Grow Full Size Fruits In a Fraction Of The Area With Bonsai Trees
Joe Battaglia, Prevent Disease
Bon sai is an art that has been practiced in Asia for many centuries. It isn’t genetically altered to make it smaller. Bonsai trees are grown from the same seeds as trees that grow to full size. They are grown in small containers and trimmed and trained so that they remain small and elegant. In this ancient technique, you typically grow the tree outdoors where it can experience the same growing conditions as a regular tree of the same species bearing full sized fruits in a fraction of the area.
The largest difference between indoor fruit and traditional bonsai is, of course, the enjoyment of an attractive, fully leaved plant in winter instead of a dormant, leafless tree. Other differences include the faster growth rate of tropical plants, which accelerate all steps of the bonsai evolution.
The type of tree you grow should be reliant on the environment where you’ll be keeping it. Your region’s climate and your home environment should both be taken into account when you’re deciding which species of tree to grow. To be on the safe side, select a species that is indigenous to your part of the world.
Planting a bonsai tree from seed is a slow but rewarding process. If you plant a tree, you’ll have to allow it time to take root and grow strong before you can begin trimming and training.
Depending on the species of tree you grow, this could take up to five years. Many find the extra wait and effort to be worth it, since seeds are so inexpensive and the grower is able to control the tree at every stage of growth.
- Select a tree with a sturdy trunk, but one that is still quite young. Older trees won’t adapt well to being placed in a container.
- Choose a tree with roots that spread evenly in every direction, rather than growing laterally or entangled with the roots of other trees.
- Dig around the tree and extract a large amount of soil along with the roots. This will prevent the tree from dying of shock when it is moved to a container.
- Plant the tree in a large training container. Care for it according to the needs of the particular species. Wait about a year for the roots to get used to the container before you begin training it.
Chaparral white mulberry (Morus alba “Chaparral”) and the cherry tree “Bright N Tight” (Prunus caroliniana) are good for bonsai and yield edible berries. Chaparral white mulberry prefers full sun to partial shade and thrives in wet, but well-drained acidic soil. It bears inconspicuous green flowers in springtime that turn to pale green becoming pink and finally purple in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. “Bright N Tight” is an evergreen cherry tree that grows in USDA zones 8 through 10. This adaptable tree grows in any type of well drained soil in full sun to partial shade and yields fragrant white flowers that become black edible fruit.
Bonsai trees that have been grown from seed and partially trained have already received a lot of time and care, so they are usually quite pricey. Look online and in local nurseries and plant shops for a bonsai tree to bring home with you.
- If you buy a partially-trained bonsai from a shop, talk with the person who trained it about its specific needs.
- When you bring the bonsai home, give it a few weeks to adjust to the new setting before you begin working with it.
The Japanese flowering apricot (Prunus mume) flowers in late winter or early spring before the leaves emerge. You can shorten the branches after flowering, but you must identify the leave buds and make sure, there is at least one left at the end of the twig. If you cut a branch so short that there is no leaf bud left, the branch will most likely die.
If your tree should flower too abundantly or bear a great number of fruit you should thin out the flowers and fruit in order to prevent the tree from getting weak. The flowers and fruit should be evenly distributed on the tree and of the same size. So take off flowers and fruit where too many are in one place and pluck the largest and smallest.
On flowering trees that don’t bear fruit, take off all the flowers when most of them have wilted. Azaleas form seeds at the base of the flowers which should be removed along with the wilted flowers.
That wounds on bonsai trees do not heal in the same manner as the wounds of humans and/or animals. That is to say, trees are not able to repair damaged tissue; instead they continue to manufacture a new layer of cells with each years growth, until the wounds is entirely covered over. The length of time this ‘healing’ process takes depends upon the size of the wound and the overall size of each new annual growth ring.
That if you look at a cross-section of a tree trunk you will see rings and each of these rings indicates a full years worth of life and growth. Scientists can tell by the thickness or thinness of a ring in which year more rain and more subsequent growth took place. Accordingly, a thick ring indicates a year with more rain and more growth and thin ring indicates a year with less rain and less growth. This analysis is one method that curators of arboretums can use to tell when an injury occurred to an imported bonsai that is of an unknown age and approximately how many years it took for that injury to ‘heal’ or be completely calloused over. Scientific researchers and meteorologists can also use this method in their study of weather patterns from hundreds of years ago.
That mature trees, both bonsai and those on the front lawn, develop what is known as a ‘collar’ around the base of the largest branches. This swelling takes years to develop and is caused by the up and down, forward and backward, motion of the largest and heaviest branches as they are pushed to and fro by the whims of Mother Nature. These collars are important to those of us practicing bonsai cultivation, because they help to quicken the bonsai’s healing processes by enabling wounds – specifically those wounds that are left after the pruning of large branches – to heal more rapidly.
A bonsai tree can grow small or full-sized citrus fruit. Meyer lemon trees (Citrus meyeri) and calamondin orange trees (C. mitis) are good citrus trees for bonsai. Meyer lemon bears full-size lemons on bonsai trees and likes loamy, acidic, wet soil that’s not soggy. Calamondin orange trees have pretty, fragrant flowers and fruit all year long. Its fruit, which takes nearly one year to ripen, is edible, but not often eaten. This tree enjoys full sun to partial shade, regular watering interspersed with dry periods, tolerates moderate drought and needs to grow outdoors.
How Often Should You Water? – When people walk into our nursery, this is, without exception, the most asked question. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. How often you should water a bonsai tree depends on several different variables: what type of tree is it, what time of year is it, where is your tree kept, where do you live, and more than a few others. Watering bonsai is a constant balance between too much and too little.
How Should You Water? – The “best” way to water is to first wet the soil a little, this will improve the soil’s ability to absorb a larger volume of water, and then you should water thoroughly until the soil is saturated. Make certain that the entire soil mass gets wet – every time – you water and wait for the excess to run out of the drainage holes to be sure.
When Should You Water? – The “best” time to water is arguably early in the morning, before your bonsai begins its day of photosynthetic activities. However, it is important to be vigilant about its watering needs throughout the day, especially during the summer. Bear in mind that bonsai trees do not grow when the soil is wet and they do not grow when the soil is dry: it is only during the in between periods that your bonsai tree takes in water and nutrients. You also need to be aware of the amount of light your new bonsai is getting, the temperature of the room your bonsai is located in and the humidity levels of that immediate area. You also need to be realistic about your other life responsibilities, not only for their sake, but also for the sake of your bonsai. Work out a watering schedule that is realistically feasible. It makes no sense to schedule watering late in the morning, if you know that five days a week you’re going to be out the door by 7 AM. Be practical or you and your bonsai will be sorry.
What Kind Of Water Should You Use? – Water your new bonsai with room temperature tap water, because cold water has the potential to shock its roots. If you have the ability and the time to collect rain to water, that is great, but it is unnecessary unless the water in your neighborhood is unfit to drink – and, if it is, you might consider moving yourself and your bonsai somewhere safer.
How Much Light Does A Bonsai Require? Providing the correct amount of light for your bonsai is crucial to keeping it healthy. However, there are no simple answers as to how much light bonsai trees in general “require”. Light requirements are specific to the type of tree and are further dependent upon specific variations in the location they are kept – namely your home. It is a good idea to speak to your local bonsai supplier or a fellow bonsai enthusiast that has experience growing bonsai in a setting very similar to your own.
What Kind Of Light Is Best? – Sunlight is by far the best type of light for bonsai trees and most other living creatures on earth. As such, the brightest window in your home is arguably the best spot for your indoor bonsai trees. However, the brightest window in your home may be located next to the fireplace. So, in a case like this you need to find an alternative and more practical location and use some type of artificial lighting system.
What Kind Of Artificial Light Should You Provide? – A grow light and timer are a simple solution for providing additional light. Set your timer for 12 to 16 hours of supplemental lighting and position your bonsai within 1 to 4 inches of your light source.
Again, speaking to a local bonsai supplier or enthusiast is invaluable. If possible, visit their homes to actually look at their set up and ask questions.
Why Is Humidity Important For Bonsai? – Although indoor bonsai slow their growth in winter and do not need as much water, they still do require sufficient humidity. Humidity helps to reduce water loss through the processes of transpiration. Transpiration will have a negative effect on your bonsai’s ability to retain water and remain healthy.
How Can Humidity Be Improved? – The sometimes dry climate of a home or apartment can be altered to benefit your bonsai tree. Placing your bonsai on a “humidity tray” filled with decorative pebbles, that should be kept wet at all times, will help increase humidity levels. Another solution is regular misting. Misting is the most common humidifying method. It has the additional benefit of removing dust from your bonsai, which blocks sunlight and interferes with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Be sure to mist using room temperature water to avoid shock.
What Else Is Helpful To Prevent Dry Conditions? – Keep your indoor bonsai trees away from breezy doors, windows and heating sources, such as vents, radiators, and fireplaces; to avoid quickly drying them out. While more sunlight is desirable, it may dry out your bonsai. So, maintaining a watering schedule during winter is just as important as during summer.
Why Do Bonsai Need Fertilizer? – Bonsai containers are a man-made environment. As such, they require you, in order to maintain the health and development of your bonsai, to provide, in addition to frequent watering, a regular dose of fertilizer to the soil or growing medium.
What Type Of Fertilizer Should You Use? – Feed your bonsai with a balanced fertilizer, 20-20-20, at quarter strength, every other week. The numbers 20-20-20 are the percentage, by weight, of the N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) contained in that fertilizer. These elements, in addition to minor or trace elements, are necessary for cell division and enzyme processes that allow photosynthesis and the resulting growth to take place.
What Does N-P-K Stand For & What Does It Do? – N – Nitrogen is responsible for the size and amount of new growth and, to some extent, the green color of the leaves. Nitrogen is required for cell division and, also, protein manufacturing. P – Phosphorus is also necessary for cell division and is associated with good root growth and flowering. K – Potassium activates cell enzymes and is related with overall healthy cell activity.
Bonsai Fertilizer Notes – Always water your bonsai thoroughly before fertilizing and never use fertilizer on a dry tree.
Never fertilize a sick tree, as fertilizer is not medicine.
When you have finished a bottle of fertilizer, it is a good idea to purchase a different brand, as they all contain different amounts of trace elements and minerals. Exposing your bonsai to different amounts of these important trace elements and minerals is very beneficial.
If you are not sure how much fertilizer to use, follow the directions on the label and never use more than recommended.
Happy Bonsai Gardening!
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