All bonsai trees are meant to grow outdoors. Some trees will live inside for an amount of time with the proper care in Kentucky. These guidelines are contingent upon using a quality soil mixture containing pumice, lava rock, akadama, or other non-organic aggregates.

 

temperate bonsai care  pine, juniper, maple, hornbeam, ginkgo, cypress, etc... 

 

Outdoor: where trees thrive

 

Placement - find a nice a sunny location with direct sunlight. It varies per species, but most plants love morning sun and prefer afternoon shade. Deciduous trees need to have afternoon shade, while most conifers don’t mind the afternoon sun. 

**Low-light areas such as a screened porch or areas with only 1 or 2 hours of direct sunlight a day may be problematic and not recommended.

 

Water - water trees as needed, not necessarily on a schedule- ensure soil nearly dries between each watering. Most trees will need to be watered daily during the summer when living outside in full sun conditions. Make sure to wet, not soak, all soil in pot. Make sure the soil has nearly dried between waterings. During spring and fall watering requirements may be lessened. Work a finger into the top 1/4-1/2" of the soil to check for subsurface soil moisture if the surface soil is dry.

Fertilizer-

Developing trees - we use a combination of balanced organic and chemical fertilizers. All trees get organic fertilizer (4-6-4) applications every 5 weeks, and a liquid fertilizer application (20-20-20) every 7-14 days during the growing season (April-October). This combination encourages trees to grow at an accelerated rate.

Finished/developed trees - use balanced organic fertilizers (4-6-4 or similar) only. Perform applications every 5 weeks during the growing season (species dependent). Too many nutrients will cause excessive growth and maintaining form could become difficult.

Pest controls - make sure to identify the pest before applying a chemical application.  It is easiest to use a 3-in-1 or an all-in-one product, but best to use a specific chemical for the exact problem. For example, spray insecticide when insects are present, fungicide for fungal issues (leaf spot), and miticide when mites are present. There is no need to unnecessarily spray 3 types of chemicals to control one issue! 

 

Overwintering - with a small collection in USDA Zone 6/7, leave plants outside all winter long.  Find an ideal location- one that will get direct sunlight, natural precipitation, and sheltered from continuous winds. Place bonsai pot on a raised mound of about 3-4" of mulch, and then mulch the entire pot and soil, up to about 1" on the trunk. Do not remove the tree from the pot. Do not bury the tree/pot in the ground. In the event of a very dry winter, once a month watering may be necessary. In the spring, the trees can come out of protection once temperatures are consistently above freezing (Late March-Early April).

 

With deciduous trees- during spring in our area, the trees may begin to flush out before the frosts/freezes are finished. These trees and their new foliage must be protected on these nights (38 and colder).

With fragile trees or for more extreme temperatures, build a cold frame with PVC and use a white plastic to enclose them. Be very careful on warm and sunny spring days and be sure to vent the cold frame- temperatures inside can be much higher than ambient air temperature. Remove plastic once rains start in the early spring to allow the trees to drink, but replace plastic if temperatures drop below 38.

Having a dinner party, entering a show or performing winter work are the only reasons to bring a temperate tree indoors. Keeping the tree indoors for longer than a week could result in death or decline. Temperate trees need to experience the elements and have a period of cold dormancy.

tropical bonsai care  ficus, buttonwood, brazilian rain tree, bougainvillea, fukien tea, etc...

 

Indoor: 

Tropical trees can be grown indoors year round, but do much better if taken out in summer to regain vigor. All trees enjoy their native environments and will thrive when grown in those conditions. Elevating the tree on a humidity tray under the tree and keeping water in the tray will help.

**Do not put tree next to an HVAC vent or return. Doing so will increase transpiration, wick away moisture and cause defoliation.

 

Light - best to place in south or southwest facing window (not drafty!) that receives direct sunlight. With or without a window, supplemental lighting is needed. Most fluorescent, CFL or LED lights will work. Set them on a timer for at least 12 hours a day and no further than 2 inches away from foliage canopy.

**Incandescent bulbs will burn foliage

 

Water - water plant every 2-5 days while inside. Make sure soil stays slightly moist between waterings. Do not flood the tree, simply get all soil wet and make sure humidity tray has enough water. It is not recommended to soak the pot in a sink.

 

Water preparation - fill gallon jug and sit outside in sunlight for a week or so uncovered (to help break LWC chlorine/chloramine bonds or use aquarium dechlorinator for instant results). . Using tap water may cause calcification on trunk and soil, but is still acceptable to use. Whenever watering indoors, make sure to use room temperature water only. 

**In-line filtered water should be fine to use as-is

Fertilizer - we fertilize trees each or every other watering while indoors.  When fertilizing this way, lower the amount of fertilizer used, and use about 1/2 strength, ie… if it says 4 tablespoons per gallon, once every month, then use 1 tablespoon per gallon, once a week. A general 20-20-20 liquid or water soluble fertilizer (@1/2 strength) will be fine for the winter, in the summer use a full strength formulation. Add fertilizer amount to a jug. Use jug to water tree and then store out of sunlight and closed. Use jug for each watering.

Humidity - Tropical trees indoor will benefit from frequent or daily misting of the foliage. This helps the plant retain foliage by increasing ambient humidity. Using a humidity tray is another highly recommended way to increase ambient humidity. Simply get a tray with sidewalls (cookie sheet, brownie pan, bonsai humidity tray, etc...) and elevate the pot out of the tray (use large rocks or a wire rack). Once the pot is elevated, fill the tray with water and keep it filled throughout the season. Make sure the pot is never touching the water! 

Outdoors:

After the last 45 degree night has passed or when night temperatures are above 50 degrees, it's time to take the tree outside. (Late April-Mid May)

Light - find a bright location without direct sunlight and let acclimate for 1 week. At the start of week 2, move the tree into morning sun (8a-noon), and leave in this location for a total of 2 weeks. After 3 weeks in a sunlight-limited location, move the tree into a full sun location. Botchy discoloration on the foliage (sun scald), may appear on old foliage and it's perfectly fine.

 

Water - water the tree every 2-4 days in spring and fall and every 1-3 days during the summer (depending on sunlight conditions, amount of foliage, and soil type.). Make sure the soil nearly dries out between watering

 

Fertilizer - during the growing season, increase the amount of fertilizer given to the plant by a small amount. A general 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer will be fine for summer fertilization.

Tree Ailments:

-Most tropical trees have few pests in our temperate climate.  White flies, aphids, scale, chili thrips and mealy bugs do make an occasional visit. They are controlled with readily available insecticidal soaps and insecticides, read the label.

 

-Normal leaf drop will occur for a tropical acclimating to its new indoor climate, and sometimes the tree may completely defoliate. Some trees will not flush growth until brought back outside for the summer or moved to an ideal heat/humidity setting. 

-Discoloration of leaf or visible lesions usually indicate inadequate sunlight or excessive watering 

newly repotted juniper guidelines

These tips will help improve the success rate transitioning a Procumbens Nana/Shimpaku Juniper into a bonsai pot. These trees are to be outside, 365 days a year. Please see above for additional tips on temperate trees.

 

Sunlight:

For plants potted after May 1:

For a period of TWO WEEKS place the tree into a very bright location, with no direct sunlight.  Over the following two weeks, morning sun only, from 8a-11a, and complete afternoon shade. Moving a newly repotted tree into afternoon sun before this timeframe will surely cook the tree. These locations are temporary settings, and will be adjusted once the tree has become established and is showing signs of new growth. If the tree is not showing signs of new growth, do not move it into sunlight. If a tree loses a branch or all the foliage begins to turn yellow, do not water the tree.  Over-watering the tree when it is sick will cause it to die much quicker. 

 

When we repot trees, they stay in filtered sunlight for almost a month. During this time, they don’t need much water in the soil, and they will benefit from daily foliage misting. The trees are gradually moved into more direct sunlight conditions, usually increasing the amount of direct sunlight one hour per week.

 

For the first year of establishment, it is best to provide bright morning sun, and late afternoon shade, especially during the hot summer months. After the tree is pushing new growth, slowly (over a period of months, not days) expose the tree to more early afternoon sun. Full, hot, blazing sun is ONLY recommended after the tree has become established and has been growing for a full 6 months.

 

For plants repotted March 1st- April 30th:

For a period of one week place the tree into morning sun only- from 8a-11a and complete afternoon shade. It is not advised to move a newly repotted tree into afternoon sun before this timeframe. This is a temporary setting, and will be adjusted once the tree has become established and is showing signs of new growth. If the tree is not showing signs of new growth, do not move it into more sunlight. If a tree loses a branch or foliage begins to turn yellow, do not water the tree. Watering the tree when it is sick will cause it to die much quicker. If you have a question about tree health, text me at 502-594-0508 with your name and include a picture of the tree in question.

 

 

Water:

Watering a Juniper is almost a science, but not too difficult. Junipers live in rock crevices and in dry rocky outcroppings in nature, so keeping them wet when established could cause death- they prefer to be more dry than wet.

 

If the surface of the soil is dry, simply move some soil around to see if there is moisture at a lower level (1/4”) in the pot. If there is visible excessive moisture, do not water the soil just mist the foliage. Junipers prefer to be dry more-so than wet, and additional watering with excessive moisture in the soil is a no-no.

 

Immediately after repotting and during the period of establishment, only water once every 3-4 days. This is a guideline and not a rule, and actual water requirements will vary based on amount of foliage on the tree and actual amount of sunlight provided. In some low light settings or weeks with a good amount of natural rain, it could be a week or longer between watering (again only with new repottings).  Check the soil for signs of moisture.

 

If we get extremely hot temperatures (80+),  misting the foliage in the early am or late pm will be beneficial. Misting is simply a couple of sprays to cool the foliage after a long hot day. Do not over-mist and/or re-soak the soil, mist the foliage only, and not while in full sunlight. We have a product called "Goo-Goo Juice" that is a great additive to the mist water. Goo-Goo Juice will help alleviate some of the stress encountered of repotting. We use it regularly in our repotting mist water and have been very successful.

 

Watering with a gentle shower nozzle is the best method. Soaking the tree is not necessary- simply ensure that all areas of the soil are wetted. We usually lightly wet or “wash” the foliage at each watering, starting at the top of the tree and end at the soil. 

 

Fertilizer:

Fertilizer is not necessarily required until new growth appears, but fertilizer can be applied at the first watering. As new growth begins to emerge, use a balanced liquid fertilizer (Monty’s or Miracle Grow) at HALF strength (.5tbsp/gal) until the tree begins to actively grow, and then full strength 3-4 times a month.

 

In addition to liquid fertilizer, we also use a balanced granular organic fertilizer throughout the growing season on top of the soil. Most beginner workshop trees will require 2 tablespoons of fertilizer, spread out over the entire soil surface. Our  4-6-4 granular fertilizer can and should be applied to the soil every 4-5 weeks. It is best to remove as much of the old fertilizer as possible and dispose of before applying any new fertilizer.

 

Pests and Diseases:

Spider mites love Junipers.  They are tiny, sucking insects barely visible to the naked eye.  If there is dense webbing at the top of the tree, or the foliage looks gray or bleached out, mites may be present.  Place a clean, white sheet of paper under the bonsai and gently agitate the foliage over the paper.  Tiny specks will fall onto the paper.  Wait a few seconds.  If any of the specks start to move, spider mites are colonizing the tree.  Shower the tree with water, then apply an insecticide- using as directed.  Repeat the application 2 or 3 times, 7-10 day apart. Mites do not necessarily become visible until late May or June.

 

Junipers are also susceptible to fungus.  Fungus can appear as a gray, tan or black area on the branches.  If a fungus is suspected, it is best to let a professional take a look.  Correctly identify the pathogen, then spray with a fungicide that will control the desired strain.  It is a good idea to consult with a professional if you think something is wrong with your bonsai.  Remember, the best defense against insects and disease is growing a healthy bonsai.

 

Cleanliness:

Always keep our juniper clean of old needles, dead branches, etc.  Remove these dead needles from the top of the soil, as well as from the tree.  Tweezers are a good tool for this job. 

 

Repotting:

Do not worry about repotting these trees for a minimum of 3-5 years. After the initial potting, it could take 3 years just to get the tree growing vigorously. The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap. This is also true of all landscape and tree plantings!

 

Overwintering:

When temperatures are around 30 degrees at night, simply remove the tree from direct wind and into a place with good sunlight. Place the tree on a few bricks to elevate from the soil and simply cover the pot and bricks with mulch, making sure to only put about an inch on the bonsai soil and the trunk area. Too much mulch on the trunk could cause harm. In the spring, once temperatures are above freezing (around April 20th), remove mulch and place into a warm and sunny spot in accordance with the sunlight guidelines above. There could be a few pieces of foliage that didn’t make it through the winter, and it is ok to go ahead and prune them off.

newly repotted tropical care guideline

Sunlight:

Place tree into bright indirect sun only for about a week.  After that, morning sun only (7a-11a) for one week. If the leaves start to shrivel or get burned, reduce the amount of direct sunlight. After tree shows signs of new growth, transition into full sun over a two week period.

Watering:

​Keep watering to a minimum, and only water when the soil is nearing dry. If unsure, check the soil surface for moisture, if there is no moisture present, lightly move the upper soil layer to the side and see if the soil is moist 1/4-1/2" under the surface. If there are signs of moisture, water the next day- if the subsurface soil is dry, water at that time. In our experience, watering ever 2-4 days is the typical timeframe for watering a newly repotted tree (depending on species- a Brazillian Rain Tree enjoys a more moist environment while a Willow Leaf Ficus prefers a drier soil). During this time, mist the foliage daily. As the tree begins to show growth, transition it into more sunlight and adjust the watering accordingly. As the tree grows more foliage and receives more sunlight, it will use more water. Use the aforementioned guideline to determine when to water the plant once established. 

In addition to liquid fertilizer, we also use a balanced granular organic fertilizer throughout the growing season on top of the soil. Most beginner workshop trees will require 2 tablespoons of fertilizer, spread out over the entire soil surface. Our  4-6-4 granular fertilizer should be applied to the soil every 3-5 weeks. It is best to remove as much of the old fertilizer as possible and dispose of before applying any new fertilizer.

Fertilizer:

Fertilizer is not necessarily required until new growth appears, however fertilizer can be applied at the first watering. As new growth begins to emerge, use a balanced liquid fertilizer (Monty’s or Miracle Grow) at HALF strength (.5tbsp/gal) until the tree begins to actively grow, and then full strength 3-4 times a month. 

Pests and Diseases:

Brazillian Rain Tree- not many pests have been observed with this tree- there are maladies that affect the tree.

Ficus species- Scale insects have been observed. These piercing/sucking insects will slow the vigor of branch. Signs to look for- weaker growth compared to other branches, spider-like webbing and wilted leaves, black substance on leaves (sooty mold), or small "bumps"/shells appearing on a branch. Remove affected branches if possible and treat with broad-spectrum insecticide (labelled for scale) 3 times, 7-10 days apart. 

Repotting:

Do not worry about repotting these trees for a minimum of 3-5 years. After the initial potting, it could take 3 years just to get the tree growing vigorously. The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap. This is also true of all landscape and tree plantings!

Overwintering:

When temperatures are around 45 degrees at night, the tree should goto Florida for its winter home. Don't prune the tree before taking it indoors! An ideal location for the tree is a southwest facing window that allows full sunlight to reach the tree. If a SW facing window is not possible, supplemental light must be provided. A fluorescent or LED bulb will work just fine. Make sure to suspend the bulb directly above the foliage (almost touching), and have the light on a timer for 12 hours on, 12 hours off. The tree should also be elevated on a humidity tray (cookie sheet, large plate, bonsai humidity tray, etc...) Keeping water in the tray will increase ambient humidity, and doing so helps the tree to retain its foliage. Greenhouse conditions are best for the tree: warm, moist, and bright, and making a small, tree "greenhouse" should be considered.  

 

General watering and fertilization practices for established tropical trees living indoors are described above. 

Once night temperatures are above 50 degrees, take the tree outside to a bright location with no direct sunlight. Keep the tree in this spot for one week and then place into morning sun 7a-12p for a week. Sunburn or discoloration of the existing foliage may occur, but as long as the growth tips are green, everything is fine. After a week in morning sun, gradually move the tree into full sunlight over the next week or two.  

© 2020 by Twisted Nature Bonsai

7209 Greenlawn Rd Louisville, KY 40222

  • Facebook Clean