Bonsai is a fantastic hobby and despite what you may think, it is not terribly difficult to get started in. If you have a curiosity or an appreciation of Bonsai then I would encourage you to give it a go but before you jump right in, here are some tips that should steer you in the right direction and hopefully help you to avoid disappointment.
If possible buy your first bonsai from a bonsai nursery. They will know the basic history of the tree and be able to provide you with some advice on how to care for it in your local area. Although most of us love our big, one stop stores, I would avoid buying a tree there because of concerns about the health of the tree.
Photo © OrangeBrompton
Once you have bought a tree that you like find out as much information about the species so that you are sure to find a suitable place for it. As it is with any plant/tree it is no good buying something that is suited to full sun and then leaving it undercover.
Despite what many people think, not many bonsai trees are suitable for indoors. Remember bonsai are just normal trees, the only difference being they are grown in pots rather than in the ground. They can be brought in for short stints of no more than 2-3 days but if possible I would avoid this. If you only have an indoor location and really want to give it ago, I would recommend a fig as you could be able to provide it with the environment it needs and they are generally pretty tough.
Photo © Iriskh – A mame Shimpaku Juniper, 5 years old.
It is important to make sure that your tree does not dry out. Keep an eye on the medium that the bonsai is in; it should be fairly fast draining to make sure the roots don’t sit in an overly wet mix but not too fast that it dries out too quick. This will change from tree to tree depending on its size, age species, and climate that you are in but you should be able to get pretty good at judging this over time.
If you can find a tree that has been recently repotted it will save you having to perform this for a little while longer; until you have learnt how to care for it. The frequency of repotting depends on the tree, climate, its age and how fast it is growing. Again a bonsai nursery is more likely to know when it was last done. Younger trees generally need to be repotted every 2-3 years depending on how big the pot is and how vigorous the growth is. Older trees that have matured and have arrived at their optimum aesthetic state will generally require less repotting.
Keep an eye on wiring if there is any on the tree and make sure it doesn’t cut too deep into the tree as it grows especially in the growing season. This can leave scaring if left on for too long, but if not left on long enough the tree may resort to its initial shape. Wiring is one of the major ways of changing the shape of a tree.
I hope you found this useful and it convinces you to give it a go! If you have any questions write a comment below.