Bonsai is actually a Japanese term created out of two words, “Bon” and “sai” which in literal translation is to be understood as “planted in a container”.
Its roots come from an old Chinese practice which was introduced into Japan by means of Japanese Zen Buddhism and has been around ever since.
The primary aim of growing a bonsai tree is to create a smaller but authentic version of natural trees.
These trees are not by nature “genetic dwarfs” but their growth can be manipulated in such a way that the height can be restricted up to one meter in height.
Here’s a secret: there’s no standard way to grow a bonsai tree.
The variety and the techniques being made about them differ because in the first place, there are many trees and tree subtypes and have as many specific needs in regards to watering, position, fertilizers types, insecticides, among other things.
First of all, though, you should settle on what type of tree you’d like to cultivate and then start from there. Then you can begin to sharpen your skills with these general tips; three ways on how to grow your very own bonsai tree.
Grow from scratch or more specifically, from seeds.
This is quite hard for a number of reasons, even for the experts. Because it requires a lot of patience and dedication, you can be sure this will be a challenge not for the faint-hearted. However, this is very fulfilling, since it will give you a lot of control over your bonsai tree right from the beginning.
Purchase a seed from a local or online shop or even from trees that can be found around your area. It is important to grow local ones, so that it will not be hard to find suitable conditions for your bonsai later on.
Should you want a tree not typical to your area, it can help by making a set-up that mimics its natural surroundings, a method called stratification. Plant these seeds in the best season, usually autumn or fall.
Use a clay or plastic pot that is six inches deep. Don’t forget a hole for draining out any excess water. The soil layers should be the following, working from the bottom to the top: with a ratio of 1:1, akadama (specialised clay from a bonsai shop) and very fine, very small pebbles; 2:1:1, respectively, akadama, the pebbles again and compost soil.
The seeds should be placed on the topmost layer, with a distance of two to five centimeters away from each other. Sprinkle the seeds, cover with another layer of akadama, gravel and compost. Water the whole pot thoroughly with a mist of water.
Expose them to a place with plenty of light, while maintaining a slightly damp condition. Allow the seeds to grow into seedlings for at least three years before you begin their pruning.
You may then train your seedlings by pruning off thick branches to discourage vertical growth.
Grow from Cuttings.
This is a very well-known technique among experts and it can be very inexpensive too. Compared to the three years of free growth in the seed cultivation, you can actually cut the waiting time to one year. To make ideal cuttings, you may obtain them during spring time from tree branches, in a length of two to four inches long, and two to five millimeters in width.
Follow the planting technique as indicated earlier. Cut off any branches or leaves that are on the lower regions of the cut branch. Cut it in a slanting or tilted way, for optimum nutrient absorption.
You may first soak these in a rooting hormone, if your budget permits. This is not required, but it can be used as a means to improve your success with growing the bonsai tree. Water your potted and grounded cuttings, just like the ones in the seeded cultivation.
Grow from seedlings.
Sometimes called pre-bonsai, these are any young tree seedlings. Understandably, this is the easiest way to grow a bonsai tree. The main disadvantage of this, however, is that it will be harder to cultivate as you will have to cut off large branches. Usually, this will result in very obvious marks and scars, which are not pretty.