Bonsai Tree Feeding and Watering

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bonsai tree feeding and watering

Bonsai tree feeding and watering requires only a bit more care than other plants. Water them frequently, use a well balanced pellet food, and enjoy their unique beauty for years to come! Let’s discuss the important aspects of keeping bonsai trees, to include feeding and watering, and environmental concerns.

bonsai tree feeding and watering
Image: Luca Finardi, Pixabay

All living things need some key elements to stay alive. Water is essential; without it, living things can perish in a matter of days. Nutrients, oxygen, and sunlight are also needed. Even people in prison get time outside! Plants, especially, use the sun’s radiation to create energy through photosynthesis. It’s incredible how the sun’s energy gives life to all on Earth, especially to plants and bonsais.

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Watering Your Bonsai Tree

How Much? When?

Watering is the first consideration when planning for Bonsai tree care. What is your environment like? If you live in a temperate climate where winters aren’t too cold or harsh, you can leave your bonsai outside so it will receive rainwater, fresh air and sunshine. Leaving the Bonsai inside on a window sill is fine. It is best to place your bonsai tree within one foot of the window glass, as glass can degrade the quality of the sun’s radiation.

chinese elm bonsai tree feeding and watering

watering your bonsai tree

Professionals note that underwatering is the cause of death of more than 90% of bonsais. Watering provides the medium through which the plants take water up through the trunk to their leaves so photosynthesis can take place.

Water in the morning before leaving for the day, and water in the evening.

Steps Pro Bonsai Tree Keepers Take To Watering

  • First, feel the soil. Your Bonsai tree needs water if the soil feels dry.
  • Water for 10 seconds. Go away for a minute or two.
  • Water for another 10 seconds and go away a second time.
  • When you return check the status of the soil. If it feels damp, it has received enough water.
  • If it still feels somewhat dry, water for another 10 seconds.

The soil should always feel damp. You can use a small hand watering can, or even just a glass or measuring cup. Also acceptable is to bring the bonsai to the sink and let it soak in the basin.

The larger the pot, the larger the tree, the more water is needed.

deciduous bonsai tree indoors
Image Kian2018, Pixabay

If you live in tropical, damp, and/or rainy areas your bonsai will still need water care. Rain isn’t always sufficient – evaporation still happens.

In the warmer seasons, spring and summer, water twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the evening.

While there’s no hard and fast rule, if your home is warm and heated or dry or you use air conditioning, you’ll need to monitor the bonsai’s water level more closely.

japanese elm bonsai tree
Image: MidJourney by author

Worried about over-watering your Bonsai?

Use a drain tray, and the water will simply empty there.

You can place a layer of small gravel on the undertray.

  • It looks nice and adds a nice aesthetic tough.
  • Gravel helps to keep water in the tray longer so it doesn’t evaporate as quickly.

You will have to wash the gravel every month or so. The gravel will get green and slimy and unsightly.

Do not rely on a mister exclusively, it won’t provide enough moisture. Misting does help to keep the foliage looking fresh.

Going on vacation? Make arrangements to have your bonsais watered. Immersing the bonsai roots in a tub of water isn’t acceptable, as its roots cannot breathe while submerged.

Feeding Your Bonsai Tree

Look for the N P K (Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium) composition labels. Generic all purpose feed is usually fine for Bonsai trees. Solid feed is usually a better option, economically, you get more for your money. Liquid feed is mostly water (although remember to dilute the liquid feed as recommended on the packaging.)

Solid pellets: place a dozen or so pellets around the plant. Pellets can generate mold as they will get some moisture. These pellet feedings should last a couple months before needing to be replaced.

Outdoor bonsais are best feed with pellet form food. Only feed them during the growing season. Sprinkle enough feed pellets to go around the tree’s trunk base. Early spring, early summer, and one in August. For smaller outdoor bonsais (less than knee height) two feedings is sufficient (once in spring, once in summer)

Early spring look for high nitrogen (10-7-7) rating. In autumn lower nitrogen and higher P and K rating is best.

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After years of denying it, Donald finally admits one passion in life is gardening. More specifically: growing seeds, plants, flowers and edibles and helping them to be the best possible. Neighbors call him a Green Thumb. He lives in Western Washington with his wife of 24+ years and three cats.

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