The ancient art of bonsai has long been revered for its ability to draw inner peace, centre the mind, and cultivate a deep connection with the natural world. What’s more, if you’re keeping an indoor bonsai tree, science tells us they also help to purify the air we breathe in addition to serving as a stunning ornamental centerpiece for the home or office.
Here I’ll share a few essential tips and considerations if you’re looking to grow and nurture a bonsai in your home. What’s great is bonsai trees aren’t as arduous as you might think and with a few well followed guidelines you too can enjoy the great benefits of bonsai.
It’s important to note that only tropical or subtropical trees should be considered for indoor bonsai. All temperate trees require a period of dormancy during the winter season to complete their annual growth cycles.
Great choices for indoor bonsai (particularly if you’re new to bonsai life) include the Carmona (Fukien Tea Tree), Zelkova (or Japanese Elm), Ligustrum (Privet), Ficus (Retusa and Ginseng), and the Sageretia (Chinese sweet plum).
Where to Place Your New Bonsai Tree
Much like caring for a houseplant, a key factor is going to be the light conditions you’re able to offer the bonsai tree throughout the day.
As a general rule, aim to keep your bonsai in a position where it mainly receives indirect light for the majority of the day (short periods of bright direct light are fine).
Definitely avoid any south-facing window ledges, particularly during summer months as this may cause your bonsai tree to overheat. Similarly, avoid close proximity to radiators or free standing heaters during the winter.
Watering Your Bonsai Tree
Ensuring your bonsai is regularly watered is absolutely essential. Your exact living environment, relative humidity, and the type of tree will play a factor but you should aim to monitor soil moisture levels daily initially. A few key pointers:
A bonsai should never be allowed to dry completely. Check the relative moisture level approximately 1cm under the soil’s surface (your finger is fine or you could also use a soil moisture probe as well). If dry, your tree is ready for it’s next watering.
When watering, aim to cover the entire soil surface so the roots have the best chance of receiving a good soaking.
A good technique is to water the tree from above using a watering can with a fine nozzle to avoid disturbing the soil on the surface.
I’d recommend investing in some form of tray to catch the drained water as it flows through the soil. This will also help to create a nice humid atmosphere around the tree in-between watering cycles.
Bonsai trees require a little help with feeding as the natural roots aren’t able to dig deep into the ground to draw nutrients as a regular tree would do in the wild.
It’s really important to use the correct type of bonsai fertilizer with a high phosphate level. Follow the instructions detailed on the package but generally the tree should receive a feed every 1 to 2 weeks from spring through to the end of summer and monthly from late autumn through winter.
Pruning Your Bonsai Tree
The cornerstone of the art of bonsai is maintaining a regular pruning and trimming schedule to preserve their overall beauty and aesthetics.
The trick is to keep an eye on new growth (particularly during spring to summer months) and aim to pinch back to the overall shape you’re looking to maintain. These will typically appear as growth from the tree’s main branches and trunk. Once they reach around 3cm it’s a good time to cut back with sharp scissors as neatly to it’s parent branch as possible.
Don’t be too over-vigorous as a little growth is important for the tree’s overall health and wellbeing.
Bonsai trees will typically outgrow their pots every 1 to 2 years. The best time to check the root structure and consider re-potting is early spring. If the roots have completely filled the current pot it’s a good time to consider stepping up to the next container size.
When repotting, it’s important to use a suitable bonsai soil mix. These will have the correct balance of peat and perlite with some added feed to ensure your tree gets all the nutrients it needs.
Nurturing a bonsai tree at home is a really rewarding pastime. By following a few simple steps each week you’ll quickly learn to understand your own tree’s unique needs and preferences. Before you know it you’ll be well on your way to becoming a master in the art of bonsai. Enjoy!
I’ve long been fascinated with the world of flowers and floral design. Today, I’m a lead writer for Petal Republic – a site dedicated to uncovering exceptional floristry around the world and showcasing the best flowers and plants for every occasion and living environment.
Calathea is one of the prettiest tropical houseplants from the Marantaceae family that you can have in your home or office.
If you want to create a jungle feel in your home, then you simply have to include some leafy Calathea plants. All of them require similar care, which makes your job easier.
Types of Calathea
There are a lot of different species of Calathea plant, over several dozen of them, with distinctive colors, shapes, and sizes. They are mostly grown in pots and containers. Let’s check some of the most popular ones.
Calathea orbifolia is one of the largest-leafed Calathea plants. Each leaf can grow up to 30cm (12″) wide!
Its leaves have a round shape and striped, metallic appearance. This species forms a dense clump, with new leaves developing from the middle part of the plant.
Calathea orbifolia, like most other Calathea species, likes a warm environment, where the temperatures are between 18°C (65°F) and 24°C (75°F).
Calathea ornata ‘Sanderiana’
Calathea ornata ‘Sanderiana’ is one type of Calathea ornata species. The most important difference between the mother plant and ‘Sanderiana’ is in the leaves. ‘Sanderiana’ leaves are shorter and not so spear- shaped as common Calathea ornata’s leaves.
Because of the distinctive foliage striping,’ Sanderiana’ has earned a nickname ‘Pin Stripe plant’, which is shared with many other cultivars of Calathea ornata.
Calathea zebrina can also produce white and purple flowers during springtime, which is not so common for Calatheas.
Calathea roseopicta, otherwise known by the name of Rose Painted Calathea, has big glossy and circular green leaves, which are also purple on the underside.
What is distinctive about this Calathea subspecies is that every leaf has a very pretty pattern, which looks like a leaf inside the leaf. There are also different cultivars of this plant that have leaves with different patterns.
The plant usually grows up to 60cm (24″) in height and width. It likes moist soil, which is capable to provide excellent drainage.
Calatheas need sunlight, of course, but not direct sun. They thrive the most in the shade because they are tropical plants, and are mostly found in the jungles. Exposing them to direct sunlight might cause burns on the leaves.
They prefer distilled water. You can also use water purified through filters to water these plants. Even though Calatheas like moist soil, make sure not to overwater.
Being tropical plants, Calatheas like warm temperature, between 18°C (65°F) and 24°C (75°F). Also, make sure to put them in a humid environment.
Fertilizing is not essential for Calatheas, but if you insist, you can use normal fertilizer for indoor plants during the autumn, spring, and summer.
Propagationof Calathea Plants
It is possible to propagate Calatheas from divisions, simply by repotting them. New divisions need to be kept moist and in a warm place. It is also advised to cover them with plastic and put them on indirect light until they start growing again. Always use the fresh potting mixture to grow a new plant.
Pruning Calathea Plants
Calatheas do not require any special pruning. The only thing you might worry about is removing occasional leaves that have turned brown or yellow.
Sara Elizabeth Taylor has been a lover of things that grow, and that love has been a major part of her life. She’s a biologist specializing in flora and is also a passionate indoor gardener. You can find her at indoor garden nook.
Within her house, located in the middle of the bustling city, Sara hides her lush and beautiful indoor garden, full of both decorative plants and of various fruits and vegetables. Throughout the years she has amassed a lot of experience regarding gardening and is more than eager to share all of her knowledge and exchange tips and tricks with gardening enthusiasts both young and old.
“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.”