Bonsai trees have a long history, and people all over the world admire their beauty. The art of bonsai originated in China more than a thousand years ago, moving to Japan in the twelfth century.
Bonsai takes its signals from nature. Miniature plants grow naturally all over the world in cracks and crevices, in cliffs and buildings. Still, the ancient art of bonsai requires some knowledge and attention to detail.
In Japanese, bonsai means grown in a container, and it refers to any tree that is trained to remain miniature. Read on to find out how to care for a bonsai tree inside.
Growing a bonsai tree indoors
Trees belong outside, so many bonsais won’t thrive in an indoor environment. If you love the art of bonsai and you really would like to grow one in your apartment, there are a few tropical or subtropical plants that can make the transition from outdoor living to indoor life.
We’ve listed below a number of tree species that make good candidates for indoor bonsai
- Dwarf jade
It isn’t possible to grow evergreen trees like pine, spruce, and juniper inside. These species need the sunlight and temperature changes of outdoor living to thrive and grow. Many trees undergo periods of dormancy during the winter, and this is an essential part of the annual growth cycle.
If you are moving a bonsai tree from the outside in, bear in mind that it will take several weeks to acclimatize your bonsai to indoor conditions. As the tree adjusts, it may lose up to 20% of its leaves. Still, if you create the right indoor conditions, the leaves will grow back.
Trees are outdoor plants, so they need plenty of light. Place your tree where it gets at least eight hours of light a day. Still, hours of direct light could overheat the tree, so a south-facing windowsill in the summer just won’t do.
Trees won’t die immediately if they don’t get enough light, but the plant will become weaker with time. You will also need to keep your bonsai trees away from cold drafts and the direct heat from radiators.
Bonsai trees need plenty of humidity. Indoor environments are often very dry. Place your bonsai pot in a humidity tray. This is necessary to catch the excess water that runs out of the bottom of the pot. Humidity trays contain decorate rocks that keep the water away from the roots.
The water in the tray creates a small amount of humidity around the pot. This will help to protect it from the drying effects of indoor heating and air conditioning.
Spray a fine mist of water onto the tree daily to ensure that the leaves stay dust-free, cool, and healthy.
Watering your bonsai
Like most plants, bonsai trees don’t like their roots to lie in water, so you must ensure that your tree has well-drained soil. The pot must have holes in the base.
Because bonsais have very little soil, diligence in watering your plant is essential. Check the soil twice a day to ensure that it is still moist. If the soil is light brown and only slightly damp, it’s time to give it water.
When watering your bonsai, soak the soil thoroughly until the water runs out into the tray. Your bonsai must never get too dry. Rather ensure that it moves from wet to damp between waterings. Most indoor bonsais will need water every two to three days.
If you place your bonsai outside at any time, it will need water more frequently. It is worth noting that indoor bonsais will thrive if they are placed on a deck or veranda from time to time during the summer months.
If the leaves start turning yellow or the tips turn black, you may be watering your bonsai too often. Stop watering it until the soil is completely dry, and then try watering it again. If the problem continues, there may be a problem with the soil drainage, and you will have to repot the plant.
Make sure that the pot has drainage holes because if it doesn’t, your bonsai will fail.
Your bonsai will also need fertilizer. Find a slow-release fertilizer and feed your bonsai once a week when new growth starts to appear in the spring.
How to repot bonsai trees
You will have to repot your bonsai every three to five years as its roots will become pot-bound over that period. When a plant becomes pot-bound, its roots take up all the space in the pot, leaving the plant with no space and few nutrients. If you take no action, the tree will weaken and eventually die.
Potting isn’t routine. In spring, check your bonsai roots if you see the roots encircling the pot. They’ve run out of space. Plan the repotting for spring.
Choose a bonsai soil for the task as regular soil doesn’t drain enough. Akadama, pumice, and lava rock in an equal ratio is all you need.
Once you’ve taken the bonsai out of its pot, cut the longest roots. Don’t remove more than 30% of the roots, or your tree will battle to recover. Fill the pot up with soil, and your bonsai should be good for a few more years.
Choosing your indoor bonsai
Though there are not many indoor bonsai trees, those that manage indoor living are all beautiful in their own right.
The Ficus or fig tree is, by far, the easiest bonsai to grow indoors. These hardy trees often grow naturally in crevices and cracks. They’re indigenous to South East Asia. They are able to tolerate a lot less light and humidity than most other trees. Still, they don’t like full afternoon sun and tolerate changes badly.
There are many varieties of Ficus. Some of them bear colorful fruits and flowers, so they are a delight to cultivate. Their banyan root systems are perfect for growing in a root over rock style.
Also known as Fukien Tea, Carmona is native to Japan, Taiwan, China, Australia, and Indonesia. Traditionally this is an indoor bonsai, and it’s popular because it blossoms year-round. It has tiny white flowers and little red or black berries. The leaves are small, shiny, and dark green in color.
It likes a warm environment so keep the temperature at 70° F. Make sure that this bonsai isn’t exposed to cold breezes in the winter months.
Originating in the dry areas of South Africa, Dwarf Jade has green, oval succulent leaves and is also traditionally an indoor plant. Dwarf Jade likes plenty of sunlight and will signal its displeasure at a lack of light by turning red at the tips.
The succulent leaves of the Dwarf Jade ensure that it is more tolerant to dry conditions than other plants, so don’t overwater it.
The Serissa or Snow Rose is a beautiful, delicate tree native to the woodlands of South East Asia. It is an evergreen with small, shiny leaves. It blossoms in early spring to late autumn with a profusion of flowers, but it is very sensitive to any changes and will drop leaves when it’s unhappy. Sort the problem out, and the leaves will grow again.
Otherwise known as a Hawaiian Umbrella Tree, Schefflera is very popular as an indoor bonsai. Though not considered a true bonsai, Schefflera needs less light, and they are also less finicky than most other bonsai trees. Aerial roots grow from the trunk and stem, making this an interesting tree to prune.
Choose the right bonsai to grow indoors, and you’ll have years of enjoyment and perhaps leave behind a family heirloom for the next generation to enjoy.