Christmas is the busiest time of year for Bonsai sales, they are a hot impulse item. The small trees with their tiny leaves and flowers or a miniature landscape are hard to resist whether you are a novice or experienced Bonsai enthusiast.
If you are considering a Bonsai tree for that special person (including yourself), there are a few things you should know to ensure that you end up with a nice healthy tree. First you should decide if you want a hardy outdoor tree or if an indoor Bonsai is more appropriate. Think about the conditions the tree will be in. Indoor Bonsai will generally need to be close to an east, west or south window or be supplemented with artificial light. Fluorescent lights close to the tree usually work well. Indoor Bonsai almost always need more humidity than a house has, especially in the winter. A small tray with gravel and a little bit of water under the tree will add humidity around the tree. A spritz on the leaves also helps. Also the proud owner of a new indoor Bonsai tree needs to be consistent with the care. It may not need to be watered every day but it should be checked daily as the small pots can dry out rather quickly.
Hardy Bonsai need a winter dormancy. These are the conifers, pines and deciduous trees. One common tree is the juniper. They will not generally survive in your living room window unless it’s cool. An unheated room, porch or cool basement is needed, they can be heeled into a garden, put in a garage or under a deck. Just don’t forget to water on warm sunny days.
You should always buy from a reputable Bonsai dealer. They should have specific care information such as cold hardiness and light requirements. Make sure you know what kind of tree it is. A serissa and a carmona both have small shiny leaves and white flowers but they require different light and water conditions. If you know the name you can always get any information you need. The public library has lots of good Bonsai care books.
When you see a tree you like, check a few things before you buy. Look for a free draining soil. Be wary of soil completely covered with glued on rocks of moss as it’s not healthy for the tree. Look at the bottom of the pot to make it has drain holes for excess water. It should be secure in the pot. A wobbly tree could mean that it doesn’t have an established root system. A taper to the trunk is nice to have since it makes it look more like a tree than a cutting stuck in the soil.
Look at the tree overall, checking branches and both sides of the leaves for any sign of insects or fungus. Insects are a fact of life but you definitely don’t want to take any home with you. Also look at any other trees that are around. If you see dead or sick trees, check yours carefully especially if they are touching each other.
So now you’ve found the perfect tree and brought it home or gave it as a gift. Most trees will react to a change in their environment, some naturally more than others, usually shedding some leaves. But with some good old T.L.C., a healthy tree will bounce back.
This may seem like a lot to do to just to buy a little tree, but it’s no different than any other informed purchase, just as you wouldn’t buy a fish without having a special home for it. You should have a special home for your Bonsai tree. These few minutes of your time before hand can turn into a lifetime of enjoyment.