Indoor Bonsai Tree Care: The Hobby That Grows!

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The Basics

To understand proper indoor bonsai tree care, you need to understand the plant itself.

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The word Bonsai comes from the Japanese words:  from bon ‘tray’ + sai ‘planting’. And indeed, Dictionary.com gives us the description as:

bonsai

[ bon-sahy, -zahy, bohn-, bon-sahy, -zahy, bohn- ]SHOW IPA

noun, plural bon·sai.

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1. a tree or shrub that has been dwarfed, as by pruning the roots and pinching, and is grown in a pot or other container and trained to produce a desired shape or effect.

2. the art or hobby of developing and growing such a plant or plants.

Eastern Asia Beginnings

While the word Bonsai covers a wide range of trees and plants grown in miniature form, it’s beginnings trace back to early Chinese culture. The art form spread to Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, with each area offering it’s own variation and terms. Today, in America, we consider all to be Bonsai.

While many plants grow to supply food, shelter, or other necessities, the Bonsai cultivation provides aesthetics and a calming serenity for the grower and home. In fact, Bonsai artists focus entirely on the long-term cultivation and shaping of these container-grown trees.

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Bonsai creation begins with a cutting, seedling, or even a small tree specimen. Nearly any perennial woody-stemmed tree or shrub may find its way to becoming a bonsai plant. It needs to be able to produce true branches and can stay small in the confinement of a pot. Also, it must withstand the crown and root pruning.

Plants with interesting characteristics, such as small leaves or needles, are preferred. However, flowering plants may also be used.

Within those perimeters, the bonsai is crafted into the preferred shape and size but pruning and containing in a small pot. Its foliage may also be redirected to produce the desired shape.

 

 

Indoor Bonsai Tree Care Essentials

 

Water your bonsai

Your bonsai demands very specific watering requirements. About once a week, or when the topsoil feels completely dry, immerse the entire bonsai plant into a tub or sink of water. Watch for the air bubbles to rise to the top. This indicates that the bonsai has absorbed enough water.

Another important consideration for the health of the bonsai, humidity, needs to be considered. Your bonsai may come with a humidity tray and bag of pebbles. If not, consider purchasing one. Set the pebbles into the tray. Cover the pebbles with a little water. This increases the humidity level for the tree, while also protecting the surface the plant rests on.

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Placement of your bonsai

Technically, your bonsai is a tree, though it occupies the space of a smaller plant. Most people find this unique addition to their home brings a very natural, peaceful feel. In fact, some choose to create a small bonsai garden as the focal point of the main living space. Others add such a feature to the patio, too.

When selecting the proper placement, keep in mind that your tree needs plenty of direct sunlight. This usually means a placement near a sunny window. If that is not available, consider a grow light to ensure a happy bonsai.

A bonsai creates a sense of tranquility and peace in an office space, too. Whether your office is in your home or at an office building, the addition of a bonsai brings balance and interest to the environment.

 

Indoor bonsai tree care includes pruning

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The art of pruning your bonsai might create a bit of stress at first. But you need not worry.

First, step back and look at your tree. Now imagine the shape you wish it to grow into.

With that in mind, pick up your bonsai clippers (not scissors, please!) and remove any dead branches.

Take another look before beginning the shaping prune. Many Bonsai experts believe this time might be the most calming time. In fact, some will use meditation techniques during this time.

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You simply prune in small amounts to encourage the tree into your desired shape. The trimming also allows for new growth to emerge.

After each small trim, stand back and look to ensure your cuts set the right image. Remember, it’s best to take less off at first. However, the tree will continue to grow.

Type of soil for your bonsai

The perfect soil for your bonsai will drain quickly but also retain its water. Additionally, it contains small particles to ensure proper aeration. This allows the roots access to the oxygen they need. Begin with a soil specifically blended for bonsai to ensure the best success.

In addition, your bonsai needs fertilizer added during the growing season. This is typically early spring through mid-fall. However, it’s best to avoid fertilizing during the rest season of late fall and winter.

Indoor Bonsai Tree Care Lifespan

The smaller bonsai trees might only be five years old. However, given proper care, they live for decades longer. In fact, some boast a lifespan of over 500 years and counting!  For those interested, there are lists of trees and their approximate ages.

Interested in adding a bonsai tree to your home?

Here are a few you might consider. We’ve selected 10 varieties known to be good for beginners. Not only are they easy to care for, but they provide interesting colors and textures.

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Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)

The lobed leaves and color added to its adaptability as a bonsai, make the Japanese Maple a popular choice.. With many available varieties and the potential to train the tree into many styles, you might consider this as your first Bonsai project.

 

Bodhi tree (Ficus Religiosa)

Commonly known as sacred fig, peepal tree, and Bo-tree, the Bodhi tree was the tree that Buddha received enlightenment under.

It makes an excellent bonsai. Growing fast and forming aerial roots, this strong plant offers beginners some room to learn while providing more advanced a chance at improvements.

Small shiny heart-shaped foliage appears bronze at first. However, it later turns glossy green as the leaves mature. Some prefer to leave many leaves, but the Bodhi is quite forgiving if the leaves are minimized.

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Cotoneaster horizontalis

Planted in a cascade style or planted on a rock, this tree is aptly called “rock cotoneaster. It is a deciduous shrub that is suitable for bonsai culture due to it’s long-lasting color. It grows best in temperate regions and excels as a houseplant. Beginners find this tree’s forgiving nature very helpful as they learn indoor bonsai tree care.

 

Boxwood

Usually grown as a hedge, the boxwood makes an idea bonsai. Because of the easy to care for, train, and maintain nature, boxwood often finds its way into the hands of beginners. However, both beginners and experienced enjoy the beautiful creations possible with this plant.

Fiscus Retusa

One of the most attractive trees among the tropical bonsai growers, these often engage beginners and advanced bonsai artists.  Easy to style and forgiving of mistakes and negligence, you won’t regret choosing it for learning bonsai.

 

Jade tree (Crassula ovata)

A succulent plant boasting thick fleshy stems and leaves, Jade grows to a mature look quickly.  In fact, the thick trunk provides added interest at a small size. Known as an evergreen, Jade is a hardy, easy-care bonsai,. Beginners choose Jade for the hardiness; advanced artists for the sheer beauty.

 


Bougainvillea 

For bonsai enthusiasts seeking color, the Bougainvillea offers that and more. The beautiful papery flowers create an attractive display for most of the year. Colorful and pretty, the Bougainvillea grows fast. With branches that are easy to wire, they train into almost any style.

 

Adenium

Another colorful choice, the Adenium sports a thick bulbous trunk, vibrant blooms, and glossy foliage.  This flowering tree grows fast, creating a natural-looking bonsai with minimal effort.

 

Cherry Blossom (Prunus serrulata)

Blooming in Spring, the deciduous Cherry Blossom doesn’t show color the rest of the year. However, its admirers don’t worry about that. They know that each spring, the blossoms will flourish and when they fall, they create a blanket of color. The rest of the year, the branches and single trunk offer a unique spectacle. Lenticels, dark horizontal lines, adorn the trunk.

Crape Myrtle

Seeking exquisite branch formation, showy flowers of pink, white, or purple in an easy to grow bonsai? Think Crape Myrtle. Additionally, it sheds its outer layers of bark from time to time showing an underlying bark color that varies from gray, rusty brown to almost pink. This beautiful bonsai tree might become your favorite.

These 10 plants offer easy Indoor Bonsai Tree Care

Hundreds of varieties of bonsai exist for you to choose from. However, we believe that any of these 10 may offer you a good start in this interesting hobby. We’ve selected easy to care for varieties. Which ones will bring the serenity to your home?

Also, consider gifting one of these beautiful artistic plants. Children, adults, and even seniors may find bonsai art calms them. In fact, during the stressful times, such as the pandemic, college students’ final testing, and life’s trials, perhaps the bonsai provides that means to happiness.

 

 

indoor bonsai tree care
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12 Comments

  1. Shyla Elza

    Bonsai trees are so truly fascinating. I have always really enjoyed looking at them, but have no had much experience in caring for them. My sister had one when I was a kid and I would always spend time gazing at it. This post really makes me want an indoor bonsai tree to take care of myself. Your post is really informative and helpful for anyone considering this hobby. Thanks for inspiring me with this post today! 

    Reply
    • Diane

      Thanks for reading and commenting. 

      Bonsai trees are one of those plants not often considered but are thoroughly enjoyed when added to the home. If you choose to get one (or more) I think you will find they are as mesmerizing as you remember from childhood.

      Thanks for visiting; please stop by again soon!

      Reply
  2. Jolly

    Hi Diane,

    Thanks for sharing such amazing article about the bonsai tree. I saw it before in my friend house but I never knew it name. I’m always hope to add some green in my house and I think the bonsai tree may be a good suggestion for me. Although I have zero knowledge on plating but it seems like beginners friendly since you stated that it is easy to take care. I’m already feeling excited to have it in my house.

    Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Diane

      Yes, you will find the bonsai tree plant is quite a beginner friendly option. Just follow the suggestions I’ve given. there are other beginner-friendly plants on my site, too. You might find a selection that works well together for your home.

      Thanks for visiting HousePlantJoy. Please stop back again soon.

      Reply
  3. Antonio

    Hi Diane

    They say that most bonsai given as gifts will often die within because most people do not look after them. I think that people who have read your article will have a better idea of how to do this. It is important that you feed right, water right and know when to repot the bonsai and of course to prune right. They are indeed make fine specimens but you often worry that you will not look after them right. It is hard to imagine that some of these plant can be hundreds of years old. Do you recommend using specialised bonsai compost and feed to give your plant the best start?

    Thanks 

    Antonio

    Reply
    • Diane

      Yes, it’s true that they do require some care to maintain them, but they are well worth the effort. 

      I do recommend using bonsai specific products for them. I’ll have an upcoming article on my recommendations.

      Thanks for visiting HousePlantJoy. Please stop back again soon.

      Reply
  4. laertes

    WoW!… what an amazing article…I really your topic presentation, its simple and yet informative. I also have bonsai plant at home…I always looked up my bonsai plant every time I arrived from work because it gave me a feeling of relaxation and calm…it gives me a good sense of well being and my problem disappears. Its just that I really have to spend quality time to groom my bonsai because its just like being a barber, you have to see to it that I cant cut the wrong leaves and branches because it will destroy its natural beauty. Kindly put some bonsai pictures as a representation of your 10 bonsai  examples for start-ups. Then what are your recommendations for the container use to grow for the bonsai plant? because clay pot can easily be broken and using porcelain as a container sometimes is hard to find. Thanks and keep safe! 

    Reply
    • Diane

      Yes, as you have found, these plants create an amazing feeling of calm and help destress. I will be adding more photos soon and have more articles planned, too, including one on the best containers. 

      Thanks for your comments. Please stop back again soon!

      Reply
  5. Alejandra

    I love Bonsai trees and I love to read about how to grow my own, I must say I’m glad I found your article today as I could read more about the steps to follow to grow my own. 

    I’m lucky to have a small Bougainvillea bonsai tree, I bought the plant a few years ago and I know this plant can grow big, but as I live in Canada, somehow this plant decided by itself to become a bonsai, hasn’t grow at all, it stays the same high year after year, and it gives me a beautiful blooming every year during winter, which is extraordinary to be able to enjoy beautiful flowers inside the house while everything is all covered with snow outdoors!

    I was surprise to know after reading your article that I should give more water to my Bougainvillea bonsai, I would love to know how often I should change the soil or what steps I should follow to keep this natural bonsai better. 

    Thanks so much for sharing a great article to read today!

    Reply
    • Diane

      I am glad you found the information helpful. Yes, the Bougainvillea makes a beautiful bonsai, which is fortunate for those in the cooler growing zones, such as yourself.

      Water your plant when it begins to feel slightly dry, but don’t let it dry out completely. You might also consider a humidity tray, as described in the article. It will help during drier air conditions.

      Reply
  6. Stephen Tan

    I enjoyed Bonsai at my boss’s house last year, but I have never think of getting Bonsai in my house. Your article gives me a lot of information about how to take care and grow the Bonsai tree. 

    The watering method for Bonsai pot is new to me and not by spraying water to the tree. I agreed Bonsai tree needs a lot of sunlight. I saw my boss move his Bonsai to the outside compound in the morning. He said he would move back after 2 to 3 hours of sunbathing for his Bonsai.

     You have mentioned about a humidity tray and bag of pebbles to keep the tree healthy with proper humidity. I wish you a picture to show me how to do it. You have recommended ten types of trees suitable for Bonsai; I hope you can provide a few trees photos for reference.

    Due to COVID 19, most of our time spent at home, I think it is a good idea to grow a few pots of Bonsai to enlighten our home. Your way of trimming the tree looks interesting to me. I hope it is delightful to let our imagination works while pruning the Bonsai.

    I have bookmark your website link in my PC, and I hope you can update with the relevant images to make it a rich content. 

    An extra comment is your site is insecure, please check with site support.

    Reply
    • Diane

      Yes, the Bonsai is an excellent project to undertake during the at-home time of Covid19. You might consider this and other plants, too.

      I am working on an article about the humidity trays and will have it posted soon. If you are on our Facebook group, 

      https://www.facebook.com/houseplantjoyblog

      you will receive notice of the article. If not, stop back soon to enjoy more reading.

      Reply

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Bonsai Trees

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This website contains affiliate links. Any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I use these commissions to help maintain this site to provide helpful information to you.

 

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