20 Aug
2009
Posted in: Bonsai/Garden
By    4 Comments

How to Start a Bonsai Tree, Making a Bonsai Tree, Bonsai Made Easy

Here is your Step by Step guide to Making a Bonsai Tree –

1. First you need to star by selecting what type of tree you would like to Bonsai. When selecting your tree species, take into consideration your geographic location. It is smart to chose a species that is used to your local climate. Choosing a tree that typically grows in a completely different climate from where you live probably wont last very long. Some trees loose their leaves in the winter, and are used to freezing cold weather. Others are used to a fairly steady year round climate. Some will need watering daily, some won’t. So it is very important to research the species of tree that you are going to Bonsai before you start. Pick something indigenous to your area for starters.

Myrtle Bonsai Tree

2. Once you select a type of tree that you would like to Bonsai, then make sure it will be an appropriate size for you. Some bonsai trees will only be a few inches tall, while others can few a few feet tall. Choose the Species that is best suitable for your space.

3. Once you have decided what type of tree and size bonsai will be appropriate for you, you can go to a local nursery or a bonsai shop and select a plant/tree that you will make into a bonsai. When I first started making bonsai trees this was something that I was very unclear on. I did not know that pretty much anything can be made into a bonsai tree. So once again, just select whatever works best for you and is indigenous to your area. When choosing a plant, look for good leaf color and just make sure the plant looks healthy. Look through all the selection of the species that you have decides on and try to imagine what it would look like in a flat bonsai pot/tray. It may be somewhat difficult to do this because the plant may seem very large at this time, but try to imagine what it would look like after being pruned down to the size you would like to see it at. It’s important to visualize the bonsai tree before buying it and taking it home. This is difficult to do at first, but will get easier the more you do it. If this is your first time making a bonsai tree, just try to pick a healthy tree, with some branches coming out of the trunk at a fairly low spot.

4. Next you have to select a pot that will be sufficient for your bonsai tree. The size of the pot needs to be large enough to fit the main part of the trees root-ball in it, and for some extra soil to cover all the roots.  If you have too small of a pot, the roots will not be able to hold any moisture, and will most likely die off quickly. Most bonsai pots come with pre-drilled drainage holes. If yours did not, make sure you make some drainage holes in your pot. If it is a large pot, use about an 3/4″ drill bit and make about 3-4 holes equally spaced along the bottom of the pot. If you are using a small pot, make 2 small holes about 1/3″ equally spaced on the bottom of the pot.

It is a good idea to wire down some screen, or mesh over these holes after drilling them to prevent your soil, or rock from falling out. Be sure not to use a screen that is too fine preventing the pot from being able to drain easily. Good Drainage is KEY for bonsai trees!

5. Prepare the tree for placing into the bonsai pot. Remove the newly purchased plant from the pot it came in. Start pulling off about an inch of soil from the top of the plant to expose the root system. Do this gently, trying not to damage the roots. Using a chopstick works well to stick in and pull away soil from the roots without harming the plant. After doing the top, start working your way up from the bottom now. You will need to pull away close to all the soil from the bottom of the plant up, until the root ball and soil are are a little less than the thickness of the height of your bonsai pot. The roots may be very long, it is OK to cut most of them off so that you can fit your tree in the pot, just make sure that you have the mail center part of the root system, and a good amount of smaller routs surrounding it.

6. When potting the bonsai tree, add some soil to the bottom of the pot and then place the tree into the pot. Getting a good bonsai soil mixture is a good idea because it helps with the drainage. But regular soil will do if you don’t have access to anything else. Then set our tree in the pot and position the bonsai tree where you would like to see it. As an artist, the rule of thirds applies pretty well here also. Never plant it dead in the center of the pot. Try to place it slightly off centered. Next before covering the roots with soil, use some heavy gauge wire to help tie it down, and hold the bonsai tree in place. Wrap the wire through the holes in the bottom of the pot and wrap around and over the root system to hold in place. Clip any extra wire off after your tree is tied in place pretty well, then finish adding soil to the pot. The soil should be right up to the brim of the pot covering all the roots.

7. Now that you have your tree in the pot, you can begin to prune and shape it to the desired size you like. It is important not to trim off all the leaves, but you will most likely be getting rid of a good amount of them, as you did to the root system. Think of it as balancing the tree out. Start snipping away at branches and leaves until you get it looking like you imagined. If you get a tree like a ficus, that has fairly large leaves, don’t be discouraged if you don’t think that it looks like a really bonsai (mini) tree yet. The leaves will shrink over time, and you can continue to cut back the large ones and new smaller ones emerge. In time you will have a great looking bonsai tree!

8. Soak the whole pot in a big bucket of water, just high enough to cover all the soil in the pot. Soak for about 20 minutes, and let drain.

9. Try experimenting with different trees and shrubs indigenous to your area. The more you practice bonsai, the better you will get at it, and a better understanding you will have of bonsai trees.

Hope this article was helpful in making your bonsai tree, please feel free to post some comments if you would like more information, or if you just felt this article was informative.

Stay tuned for upcoming live demonstrations and step by step pictures on making a bonsai tree!!

4 Comments

  • […] When potting the bonsai tree, add some soil to the bottom of the pot and then place the tree into the pot. Getting a good bonsai soil mixture is a good idea because it helps with the drainage. But regular soil will do if you don’t have access to anything else. Then set our tree in the pot and position the bonsai tree where you would like to see it. As an artist, the rule of thirds applies pretty well here also. Never plant it dead in the center of the pot. Try to place it slightly off centered. In this case, I don’t have a good bonsai pot yet, so I just cut the pot that the Japanese Boxwood came in down to a couple inches tall for now, and will just be using the original soil again. If you had a good pot, you would want to wire the tree in place. Refer to this article on how to make a bonsai tree for a more detailed description. […]

  • While searching for ficus bonsai on Friday, your blog came up and your post regarding How to Start a Bonsai Tree, Making a Bonsai Tree, Bonsai Made Easy | Trying To Get By looked very interesting to me.I just just wanted to drop you a note telling you how impressed I was with the information you have posted here. I also have websites & blogs so I know what I am talking about when I say your site is top-notch! Keep up the great work, you are providing a great resource on the Internet here!

  • The writer needs to take some REAL lessons from a professional bonsai artist.

    [4. “Next you have to select a pot that will be sufficient for your bonsai tree. The size of the pot needs to be large enough to fit the main part of the trees root-ball in it, and for some extra soil to cover all the roots.”]

    Truth:
    You can’t select a bonsai pot for any tree until the tree is trained to one of the many styles (formal upright, informal upright, cascading, semi cascading,etc,) which takes a while to develop. Only then can you even know what style of pot to use. Other things to consider are pot shape, size, color & thickness of the TRUNK. ALL depend on the type of tree (or plant)you use.

    [5. … “Start pulling off about an inch of soil from the top of the plant to EXPOSE THE ROOT SYSTEM”
    ….”until the root ball and soil are are a little less than the thickness of the height of your bonsai pot
    …. “The roots may be very long, it is OK to cut most of them off so that you can fit your tree in the pot”]

    Truth is:
    The roots are the best part of a bonsai. You tell them to uncover them and then recover them when you repot. Nebari (roots across the ground) are the most important aspect of a REAL bonsai. It is not the age of a bonsai that really counts but the APPERANCE of age. I could go on and on but here are the REAL rules of Bonsai.

    Trunk and Nebari Rules:
    1. Height should be six times the caliper of the trunk.
    2. Trunk should lean slightly toward the viewer.

    3. Trunk should flare at base to visually anchor the plant.

    4. Roots should radiate from the flare.

    5. No eye-poking roots (directly at viewer).

    6. Apex should lean toward viewer.

    7. Trunk should taper as it ascends. No reverse taper.

    8. Grafts should match understock and scion so that they are unobtrusive, or be placed low enough to disappear into the nebari.

    9. Curves in trunk should not result in ‘pigeon breast’ (roundness toward viewer).

    10. Apex should finish in the direction set by the base. ‘Flow’ should be maintained.

    11. Trunk line should not move ‘back on itself’. This is one of my rules and difficult to explain. It relates to the flow of the tree. A trunk line that moves back on itself creates a ‘C’ curve.

    12. For formal and informal upright, the apex should be over the base.

    13. In informal uprights, too many ‘S’ curves will be tiresome.

    14. As a tree ascends the curves should be closer together (related to branch placement).

    15. A tree should have only one apex.

    16. Twin tree trunks should divide at the base, not higher up.

    Branches:
    1. No crossing branches, or branches that cross the trunk.
    2. No eye-poking branches (pointed directly at viewer).

    3. First branch should be placed approximately one third the height of the tree.

    4. Succeeding branches placed at one third the remaining distance to the top of the tree.

    5. Branches go on the outside of the curves (No belly branches).

    6. Branch caliper should be in proportion to the trunk. Branches that are thicker than one third the trunk caliper will be too thick.

    7. First branch should be left (or right), second branch right (or left), third branch should be back branch.

    8. Branches should visually alternate, no parallel branches.

    9. Branches should diminish in size and caliper as they ascend.

    10. There should be space between the branches to ‘Let the birds fly through’.

    11. First and second branches (Left and Right branches) should be placed forward of the mid line to ‘invite’ the viewer.

    12. First, second, and third branches are approximate 120 degrees apart, with the back branch not directly behind the tree.

    13. Only one branch per trunk position, no ‘wheel and spoke’ or whorled branches, or bar branches (branches directly opposite each other).

    14. Branches should create an outline of a scalene triangle with the apex representing God, the middle corner man and the lower corner earth.

    15. Secondary branches should alternate left and right and follow the rules of main branch placement, except there should be no secondary branches moving up or down. This creates the foliage pad.

    16. To create the illusion of an old tree, wire the branches down. Young trees have ascending branches. The branches near and in the apex can be horizontal or ascend since this is the young part of the tree.

    17. Branches for cascades generally follow the rules for uprights, except that the trunk moves down.

    18. In twin trees, there should not be branches between the trees which would cross the trunks. The outside branches of both trees creates the triangle of foliage.

    19. A jin (dead wood at the end of a branch) or Shari (dead wood on the trunk) should not be hidden in foliage. Dead wood should be “painted” with hi yield lime sulfer to preserve the dead wood. Otherwise it will continue to rot and soon dissapear.

    Pots:
    1. The tree should be placed behind the mid line of the pot, and to the left or right of the center line.

    2. The depth of the pot should be the caliper of the trunk, except for cascades.

    3. Colored glazed pots should be used for flowering and fruiting trees and the colors should complement the flower color.

    4. The width of the pot should two thirds the height of the tree. For very short trees, the width should be two thirds the spread of the tree.

    5. Style of the pot should match the tree. Uprights without much movement should be in rectangular pots, informal uprights with a lot of trunk movement should be in oval or round pots. Massive trees should be in deep rectangular pots.

    With all due respect to the writer, bad information like this is why the art of bonsai is so screwed up in America.

    JC

    Bonsai artist
    trained by: Eric Wigert, Marion Borchers with advanced classes from John Naka (Aug. 16, 1914 – died May 19, 2004)

  • JC with all due respect you’re probably a great artist but for someone starting out and just having a go will learn over time and doesn’t need to be drowned in details. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I think it’s more important that people get out there and have a go. Life has enough rules ……

So, what do you think?