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Basic Bonsai Questions

Is bonsai a technique or a species of tree?
Bonsai is a set of techniques that are used to control the growth of a woody plant. Junipers are among the most common beginner species for bonsai. The word bonsai comes from two Japanese characters that mean tree and tray.
What are the most popular types of bonsai?
Junipers are the most common type of tree for bonsai, and are what many people picture in their mind when they think of bonsai. Elms, Maples, and tropical Ficus (aka Fig) species are also popular. The popularity of a tree may vary depending on regional weather.
Which species of bonsai are good for beginners?
Beginners should choose plants for bonsai that are easily grown in a pot in their yard, on a porch or deck, or indoors, based on their available space and local climate. While junipers are very forgiving outside, they are harder to grow indoors. Tropical species can grow well indoors, and outdoors during warmer weather. A good bonsai plant for beginners is likely either a juniper or ficus.
Can you grow any tree as a bonsai?
You can grow any tree as a bonsai, but many species are challenging and have characteristics like large leaves that do not adapt to bonsai easily. The suitability for bonsai depends on whether they will tolerate having roots trimmed, and being confined to a container. Some species used by people who do bonsai as a hobby include Trident Maple, Japanese Maple, Japanese Black Pine, Chinese Juniper, and Redwood (all outdoor species of bonsai.). Popular bonsai species for indoors include Ficus ssp (Figs), Brazilian Rain Tree, and Texas Ebony.

General Bonsai

What tools and materials do I need to create a bonsai?
To create a bonsai, first start with a small tree or woody shrub. Your bonsai tree will need light, water, and warm-but-not-hot conditions. Look at the trees around you – if there are no trees growing naturally in your climate it may be difficult to grow bonsai. If there are natives – find those or species that are similar. If you will grow indoors be sure you have an appropriate species and conditions. Beginners will need just a pair of bonsai scissors and a watering can or hose. More serious enthusiasts will need a full set of bonsai tools, soil for repotting, enough space outdoors to grow many plants, and the patience to watch them grow. If you’re interested in creating good bonsai, you will need to learn good habits.
What is the most important thing to consider if you want to try bonsai?
Having bonsai should be fun! Follow basic instructions to care for your bonsai trees, but don’t take it too seriously. If your bonsai tree dies, don’t feel guilty, just get another one…or ten. Practice makes perfect! For serious beginners – pay attention to detail, become a student of watering, and work on your problem solving skills. Take up an interest in entomology also!
What styles of bonsai are easiest or most difficult to create?
The most common style for bonsai trees is informal upright; this style is also the easiest to create. The most difficult and mis-understood style for bonsai trees is windswept; many beginners attempt to make windswept trees without understanding how a tree tolerates and responds to windy conditions.
How long does it take to create a good bonsai?
A new bonsai tree can be created in just a few hours. The key is to use good starting material (a tree that is appropriate for the environment, climate, and conditions) and to reduce the plant to be in proportion with the trunk while arranging the branching. It can take ten years or longer of diligent care to develop exhibition-quality bonsai trees.

Growing Indoors

Why does it matter if my bonsai is indoors or outdoors?
Various species of bonsai will survive better in indoor or outdoor environments. Indoors there is typically far less light, less air movement, and a relatively constant temperature. Outdoors, temperatures fluctuate greatly and there is a lot more sun, wind, rain, and weather! Think about what environment your bonsai is naturally adapted to: Junipers are native to climates that have winters, and they grow in full sun, so keeping a juniper indoors where the temperature is always around 70 degrees and the light level is low makes it hard for the tree to thrive.
What common mistakes do people make with bonsai trees?
It’s important to select the correct species for the environment where the bonsai tree will be grown: indoor bonsai trees are normally tropical, outdoor bonsai trees should be selected based on species that will tolerate being containerized and thrive in your local climate. Water your bonsai regularly; don’t allow them to dry out completely or to remain wet for long periods. Fertilize your tree regularly to encourage new growth and maintain the tree’s health. For bonsai enthusiasts, the most common mistakes are consistent over-watering which frequently causes root-rot; inattention to heat waves; or relying on an unreliable person to water when you go on vacation.