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Bonsai Basics for Beautiful Trees

Dear Reader,

Caring for bonsai to ensure their beautiful, and most importantly, long lives is truly an art. In this post, we will touch on the basics of bonsai care, and highlight some fundamental rules that will help you adapt to your unique tree. If you're wondering how to fine-tune such care, a post on more species-specific care is in the pipeline for over the course of the next few days, so keep your eyes peeled to learn more! In the meantime, here are 5 basic variables to consider when setting your tree up to live its best life ever:

  • Sun exposure

The amount of sun your plant baby requires differs depending on whether it is an indoor or outdoor species.

For outdoor species (think Juniper, Cyprus, Duranta, Maple, Buxus, Boxwood, Bottlebrush, Viburnum) 4-6 hours of morning sun is preferable.

For indoor species (such as a Ficus or a Jade) the sun requirements are less specific. Placing these species in areas with high lux levels and indirect sunlight should do them well. Observe your tree carefully and look for signs of lightened or burnt leaves. If this happens move your tree to an area with less sun exposure.

  • Temperature

Here in sunny South-Africa many areas are blessed with warm (even sweltering) summers. This means that when temperatures hit 29 degrees Celsius or higher, keep a close eye on your little flora friend and watch for signs of strain in the heat. Move your trees to shady areas and ensure they are properly watered.

In winter the biggest concern would be frost. Check the weather reports carefully and bring any outdoors bonsai inside for the night if you fear frost is in store for your area.

  • Moisture

Depending on the sun exposure your tree is getting as well as the season check the soil daily. Soil should always be moist. When watering your trees make sure the soil is well saturated and water for long enough that water drains out of the bottom drainage holes specifically created for this purpose. Do not water if the soil is still moist. For indoor bonsai species be careful not to overwater, and be sure to observe your tree for signs of possible mold growth.

  • Root space & repotting

You know it's time to repot your tree when there is no longer percolation in the soil (this means that water just runs off the top rather than being absorbed) or the tree is clearly outgrowing the pot and you would like to increase its size. Repotting is also necessary when changing the angle and style of your bonsai. Repotting is best done in the spring months. We also recommend leaving a core root-ball of old soil behind when repotting, rather than replacing all the soil, to ensure the health of your tree.

  • Fertilisation

To stimulate growth and see the results of your hard work styling and wiring up your trees, you can fertilise year round, except for the two coldest months in winter. For South-Africa this means June and July. Do not fertilise if your tree is struggling or sick as this will negatively impact its ability to recover.

We hope that these basic tips will assist you in your bonsai journey. Stay tuned for our next post, and as always, please feel free to contact us if you'd like to pick our brains about your bonsai tree's health or to enquire about our online and in-person bonsai classes.

Happy growing folks!

The 61 Urban team

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