Creating Olive Tree Bonsai From Pre-Bonsai Material

In this post, you will learn how to clean up the trunk, hollow out a stump, and trim and wire the branches of the Olive Tree, scientific name Olea europaea. This tree has been growing in the same pot for over 4 years. Last summer, it was cut back very hard and as a result, it developed a fine dense branch structure that can be used to create a beautiful bonsai.

This is a great material for bonsai, because it has a character: beautiful bark, natural deadwood and nice twist in the trunk. When you begin working on the material like this, it is not really important to know what exactly you want to make out of it. You just need to find parts of the tree that you want highlight.

In this tutorial we will be removing a few branches and opening up the structure, so you can see this beautiful trunk. Next, we’ll be rearranging branches that we have left and doing some carving.  The whole process will take about 2-3 hours. [Read more…]

How To Style Willow Leaf Ficus Bonsai Tree

In this tutorial you will learn how to style Willow Leaf Ficus Bonsai, scientific name Ficus nerifolia.  Ficus is a tropical tree that reduces very well. It is great fro beginners because it is very forgiving.

The best time for styling this tree is during growing season. The process of styling includes tree defoliation, branch trimming, root trimming, repotting and branch wiring.

After you are done styling this tree, leave it for 3-4 months to develop secondary branches. [Read more…]

Creating Brazilian Rain Tree Bonsai From Pre-Bonsai Material

In this post, I will go over the process of taking pre-bonsai material and turning it into a beautiful bonsai. If you are a beginner and just starting in bonsai, this is a perfect step-by-step tutorial for you.

You will learn repotting process, root reduction and foliage trimming. This is a first step in making a bonsai from pre-bonsai material.

This Brazilian Rain Tree, scientific name Pithecellobium tortum, was started by air layering technique. After separating the new tree from the old one and giving it one year to establish, it is ready to be made into a bonsai. Spring is a great time for repotting and root trimming. [Read more…]

Hollowing Out English Hornbeam Bonsai Tree

The key to creating an interesting bonsai is an understanding of how trees deal with damage, how they repair themselves and how they continue living for thousand years in spite of everything the environment throws at them.

Here we have an English Hornbeam bonsai, also known as Carpnus betulus, that has an ugly cut in the middle of the trunk. A lot of bonsai enthusiasts wouldn’t know what to do with it. In this post, you will learn fast and easy fix for that kind of a problem.

Looking closely at the cut, you can see that it is absolutely flat. There are also visible saw marks where the original trunk was removed. The scar has been healing for a few years now.  The callus tissue has rolled back nicely and there is a sharp dry back around the edge. For those reasons, this is a perfect candidate to be hollowed out. The callus will gradually roll into the hollow that we are about to make and it will look very natural.

At the base, as you can see, there is no callus tissue at all. That is because there is no sap flow there. The callus tissue develops only when the sap goes past the cut. We are going to extend this cut down and make it slightly larger and at the same time hollow it out to make the tree look more interesting and natural. [Read more…]

Creating Hornbeam Bonsai From Pre-Bonsai Material

Bonsai is the art of distilling the magic of an ancient tree into a miniature form that is pleasing to the eye. Nature give us limitless variety where no trees are alike. In order to create truly interesting bonsai we need to free our imagination and encompass the infinite wonder of the world around us.

In this post, you will learn how to style a tree through branch trimming, wood carving and wiring.  This Oriental Hornbeam, scientific name Carpinus orientalis, is a well established tree that has been in development for 7 years with 5 years growing in the same pot.

You can see there are more than one problems that needs to be addressed. This tree has a lot of thick branches growing in different directions and a lot of dense twigging. Just by looking at it, its not clear where the front of the tree should be.

We’ll start by deciding on the front of the tree, than remove unwanted branches, clean up the bark, create a hollow by carving the wood, seal the cuts, stain the wood and finally wire the branches. [Read more…]

How To Style Juniper Bonsai Tree

Most of the beginners get their bonsai from a mall, home improvement store, or at the chain store. Commercial quality bonsai are produced on a mass scale in many countries including China and Japan. They are often lifted from the ground and planted into a bonsai pot. Many times they would sit indoors for a while before you buy them. As a result, those trees are in poor health, growing in poor soil with minimum styling.

Most of the these trees die in the hands of novices. Those that don’t, tend to be poorly maintained and never really reach their full potential. Today you will learn how to turn a  boring mass produced tree into an inspiring bonsai in just a couple hours. For these demonstration we’ll be using Kishu Juniper bonsai.

This is one of the typical trees that gets ignored. It can be turned into something interesting with some careful pruning and wiring. The pruning will help us to open up the tree. Wiring will improve the branch structure and the shape of the tree. [Read more…]

How To Repot Japanese Maple Bonsai

Bonsai trees need to be repotted on the regular basis, otherwise as the tree grows, the pot will get filled with long roots. When this happens,  the drainage in the soil becomes worse and worse, and the vigor of the tree will gradually begin to decline. The tree will not be getting enough nutrients and as a result the health of the tree will begin to suffer.

Repotting is one of the those things that beginners fill uncomfortable doing, because cutting roots of the tree doesn’t seam to be a natural  thing to do. Some people are even saying that bonsai art is about tree torturing. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

With bonsai repotting is all about keeping the tree healthy long term. That is how we manage to grow these trees for many years in very small pots and in very small amount of soil. [Read more…]

Crabapple Bonsai Tree Propagation By Air Layering

This Crabapple Tree, also known as Malus sargentii, was collected a year ago. In this post, I will show you how to air layer this tree to create a bonsai. Air layering technique is one of my favorite, because it saves you time and money. You can select the part of the tree that would make the best bonsai composition.

A lot of people think that air layering is difficult, but in fact it is very simple technique. The most important thing for successful air layering is TIMING. The best time for air layering technique is an early spring when the buds are just starting to go green and you can see a beginning of the leaf. [Read more…]

Creating Privet Bonsai By Using Deadwood Techniques

In this tutorial you will see how to transform an ugly hedging material to a beautiful bonsai by using a deadwood carving techniques and some branch wiring.

We’ll be using Privet Tree, scientific name Ligustrum ovalfolium which is a  plant that is widely used for hedging. It has been in this pot for about 4 years.

During that  time, it has been pruned very frequently resulting in a dense branch structure. Natural habit of this tree is very long and straight branches. In order to create a bonsai from it, we’ll need to do some wiring.

Despite looking like a promising material, this tree is not as great as it looks. There are several long unattractive trunks that are all coming from one base. If you rotate this tree, it looks flat from any direction. There is no depth since all of these trunks are coming at you. [Read more…]

Styling Buttonwood Bonsai Tree

This large Buttonwood Tree, scientific name Conocarpus erectus, has been growing for about 10 years. Since the trunk looked weak, it was placed over the rock to give it more support and to create root over rock style.

There are a few new roots that are growing over the rock making this composition more balanced. In this tutorial you will learn how to style and clean up this bonsai.

We will re-position the rock, defoliate the tree, clean up the bark, trim branches, and apply the wire. [Read more…]

How to Repot Root Bound Water Jasmine Bonsai

In this post we will be working on a  root bound Water Jasmine Bonsai, also known as Wrightia religiosa. Root bound is when the roots of the tree are so dense and so full, they are lifting the tree out of the pot and growing out of the holes at the bottom.

Bonsai needs to be repotted and root pruned in order to absorb major and minor elements from the soil mix. If tree is not root pruned, it will develop long roots that will take up most of the space in the pot.

Root bounded trees have troubles getting all the nutrients and will start to decline despite perfect growing conditions and good quality fertilizer. The frequency of repotting and root pruning depends on the species of the tree. Some grow faster and need to be repotted more often than once a year.

The challenge with this root bound Water Jasmine bonsai is to reduce the roots and get it into a new smaller pot. [Read more…]

How To Repot Moreton Bay Fig Bonsai

In this repotting tutorial you will learn how to repot a Moreton Bay Fig, scientific name Ficus macrophylla. This bonsai was sold in a nursery pot and needs to be repotted into a bonsai container.

Bonsai are often mass grown in a farm and are planted into the container right from the field. If you don’t purchase a bonsai from a reputable bonsai nursery, it might be grown in a very poor soil that has low water absorption and slow drainage. In that case, you should repot your bonsai with a good quality soil mix as soon as possible. [Read more…]

How to Grow Bonsai Indoors

Many beginners think that bonsai is this little cute indoor plant. They couldn’t be farther from the truth. Bonsai are naturally outdoor trees that are grown in small containers. And like regular trees they need to grow outside. Some of the tropical or subtropical species need protection from cold and can be brought inside during winter months, but even they should be taken outside when the weather is warm.

In the magazines and books you will see photos of bonsai that are taken indoors. Understand, they’ve been brought inside temporary for the photo shoot or bonsai show and will be returned outdoors for recovery.

Deciduous and coniferous trees should be grown OUTDOORS for a few reasons. First, climate trees need a period of rest, or you can also say “dormancy”, during cooler season. That is when trees stop growing and start saving all their energy for Spring. It is VERY important for the trees to have that rest period. Without it they will be forced to continue to grow and then will go into a forced dormancy which can be DEADLY.

Another reason is that providing perfect growing conditions indoors is very challenging. It is hard to arrange your house in such way that trees would get enough light, humidity and air circulation. And how would you artificially make it cool enough for the trees to go into dormancy without freezing yourself? [Read more…]

Your First Bonsai Tree

Bonsai can be overwhelming especially for beginners. There are so many techniques, rules and varieties of trees available today, that it is easy to get lost.

If you are new to bonsai and don’t know where to begin, start by learning how to keep your tree alive and take care of it. After learning the fundamentals of bonsai, you can try more difficult techniques.

Where to buy bonsai

Most of the beginners get their first bonsai from a shopping mall or a large home improvement store like Home Depot. Some get it as a gift, which was also probably purchased at the mall. Very few get it from a reputable bonsai nursery. I can’t even call those inexpensive plants a bonsai.

They are so cheap for a reason, very little energy or training was put into them. I can only call them “bonsai material”. Of course, with proper care and training they could become a bonsai, but it is NOT a bonsai. [Read more…]

Brazilian Rain Tree Bonsai Propagation By Air Layering

Air layering is a way to propagate the tree without growing it from seed or cuttings. Air layering is when you take a tree that is already established,  remove part of the bark and surround it with peat moss. After a while, the roots will develop in that location allowing you to separate that part of the tree and plant it separately.

This method is great not only because you can get a new tree to establish pretty quickly, but also because you can choose the best part of the tree for your bonsai.

A lot of times you’ll find a tree that has a great movement and curves at the top and you know that this top part would be perfect for bonsai. With air layering you can take just that top part and grow it independently creating  a beautiful bonsai.

For this air layering tutorial we are using Brazilian Rain Tree, scientific name Pithecellobium tortum. [Read more…]

What Is The Best Bonsai Soil Mix

In the nature, trees are able to extend their roots deep into the ground to get water, air and nutrients. Since bonsai grow in small pots, they need to get all the water, air and nutrients from the little amount of soil.

It would make sense to use the same kind of soil that trees grow in. Unfortunately, potting soil has multiple problems when used for bonsai. It locks too much moister, has poor drainage and is too compact for the oxygen to get in.

Most of the bonsai masters use soil mix that consists of fired clay, river rock and some organic component like pine bark. It might shock you, but there is NO SOIL in a good bonsai soil mix. This soilless mix is designed to provide trees with fast drainage, good aeration, and high water retention.

The quality of soil is directly responsible for the health and vigour of the tree. Poor soil drainage can easily lead to ill roots and to root rot. For bonsai, the soil should be extremely fast draining to the point where you can watch the water coming out of the bottom of the pot. [Read more…]

How to Wire Bonsai Tree The Right Way

A wiring technique in bonsai is used to better control and manipulation the structure of the tree. We use wiring to fill in bare spots of the tree, create a movement or simply to change the direction of the branch.

It would be very hard, and sometimes even impossible, to create a bonsai that we want without using a wire. Correct wiring is almost an art form in itself and takes a lot of practice to get it right. If the tree is wired nicely, you can display it without wire being an issue.

Wire Types

There are two main types of wire used for bonsai: aluminum and copper. Aluminum wire is not as strong as copper, but easier to apply and easier to remove. It is better for beginners because it is much more forgiving than copper. [Read more…]

How To Water Your Bonsai Tree

Bonsai trees like regular trees need water to survive. Most of the beginners run into a problem of overwatering or underwatering the tree. Don’t feel bad. We all have done it. We all killed a few trees before getting it right. Watering bonsai the RIGHT way takes time and practice.

Regular trees in the natural environment can adjust and regulate their water intake by growing more or less roots. If there is not enough water, trees will extend their roots far into the ground searching for moisture. As a result, trees that grow in drier climates have larger root system.

If the tree grows in a wet climate where there is a lot of moister available, it doesn’t need long roots to get enough water. Those trees usually have a shallow root system. Bonsai plants need considerably less water proportional to its size.

Since bonsai grows in a small shallow pot with a little compost, it doesn’t have the ability to adjust or regulate water intake. Also, because there is not much soil in the pot, it dries out quicker and is greatly affected by the surroundings, like humidity levels, temperatures, season, location (outdoors/indoors) and so on. [Read more…]

How to Choose a Bonsai Tree

You need to consider few things when choosing a bonsai tree. First decide where you are going to put your bonsai tree, whether you would like to grow it outdoors or indoors. This will directly determine your choice of bonsai tree.

Outdoors or Indoors

A lot of people think that bonsai are houseplants but most of the bonsai are hardy trees and cannot live indoors. Imagine digging out a maple tree from your yard and bringing it indoors. I will not survive for long. Bonsai maple is just a smaller version of the real tree.

If you want to grow your bonsai tree outdoors make sure your winters are not too cold and not too warm for the species you select. [Read more…]

How To Fertilize Bonsai Tree

Like any other container plant bonsai trees need to be fertilized. Very often in the fertilizers are called plant food. That can confuse many beginners. Fertilizers are NOT food but rather vitamins for the tree. The real food for plants comes from water and oxygen. In natural environment, trees have long roots and are able to gather necessary elements from the soil and water. [Read more…]