Bonsai Tree Cultivation

Bonsai tree cultivation has been a Japanese tradition for hundreds and hundreds of years.  Bonsai literally translates to “tray planting,” and involves actively cultivating trees into a dwarfed, artistic versions of themselves.  A bonsai tree is not a special dwarf or hybrid species of a common tree; they’re genetically identical to their larger brothers and sisters.  It’s the careful cultivation that keeps these trees small.  Surprisingly, the trees are not damaged by this process, however.  In fact, given the proper care, the dwarfed version of a tree can live longer than the same tree if it was allowed to grow in the wild.

Bonsai trees can either be grown from seeds or from cuttings of trees, and they normally range from two inches to three feet in height.  They are kept small through pruning both branches and roots.  They’re also repotted periodically, and new growth is frequently pinched off. 

Cultivating bonsai trees is actually as much about art as it is about horticulture.  Bonsai trees are not only kept miniture, they are also shaped into pleasing forms.  They frequently follow a number of different growth patterns, from simple triangles to waterfall shapes cascading down over their pots.  The various shapes are usually a product of both the pruning of the tree and through the use of wrapping the branches and trunk with wire, shaping the tree into its desired form.  The pots themselves are part of the art as well, chosen to compliment the shape and color of the tree itself.  Rocks and mosses are often added to the base for aesthetic appeal. 

Taking care of a bonsai tree is more complicated than maintaining most houseplants.  Since the bonsai has has a smaller root system than most plants, it needs fertilizer and water more often than most garden-variety houseplants.  Pruining is also essential occasionally, since the bonsai tree would grow into just a normal large tree without pruning.  Also, if wire is used to help mold and form the tree, it is important to take care that the wire doesn’t dig into the bark of the tree, scarring the branches permanently.  Depending on the type of bonsai tree and your climate, you may be able to keep some bonsai trees outside year round, while others will need to be kept inside for at least part of the year.  Since moisture in the soil, leaves, and branches of the bonsai is important, they need to be misted occasionally to remain healthy.