How to grow Bonsai trees

Bonsai, the slowest sport on earth?

Should Bonsai Be considered a sport?

The question of whether Bonsai can be considered a sport is something I’ve been pondering for some time.  Most definitions of sport describe it as a physical activity in a competition with a of set rules.

This can include such team sports such as baseball, basketball or soccer, all of which involve a ball and teams of players.  It can also include activities like fishing, hunting running, swimming and other types of individual sports.

Bonsai has been considered mostly an art form or science more than anything else.  However, with its growing international popularity and displays which involve competition, judges and awards I feel that Bonsai should be considered a sport.

Bonsai also involves physical activity with a set of rules.  Although, much slower than most sports, patience and persistence is what the sport of Bonsai demands.  For many this can be more difficult to achieve than brute strength and speed required in other sports.

I’d like to know what you think.  Should Bonsai be considered a sport?

What should I use to fertilize my Bonsai?

This seems like a simple question, but the if you ask five Bonsai artist what they use for Bonsai food, you'll get usually get seven different answers.  

I've even had some Bonsai artist cringe for being asked such a question as if I were is asking an intimate question about their spouse.  You'll find many Bonsai artist simply unwilling to share their secrets.

What I can do, is tell you what has worked for me in my 10 years of working with Bonsai trees.

Timing is important.  

Late Spring and early summer is when Bonsai trees are most active and their feeder roots are actively searching for nutrients.   This is one of the best times to fertilize your Bonsai.

I use a fertilizer called Island Supreme Nutricote 13-13-13, Controlled Release Fertilizer.  If can't find 13-13-13, can can go as high as 16-16-16. You should be able to purchase at many home and garden stores.

You  must use a fertilizer that is "Controlled Released". You may also see the word "Encapsulated" to describe the same type of fertilizer.  What this means is there is a coating over the fertilizer that controls the release of nutrients. 

Do not use fertilizer that is not "Controlled Released" or not "Encapsulated", it may kill your Bonsai if the nutrients are washed into to the soil too quickly by long periods of rain. (I learned that one the hard way.)

When fertilizing spread the fertilizer as far away from the trunk as possible, towards the outer edges of the pot.  This encourages the feeder roots to reach out further to find nutrients and in time will produce a stronger, more extensive root system.

I usually fertilize at a couple of times a month, but sometimes forget or don't get around to it for longer periods. 

Again, this is what has worked for me.  There are many many different ways to fertilize a Bonsai tree, but this is what has worked for me.

Good luck with your Bonsai and let me know what works for you.

Bonsai Feeding Take-Aways

  • Spring is the best time to start fertilizing your Bonsai as it is coming out of dormancy.
  • Use a fertilizer with Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (N,P,K) of 13-13-13 to 16-16-16
  • ALWAYS use a "Controlled Released" or "Encapsulated" fertilizer for your Bonsai trees.
  • When fertilizing, spread the granulars evenly along the outside edges of the Bonsai pot.
  • Fertilize about twice a month, and more heavily during the Spring time.


What is the best time to transplant your Bonsai.

Timing is key when it comes to transplanting a Bonsai.

I recently received this question from a reader who would like to transplant their Bonsai.  Read below to get some tips when transplanting your Bonsai.

Question: Can you take a dormant bonsai tree from a 6" deep pot and cut down roots to put it in a traditional shallow pot?

How to repot a bonsai

The short answer is no.  

I would not recommend cutting back roots on your Bonsai when it is in dormancy. The best time to repot and cut back roots is in the Spring after new buds have sprouted.

During the winter or dormant season, your Bonsai is storing energy resources in the roots. As temperatures rise the roots of a Bonsai begin to become active. The energy stored in the roots will then slowly begin to move back up to the tree.

If you cut back the roots of a Bonsai when it is dormant you will remove the stored energy which the tree will need when it's time to come out of dormancy in the spring.

Once your Bonsai has sprouted new buds in the spring time, it will be a sign most of the energy has moved from the roots up to the branches of the tree.
This will be the best time to repot your Bonsai.

There are also a number of other factors to consider with regards to your question, the first of which is what type of tree are you repotting?
If your tree is a forgiving or hearty species such as a Ficus or Maples, it will be more forgiving to drastic root reduction. If your tree is more delicate such as a Black Pine will want to reduced the root ball in stages over a number of years.

In addition, some trees simply do better in deep pots. Bougainvillea are very hearty Bonsai, however they simply do much better in deeper pots.

Take Aways
Never cut back or repot your Bonsai when it is dormant.

After your Bonsai has sprouted new buds in the spring is the best time to cut back roots.

If you're working with a delicate species of Bonsai, you will want to cut back your root ball in stages over a number of years. This will make give your Bonsai more time to adapt to the smaller root ball.

Do research beforehand to see if the roots of your species of Bonsai will do better in deeper pots. Some species simply do better in deep pots.


Sharing the art of Bonsai

Mark Givensel - Seabury Hall Bonsai Presentation One of the things I like most about Bonsai is being able to share them with others.  When I work on my trees, I sometimes forget the little trees I'm working on are living pieces of arts that someone else could be enjoying as well. 

Although I get great pleasure from being alone in my Bonsai garden working on my trees.  I also truly enjoy sharing my Bonsai with others

Here are some of the ways to share your Bonsai trees.

Display in your Home
Make a space inside your home to display your Bonsai trees.  Just inside the front door of my home, I have a display table where I place my Bonsai trees.  I do this so members of my family as well as visitors can enjoy my Bonsai.  Bosai trees that are displayed in your home quickly become a great conversation piece for your friends and family.

When displaying inside, don't keep your Bonsai inside for more than a few days, as Bonsai are trees enjoy being outside where they can soak up fresh air, sun.  I usually rotate a Bonsai on my indoor display tree every three or four days, so anyone whom enters will be greeted with a Bonsai.


Volunteer at Bonsai Displays
Displaying your Bonsai at a public event is also a great way to share your Bonsai trees with others.   Most Bonsai clubs put on displays throughout the year and are always looking for good Bonsai to display. 

When I display some of my trees at the County Fair, I am always amazed at the positive comments and feedback from people about my Bonsai trees. 

You can also learn a great deal about Bonsai by displaying by talking with the more experienced Bonsai artist and enthusiast whom are usually happy to give you tips and constructive criticism on your Bonsai trees.

Seabury Hall Bonsai Presentation

Give a presentation
After volunteering at Bonsai Displays and become more experienced with Bonsai, you may want to give presentations of your Bonsai at schools or community events.  I give a couple of presentations each year as my schedule allows, and I'm always amazed at the response I receive from people whom want to learn about Bonsai. 

Seabury Hall Bonsai Presentation 03

Mentoring a Student
Mentoring a student in Bonsai is one of the greatest ways to share your Bonsai.   One of my most rewarding experience has been teaching and mentoring students about Bonsai.  There's a saying "The best test of whether or not you really understand a concept it trying to teach it to someone else."  This couldn't be more true when it comes to Bonsai.  I've found sharing my Bonsai through mentoring has actually helped me learn more about the art of Bonsai.

Working with Bonsai trees has become a hobby I hope to continue for the rest of my life.   Thanks for letting me share with you.

Article by: Mark Givensel,


What is a Floating Bonsai?

Being a tech person for my day job as well as an avid Bonsai enthusiast, I could not help but write about the floating Bonsai, which started appearing online a couple of months ago.  Widely known as the floating Bonsai, the actual name of the product is "Little Star", which was created by a Kick starter project by company that makes the Floating Bonsai is called Air Bonsai.

The product is a small rounded moss pot that levitates above a magnetic "energy base".  The company is using to fund the project. 

The kit includes a moss ball known as the little star, an energy base which creates an electromagnetic and a one of a kind cushion.  The product arrives in a neat little storage box. 

There is also an optional white, lave stone which can be used in place of the moss ball as well as a hand made, much more expensive version of the kit.

The one thing the product does not include is the actual plant which would to go into the floating pot.  This at first may seem ironic, but makes sense as one would be more likely to want to use a plant from their region to complete the tree or plant portion of the Bonsai.  Shipping a plant with the kit would not make sense because all plants do not thrive in all regions.

At the moment, the only way to purchase one is by making a donation to their program.  The Basic lava set is $230. 

To see all their complete list of products available at their Kick starter account click here.

It's not known yet if the company will be expand their purchasing outlets to other venders.




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