibernation’. To ‘wake’ them up, place them in the fridge (in a plastic bag or container) for about two to three months before sowing them out in the open. This process is known as cold stratification.

When the seeds are finally ready to be sown, you should place them in a pot of fresh soil and place the pot in an area that is safe from birds and other animals. Your resident garden squirrel and birds will make a good snack out of the seeds whenever they have the chance.

To prevent any form of fungus infection, use seedling fertilizers that are readily available from any nursery. The fertilizer will also accelerate the germination process.

After the seeds have germinated, the baby trees will require a whole range of care that is beyond the scope of this article.

In my opinion, keeping bonsai trees and growing bonsai trees are two very separate hobbies. Growing a bonsai tree from seed to maturity is best left to the experts unless you are really into the science of plant propagation. If you are more interested in the beauty of bonsai trees (like myself), you should head straight to the nursery or go online and get yourself a young, fully matured bonsai tree.

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