Bonsai Tree Care for Beginners – A How To Guide

Juniper bonsai – how to care for bonsai trees

Hi there! You are now the proud owner of a real bonsai tree. As such, you want to ensure you keep it alive and healthy so here are a few tips to help you be successful with your new hobby.

Watering – When should I water a bonsai tree and how do I do it?

Watering a bonsai tree is actually quite easy. Since bonsai trees have large holes in the bottom of their pots to help with drainage it is best to water them in a sink. We suggest taking your bonsai tree over to the sink and soaking it using a gentle stream of lukewarm water. The goal is to water the tree enough that water pours out the bottom of the pot. Leave the tree in the sink and once it has stopped dripping, you can return it to the shelf or table where it lives. Larger indoor bonsai trees can be watered in a similar manner in your shower.

Every bonsai tree is unique, so there is no foolproof guide of when to water a tree however we suggest that you water your bonsai tree at least 2-3 times per week, once the pot feels significantly lighter when picked up or when the top 1/2" of soil feels try to the touch when you put your finger into it.

Other signs that your bonsai tree needs more water are when you observe leaves drooping or when leaves feel "crunchy" to the touch.

Food – How much fertilizer does my bonsai tree need?

Feeding your bonsai tree is really easy too. We suggest using slow dissolve bonsai fertilizer pellets that can be sprinkled on the top layer of your bonsai soil. These pellets are designed to slowly release nutrients to your tree over 3-6 months as you water the tree after which time you can simply sprinkle on more pellets.

We suggest avoiding houseplant fertilizer sold in retail department stores such as fertilizer sticks or liquid and powder feeds as these may "burn" your bonsai since they are typically too strong for bonsai tree use.

Light – How much light does my bonsai tree need?

Indoor topical bonsai trees, such as Serissa or Pomegranates, like bright windows if they can be near one but they don't like really strong sun shining directly on them all day long. Bonsai trees are in such shallow pots that intense light and heat will make them dry out very quickly and easily. We suggest that you keep your tree within ten feet of a bright window (West or South facing are best if possible).

The same theory can be applied to outdoor bonsai trees, such as Junipers and Pines, which also prefer bright light but like to avoid intense and direct sun. A bright but partially-shaded area is best.

Bugs – Ah! There are bugs on my bonsai tree

If you ever happen to see bugs on your bonsai tree – take it to the sink. Try washing your hands over the bonsai tree with simple dish soap to get the leaves nice and soapy. Leave the soap on the tree – don't rinse it off. Most bonsai pests hate the dish soap and, as a bonus, your tree will love the phosphate it contains.

A few additional notes on bonsai tree care

Purchasing a bonsai starter kit is a great way to ensure your bonsai tree gets off to the right start with the proper tools and supplies for its needs. Our starter kits include professional bonsai soil, fertilizer, bonsai tools and more.

Please don't put your bonsai tree on a fireplace mantle – it's just too hot and will dry your bonsai tree out very quickly. The same goes for heat registers. It may seem like a good idea to keep your bonsai tree warm but it will likely do more harm then good.

Also, avoid placing your bonsai on a window ledge right against the glass. Your tree is sensitive to temperature changes and the glass will become very hot at noon and very cold at night – especially during Canadian winters.

Try not to move your bonsai tree from place to place. Most bonsai trees require some time to adjust to a new location and may drop some leaves to accomodate new light directions. If you move the tree several times during this process it may not be able to keep up and will eventually exhaust itself trying to adjust. 

Finally, ensure you have the right type of bonsai soil. The right soil mixture is one of the most crucial factors in the health of your trees. Bonsai soil should provide enough drainage to prevent the roots from rotting, while also helping to absorb enough water for the tree. Learn more about bonsai soil here.

With these tips you should be able to keep your bonsai tree happy and healthy for many years to come. For more information on bonsai tree care and other bonsai related topics, check out our extensive selection of bonsai books.