Watering and Fertilizing Your Bonsai

Pruning, trimming and wiring may be the most important steps in creating a beautiful bonsai tree, but the right watering and fertilizing methods is the most important process in keeping your bonsai tree alive. A bonsai tree that receives the right amount of hydration and nutrients will grow into a healthy adult plant, producing lush and beautiful foliages. A healthy tree is also more resistant to pests and diseases.

Wet Akadama Bonsai Soil
Akadama Bonsai Soil by Globalist1789 [Public domain]
Many people make the erroneous assumption that watering is the simplest process in keeping bonsais. Depending on the size, age, and type of tree that you own, every single bonsai plant has its own watering requirements.

The first step in selecting the right watering technique is to find out the origins of your bonsai tree. Tropical tree species needs more water compared to those for temperate and subtropical regions. Another important factor is the size of the pot. If the tree is planted in a small pot, it may need to be watered regularly throughout the day.

There are many techniques that can be used to water your bonsai. The submerging technique is one that is commonly used by many bonsai gardeners. Here the whole pot is submerged in water and left to soak for about 10 to fifteen minutes.

Another technique is where the plant is watered for 3 consecutive times over a period of a few minutes. The main aim of these watering techniques is to created good irrigation in the soil by removing any air pockets in the soil. Well-irrigated soil would not hold excessive amounts of water that can lead to root diseases. The soils beneath the bonsai should be moist (but not damp) at all times.

Uprooted Bonsai Tree
Uprooted Bonsai by ericskiff/Glitch010101 [CC BY-SA 2.0]

In the wild, trees acquire the nutrients that they need though the soil. Rotting leaves and compost constantly replenishes the nutrients in the soil, providing all the necessary nutrients needed. Due to the limited amount soil in the pot, bonsais need to be fertilized more than any other plants in your garden. The natural nutrients in the soil will be quickly absorbed and needs to be replenished on a regular basis.

Generally, synthetic fertilizers are more desirable compared to manure. Manure that has not been properly sterilized may carry with it lost of fungi and diseases that can infect your bonsai.

When it comes to the amount of fertilizer to use, it is best to follow the recommended dosages on the packaging. Over fertilizing can cause my adverse side effects such as weak stems and large leaves.

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