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What's the best Bonsai for indoors?

Top Five Indoor Bonsai Trees

I’m often asked which Bonsai trees are best for indoors.  The bottom line is Bonsai are trees and trees prefer to be outside where they can enjoy sun, fresh air, wind, rain.  Additionally, I have found working on Bonsai a great way to get myself outdoors instead of sitting on the couch in front of the TV.

Regardless, Bonsai trees are also works of art and the desire to display them indoors is completely understandable.  Just about any Bonsai tree can be displayed indoors for up to about three or four days without causing harm to the tree.   In my home I have a display table just inside the entrance door of our house where I rotate by Bonsai trees every two to three days.

With that said, there are some trees which will sustain themselves better than others indoors providing they have a source of natural light such as a window. 

Here are the five best Bonsai trees for displaying indoors.

Umbrella Tree

Purchase on Amazon: Bonsaiboy Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai Tree - Medium Coiled Trunk Style Arboricola Schefflera Luseanne

Hawaiian Umbrella Trees can be made into beautiful Bonsai.  Their roots have a unique character in growing and climbing over rocks.  Many Bonsai artist do not consider the Umbrella tree a ‘true’ Bonsai in because you can’t shape it with wires or weights.  They are however, very easy to care for and can thrive in various light and water conditions.  Umbrella Trees are great for beginners and  can make for beautiful display for longer amounts of time.


 Ficus Tree

Purchase on Amazon: Brussel's Gensing Grafted Ficus Bonsai

Ficus trees come in many different varieties, most of which are very tolerant to varying conditions such as temperature, humidity  and are also very drought tolerant.  Ficus trees are great for beginners and are loved by seasoned Bonsai artist because of their small leaf site, beautiful root formations including air.  Ficus trees can be trained with wires or weights to obtain the desired shape and size.


Chinese Elm

Purchase on Amazon: Brussel's CT9005CE Chinese Elm Bonsai

Chinese Elms are one of the most popular Bonsai trees known.  Because of their natural curved growth, they require very little shaping and only require basic pruning to look like works of art.  Chinese Elms are also very good trees to display indoors for longer period of time.


Jade         

The Jade trees is actually a succulent and originate from Africa.  It does well in very dry and hot conditions.  They can actually go without water for weeks at a time but do require lots of sun so should be kept by a window if displayed indoors for long periods of time.

Purchase on Amazon: Brussel's Jade Bonsai


Ponytail Palm

Purchase on Amazon: Bonsai Boy's Ponytail Palm - Medium (Beaucamea Recurvata)

Native from Mexico, the Pony Tail Palm tree is a very unique looking plant.  Contrary to belief, it’s not a palm tree at all.  The Pony Tail Palm tree is actually a type of Lily that resembles a palm.  Its long, graceful leaves flow towards the bottom and the thick base gives it the nick name the “Elephant’s foot”.  The Pony Tail Palm is great as an indoor Bonsai in that it requires very little light or water to thrive.  It’s also one of the easiest trees to care for.

Be sure not to water it too much while displaying it inside . When displaying your Bonsai inside, it will require less water than when it is outside due to the absence of direct sun and wind.  

 

Article by: Mark Givensel, BonsaiConnection.com

What type of soil should I use for my Bonsai tree?

Using the correct soil is essential for a healthy Bonsai.

By: Mark Givensel, Bonsai Connection

Bonsai trees require unique soil mixes in order to thrive over long periods of time.  When a tree is in the ground, its roots are free to explore the earth seeking out nutrients to feed itself.  Because a Bonsai spends its entire life in a pot their survival depends greatly on the contents of soil in the Bonsai pot.

Although Bonsai soil mixes vary with different species of Bonsai, most soils are comprised of three different elements.

Cinder
Cinder provides the drainage and aeration for the Bonsai soil and can be purchased at most nurseries and home improvement stores. The color of cinder does not mater, but finding the small size required can be a challenge. 

Purchase Quality Bonsai Soil on Amazon Here:
Bonsaiboy Professional Bonsai Soil 10 lb. Bag (5 Qts.)

Sub Soil
There are different materials which can be used for the sub soil portion of the Bonsai soil.  At the high end there is a material call Akadama which is a proprietary, baked clay made in Japan.  Akadama is expensive and hard to find in the United States.  Other material such as compacted clay, Turface or even sterile cat litter can be used in its place.

Bark
Park or mulch is the third element of Bonsai soil.  The bark helps to hold the moisture in the soil.  Bark can also be purchased at any nursery or home improvement store.  Make sure to purchase the smallest size and do not purchase anything with added fertilizer of other components.  Also, recycled rubber mulch is not the same and can not be used in Bonsai soil.  Make sure to use wood bark or mulch.

Great Bonsai Trees for Beginners on Amazon
Chinese Elm Bonsai Tree

Mixture of Elements

Each element must be sifted to a size of approximately ¼ inch in size.  Care must also be taken to remove as much dust as possible during the sifting process.  Special sifting trays can be purchased at many nurseries or online for this purpose.

Once each of the three materials has been sifted, mix equal parts for a general Bonsai mix.  Varying quantities can be mixed for specialized mixes.  For example Junipers and other pines tend to grow better with an equal mix of cinder and sub-soil, leaving out the bark.

The best way to determine mixes that work best in your geographic area is to contact a local Bonsai club and ask what portion is recommended for your particular Bonsai tree.

Creating your own soil can be fun and is not difficult once you understand the basics.  Once you’ve repotted your Bonsai in its new soil it should last about two years with regular feeding and watering.

What are the Easiest Bonsai to care for?

When I give Bonsai demonstrations in front of groups, here’s one of the questions I’m asked on a regular basis.

“I like Bonsai trees, but am terrible with plants.  What is the best type of Bonsai to get started with?”

Growing Bonsai trees can be a rewarding hobby for anyone with the desire and  patience.  However putting in the effort and ending up with a dead tree is no fun. 

To give yourself the best chances of success with in the art of Bonsai I’ve listed the five best types of Bonsai to get started with.  They are hearty and forgiving and most can be kept indoors for extended periods of times.  These Bonsai also make great gifts if you’re unsure if the person you’re giving it to has a green thumb or not.

Ficus Midnight Bonsai Tree

Ficus Midnight Bonsai Tree

Purchase on Amazon: Ficus Midnight Bonsai Tree- Medium (benjamina 'midnight')

There are hundreds of different varieties of Ficus trees, most of which make great Bonsai trees.  This particular Ficus is a miniature variety of the Ficus Benjamina.  Its is great for Bonsai, because it has smaller leaves which is one of the basic features of a proper Bonsai.   The Ficus bonsai can also be trained with wires or weights to give the desired shape by more experienced Bonsai enthusiast.


 

Dwarf Jade

Dwarf Jade Bonsai

Purchase on Amazon: BonsaiOutlet Bonsai Tree - - Dwarf Jade Bonsai Tree

The Drawf Jade is a succulent with origin to South Africa.  The are great Bonsai to keep indoors and require very little light or watering because their fleshy leaves are able to store water for long periods of time.  This tree is nicknamed the “Elephant Plant” because they are a favorite food item for Elephants in South Africa. 


 

 Gensing Grafted Ficus

Gensing Grafted Ficus Bonsai

Purchase on Amazon: Brussel's Gensing Grafted Ficus Bonsai

The exposed root system and shiny dark leaves of the Gensing Grafted Ficus makes for a beautiful Bonsai.  Originally from China the tree is great for beginners because it responds well to a wide range of light conditions and can be kept indoors for extended periods of time.


 Pony Tail Palm Bonsai

Pony Tail Palm Bonsai

Purchase on Amazon: Brussel's Ponytail Palm Bonsai

Native from Mexico, the Pony Tail Palm tree is a very unique looking plant.  Contrary to belief, it’s not a palm tree at all.  The Pony Tail Palm tree is actually a type of Lily that resembles a palm.  Its long, graceful leaves flow towards the bottom and the thick base gives it the nick name the “Elephant’s foot”.  The Pony Tail Palm is great as an indoor Bonsai in that it requires very little light or water to thrive.  It’s also one of the easiest trees to care for.  The tree requires no trimming or shaping, all one has to do is place on a table or desk and enjoy.


 

Green Mound juniper (Outdoor Bonsai)

Purchase on Amazon: Joebonsai Nursery Direct Green Mound Juniper Bonsai Tree in Rock III (b-jr3)

Made famous in the first ‘Karate Kid’ movie, the Green Mound Juniper is a great Bonsai for beginners.  It is one of the most popular and easiest Bonsai to care for.  The tree has a naturally curved movement and can be shaped and trimmed to your liking.  The Green Mound Juniper is an outdoor; thriving on full sun and daily watering.  This Bonsai should not be displayed indoors for more that 2-3 days at a time.


 

Hawaiian Umbrella Tree

Purchase on Amazon: Bonsaiboy Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai Tree - Medium Coiled Trunk Style Arboricola Schefflera Luseanne

“Very hard to kill’. The Hawaiian Umbrella Trees can be made into beautiful Bonsai.  Their roots have a unique character in growing and climbing over rocks.  Some Bonsai artist do not consider it to be a ‘true’ Bonsai in because you can’t shape it.  However The Hawaiian Umbrella Tree is very easy to care for and can thrive in various light and water conditions.  

Article By: Mark Givensel, BonsaiConnection.com

What type of tree should I use for my first Bonsai?

Picking the right tree to work with is the first step in being successful with Bonsai

bonsai-mark-givenselThe art of Bonsai requires years of practice before being able to create masterpieces worthy of Bonsai gardens and nurseries.  A question I’m asked from time to time is “what is the best type of tree to begin learning  how to create a Bonsai with?”  I’ll answer that question here and show you how to choose the best tree to get started in the art of Bonsai.

In choosing plant material for your first Bonsai, you want choose one that with the following characteristics. 

Small Leaves.  One of the main goals in the art of Bonsai is to replicate a large tree on a very small scale.  To do this, you must choose plant material with very small leaves.

Easy to bend and style.    When first starting out in Bonsai, it’s important to have flexible plant material when it comes to bending branches and styling.  Be careful not to choose plant material with brittle branches that break easily when bending and styling with wire.

Heartiness.  Caring for Bonsai trees varies by the difference species of plants.  When beginning to work with Bonsai, you want to choose plant material which is very forgiving when it comes to pest like insects, diseases and various climate conditions.

Readily available in your area.  When choosing what to work with for your first Bonsai you’ll want to pick plant material which is readily available in your area.  This makes it easier for you to acquire the plant material and assures it will thrive in your geographical area.  You will also be able to get a recommendation for the best fertilizer from the same place of purchase.

What’s the best type of tree to use for your first Bonsai?
The species of plant material which meets all the criteria and is the best type of tree to learn how to create Bonsai is the Juniper tree.  Junipers come in all types of different varieties and styles which will allow you to create different styles of Bonsai.  They are also very hearty trees with very small leaves and are pretty easy to take care of.  You’ll find them at most bonsai gardens and nurseries and they are usually pretty inexpensive to purchase.

At our Bonsai club, we teach our beginning students using small Junipers trees in two gallon pots for their first Bonsai

So if you’re just starting out in the art of Bonsai, and wondering what type of tree to use for your first Bonsai, I highly recommend the Juniper tree.  You’ll find it easy to work with and forgiving enough so you’ll be able to enjoy it for decades to come.

So have fun creating your first Juniper Bonsai.  To watch a great video which demonstrates how to create a Juniper Bonsai, check out a video by Bonsai Empire.  

Article By: Mark Givensel, BonsaiConnection.com
Mark Givensel is a Bonsai Enthusiast living on the island of Maui, Hawaii and is a member of the Valley Isle Bonsai Club.

 

What's the best way to find Bonsai trees and learn to care for them?

Join a Bonsai Club

Bonsai-Surinam-Cherry-PetangaToday I’d like to talk about the very best way to learn about Bonsai, while at the same time begin to acquire some great trees and plant material.

The best way to acquire unique, Bonsai trees and learn to care for them is to join a Bonsai Club. 

When I first started out in Bonsai, I attempted to learn on my own.  I read books, searched online and asked around nurseries a so forth.  I attempted to create my own Bonsai trees without understanding the very basics of Bonsai, with all attempts ending in dead trees.

It wasn’t until I saw a display at the County fair in our town that I learned there was a local Bonsai club where I lived. I inquired about joining the club and was told I would first have to take the beginner’s Bonsai class which they offered.  I immediately signed up and for a very small fee, I attended the beginner’s Bonsai  course.  Over the course of the four two hour course I learned the basics of Bonsai.  The course included a small Juniper tree and all the materials required to create my first Bonsai.  More importantly, I was armed with the knowledge on how to care for my Bonsai tree.

After successfully completing the course I joined the Bonsai club and attended meetings on a regular basis.  What I found after a while was many of the more experienced members would bring in Bonsai trees they no longer wanted.  Many times this was because they acquired too many trees and lacked the space for many trees.  These trees would be raffled off during the meeting or simply left for whom ever wanted them. 

Bonsai Club members are more open to give away an unwanted Bonsai trees to other club members because they know the experienced club member will give proper care for the Bonsai for years to come.  More times than not, a Bonsai club member would rather give a tree away to someone they know will care for it properly than sell it to stranger.

In addition to learning about Bonsai trees and occasionally being able to pick up a great tree or tree cutting, Bonsai clubs also offer comradely and friendships that can last a long time. So if you want to learn about Bonsai and have some of the best opportunities to find great plant material, find a local Bonsai club, join, and attend the meetings.

Click here for a extensive list of Bonsai Clubs in the United States.

Photo Above: Surinam Cherry Petanga Bonsai, bearing a red fruit which was won at a Club meeting raffle.  This Bonsai donated for the raffel by a very generous Bonsai Club President.

Article by: Mark Givensel, Bonsai enthusiast and member of the Valley Isle Bonsai Club in Maui, HI.

  

 

Where to find Bonsai for sale

One of the most commonly questions I’m asked is “Where can I buy a Bonsai Tree”.

Although our first recommended path to enjoying the art of Bonsai is to create one yourself by finding plant material and developing it into a Bonsai, we realize that some people simply want to purchase a ready made Bonsai tree.  Finding Bonsai for sale can be tricky, but we’ve developed a short list of tips that will help you make the right decisions when purchasing a ready made Bonsai.

When looking for Bonsai for sale, do not purchase your Bonsai from a grocery store or from “that guy in the mall”. 

I’ll mention this one first so we can get the negatives out of the way. When talking to people about Bonsai, I come across many people that say something like this, “I bought a Bonsai tree at the grocery store or from the guy at the mall, I don’t know what I did wrong, but it died a couple weeks later.” 

The primary thing this person did wrong was to purchase a Bonsai at the grocery store or from the guy at the mall. 

Do not make the mistake of doing this.  Bonsai trees sold in this manner are mass produced and then sit on a grocery store shelf for days if not weeks with inadequate lighting and temperature to be cared for by an employee with little or no experience in caring for Bonsai.  Usually Bonsai sold in this manner have a very high mark-up as well because both the nursery and the retail outlet need to turn a profit on each tree.

Purchase your Bonsai trees directly from the local nursery.
Most of the time the Bonsai sold at the grocery store or from the guy in the mall will have some sort of label or tag on it telling you which local nursery produced the Bonsai tree.  Snap a photo of the label with your phone or jot down the information and visit the local nursery to purchase your Bonsai directly from the local nursery.

By purchasing your Bonsai from the local nursery you know you can see they type of environment it has been living in.  You will also have a much wider selection of Bonsai to choose from and be able to ask which one will grow best in your location.  Also ask for detailed care for watering and feeding your Bonsai.  You will mostly likely be able to purchase the correct type of fertilizer to keep your Bonsai thriving for years to come.

Many Bonsai nurseries offer workshops to show you how to care for Bonsai or at the very least should be able to refer you to a local Bonsai Club whom can teach you how to properly care for your Bonsai tree.

Bonsai for sale online

When purchasing Bonsai online, you must be very careful to make sure you are purchasing form a reputable, experienced nursery.  Do thorough research to make sure the tree you are purchasing will do well in your geographical location.  A reputable nursery selling Bonsai online will be able to tell you if the tree you’re purchasing will do well in your area?  If you’ll be able to keep it inside or not and give detailed instructions on suggested tools and accessories needed to care for your Bonsai tree.

Also, when purchasing a Bonsai online, understand in most cases you will not be able to see the actual tree you’re purchasing.  Most nurseries that sell Bonsai online only place the type of tree you’re purchasing, not the actual tree you’re purchasing.  So when your tree arrives do not expect it to look exactly like the one in the photo. 

Be sure to read comments posted by people who have purchased from the seller in the past and if there are more than a couple negative comments, it would be wise to not purchase from the seller.

When purchasing online, always use the fastest shipping method.  Bonsai trees are very delicate and should not remain in a shipping box or container for very long. 

 

Article By: Mark Givensel, BonsaiConnection.com

 

 

 

How to select the right Bonsai pot

Selecting the right pot for your Bonsai is more important than most beginners realize.  When displaying your Bonsai, the pot is essential for the overall presentation and also has a lot to do with to the health and well being of your Bonsai.

Bonsai Pot Design Basics

Bonsai pots are slightly different in design when compared to other pots such as flower pots or those used for indoor plants.

Bonsai pots have at least one hole at the bottom in the center, and often multiple holes distributed evenly on larger pots.  The large holes are to allow the proper drainage of your Bonsai during watering.  Without proper drainage, water will remain in the pot and cause root rot which will eventually kill your Bonsai.  The smaller holes are used to string wire through the bottom of your pot and anchor it so it will not be move around in a pot. 

It is essential for your Bonsai remain anchored to the pot so it can established healthy feeder roots; especially after a transplanting.  If not the Bonsai will be moved around by wind and other external factors which will prevent the feeder roots from developing.  This can lead to a sickly or dead Bonsai.

Bonsai Pot Design and Color

When choosing a pot for your Bonsai, follow these basic rules.

Height: Pick a pot with a width of about 2/3 the height of your tree. 

Depth: The depth of the pot should be equal the thickness of the trunk.  If you have a very young tree or one still being developed, this rule can be ignored.

Shape: Square or rectangle pots are used for powerful, masculine trees while round pots are used for soft and gentle designs.  Very tall pots should be used for cascading Bonsai.

Color: For pine trees and conifers use unglazed pots brown or a beige in color.  Deciduous trees can be displayed in either glazed or unglazed pots.  Very light and white or pots with colorful designs should be reserved for trees with bright flowers.

Quality of Bonsai Pots

Bonsai pots vary greatly in design, quality, cost and value.  There are three main categories for Bonsai pots.

  • The rarest and most expensive pots are handmade, Antique Chinese pots.  These types of pots are almost never produced any more and are therefore very expensive and hard to find.
  • Japanse Tokoname pots are made in the costal city of Japan, long know for its exquisite Bonsai pottery.  These pots come in various sizes, shapes, designs and are still manufactured today.  Tokoname pots vary in price, but are still quite affordable.
  • The most common and least expensive Bonsai pots are factory.  China is the largest producer of factory made Bonsai pots and they can be purchased quite inexpensively at many nurseries and discount stores.

Follow these guidelines when choosing a pot for your Bonsai, but also make sure it is a Bonsai pot that you like and and that compliments your Bonsai.  When first starting out in Bonsai, also make sure to not blow the budget when purchasing your first few pots.  As you experience you will learn finer details about Bonsai pots and will be able to get the best value for your Bonsai pots.

Above photo by: The Greenery Nursery and Garden Shop

 

 


 

 

Create your first Bonsai tree

Bonsai trees are living works of art.  Like anything else which seems complicated, breaking it down to the components and process makes it easier to understand.  To get the basic process of creating a bonsai, Check out this video from BonsaiEmpire.com.  It’s a well made video in both quality and content and shows the basic of creating your first Bonsai tree.

Great video from BonsaiEmpire.com on how to create a Bosai from a small two gallon juniper purchased at a local nursery.

 


 

Where to find plants to create Bonsai.

By Mark Givensel

A question I’m asked by many interested in learning about Bonsai is “Where do you get the trees to create Bonsai from?”  Here are some common ways Bonsai enthusiast acquire plant material to create Bonsai trees.

Cuttings for existing Bonsai.

Many Bonsai artist take cuttings from existing Bonsai or from trees in the ground and develop them into Bonsai.  Particularly with fast growing trees such as Ficus and Bougainvillea trees, cuttings are great and free ways to acquire trees to create Bonsai from. Of course once you receive a cutting you must propagate the roots and give it time to grow into it’s own tree before you can even begin the process of creating a Bonsai from it. This of course will lend itself to acquiring the patience one should have to be successful in the art of Bonsai in the long run.  Places to find good cuttings of trees include your fellow Bonsai enthusiast or at Bonsai demonstration. 

A couple of my better Bonsai have come from watching a demonstration during a class and politely ask the teacher if you may have one of the cuttings which were removed during the demonstration.  You can also simply find trees you like in nature and take cuttings to propagate into trees to turn into Bonsai.

Once you acquire a cutting be sure to take care and propagate in properly in soil so it can begin the process of growing its own root system.  Give the cutting proper time to develop before beginning the process of crating a Bonsai from it.

Photo: Bougainvillea Bonsai - This was originally a cutting picked from the trash from a Bonsai demonstration I attended 2 years ago. Propagated the roots and with patience and time created the latest addition to my Bonsai garden.

Bonsai from Seeds

It is possible to purchase seeds online or at your local nursery or even collect from an existing Bonsai.

Bonsai from seed, however take great deal of time (years) for the seed to grow into a tree which can be developed into a Bonsai. 

Additionally, when starting from seed, you must plant multiple seeds with the understanding that some of the seeds will not even develop into usable material.  

There many people whom do this and techniques for achieving greater success can be found online.

Growing s Bonsai from seed. Photo by Chrissy Polcino

Purchasing Plants from Nurseries

This is a popular way of developing trees into Bonsai, particularly for beginners.  Trees or shrubs can be purchased at your local nursery at a small cost and almost immediately begin the process of developing them into a Bonsai. 

At our clubs beginner’s class we do exactly this with small Junipers  which are purchased six months before our class.   Types of trees to purchase vary from region, but some obvious example are Junipers, Ficus, Azaleas and more.   

Photo: Small Junipers purchased for our Beginner's Bonsai Class at the Valley Isle Bonsai Club in Maui, HI.

Removal of Existing Trees

Removing an existing plant from the ground is another way to acquire plant material to develop into a Bonsai. 

Obtaining the owner’s permission first goes without saying.  I have come across situations where a property owner would like a tree or shrub removed from their yard because they do not like it or need it removed for some other reason.  Taking care to remove it with enough roots in tact to sustain the tree is essential. 

Some plants are easier to do this with than others.  Hearty plant material such as Ficus, Bougainvillea are examples of hearty plants that are pretty easy to dig up and turn into Bonsai.  

Most pines are difficult to dig up and use as Bonsai because they are more delicate and susceptible to stress when removed from the ground.  When removing more delicate trees, take extra care to remove a larger root ball when digging up from the ground.

Photo: 30 year+ Bougainvillea stump.  Removed from the ground after the property owner decided they no longer wanted it because the sharp thorns made it a bother to trim.  All the branches were removed and enough root ball preserved to sustain it.  With patience and calculated pruning this will become a presentable Bonsai in 5-6 time period.

Purchasing Bonsai online

It is possible to purchase Bonsai trees at various stages of development.  Use extra caution when doing this, as you do not get to inspect your plant before you purchase it. 

Additionally do thorough research to  make sure the tree you are purchasing will grow in your area.  Check for reviews online of the seller and be aware of scams. 

It is very easy for a seller to misrepresent the type of tree or its value when selling online.  Make sure the seller understands how to package and ship a Bonsai and uses the quickest shipping method to reduced the amount of stress the Bonsai will endure.

Find people who no longer want their Bonsai.

You would be very surprised with how many trees I’ve received for free from people whom either had too many Bonsai and needed to reduce their collection, or were not in a position to care for them any longer. 

A good way to locate these types of situations is to join a Bonsai club, or post on Craigslist that you’re looking for plant material to turn into Bonsai.  When I first started out in Bonsai, I seemed to take any plant I could get my hand on to try and make it into a Bonsai. 

After several years, I realized I was running out of space in my garden.  As a result of this as well as wanting to share my love of Bonsai, I’ve given away a number of my trees to others just getting started in Bonsai or a gifts to people to show my appreciation of them.

Give your time and patience to the art of Bonsai and you’ll find these types of situations will come your way.

Photo: Ficus given to me by a woman who no longer had the time or desire to care for it.


 

Essential Bonsai Tools for Beginners

Learning to create Bonsai as a hobby can offer a lifetime of personal reward and satisfaction to the individual willing to learn a few basic techniques and implement the required patience and discipline.  One challenge many face when starting out in Bonsai is deciding which tools to purchase in order to properly care for your trees.  There are countless tools on the market and some can become pretty expensive, knowing which tools are essential is not only important for the proper care of your tree, but also prevents unnecessary spending while enjoying the art of Bonsai.

Here are the five essential tools a beginner should be sure to have in their Bonsai tool kit. 

Hand Pruner

For general pruning and upkeep of your bonsai as well as trimming roots during the re-potting process, a good hand pruner is essential.  A good pruner should be strong enough to cut small to medium sized branches with a cutting tip small and agile enough to reach into the inner branches of your Bonsai.  The cutting edge should be sharp enough to give a clean cut.  A double edge cutting surface is preferred over a single blade against a flat cutting surface.  There are several varieties of pruners which will meet these specifications which can cost under $20.  There are higher quality pruners which range from $50 to $75, however it’s best to stick with the less expensive pruners until you find out what style works best for you.  Your hand pruner should also feel comfortable in your hand when using.

Concave Branch Cutter

When working on your Bonsai, the concave cutter is a tool which is very hard to find a substitute for.  The design of the concave cutter is such that it removes the cut branch very close to the perpendicular branch in order to not leave an unsightly knob where the branch was cut.  The concave cutter gets its name from the position of the blade’s cutting edge.  When used correctly, concave cutters leave a small indentation on the trunk so when the bark fills in, it is smooth and even with the original trunk of the Bonsai.  This allows for a smooth, clean looking trunk over time when creating the Bonsai.

Concave cutters come in various sizes.  They start at about 6 inches and go up from there.  Some Concave cutters are so large they require two hands to use.   A good rule of thumb for a beginner is to use one that fits comfortably in one hand; usually 6-8 inches.

Concave cutters ranch in price anywhere from $15 for an inexpensive, stainless steel, machine fabricated tool up to $200 for a forged concave cutter made from very hard steel.  A beginner Bonsai enthusiast whom feels they will stay with Bonsai for some time can start out with a lower end priced concave cutter in the $30-$40 range.


Chop Stick

A single chop stick is a tool essential for the re-potting of your Bonsai.  It can be used to remove old soil from around roots as well as compacting the new soil around roots when it’s time to re-pot. 

The great thing about this tool is that it’s usually free with any type of meal eaten chopsticks.   So the next time you order up your favorite Asian dish, make sure you save one of the chop sticks.  If you have yet to re-pot your Bonsai, just tuck it away in your tool case, you’ll be sure to use it when it comes time to re-pot your Bonsai.

Wire

For the beginner, wiring is a very popular way to shape your Bonsai.  The two main types of wire used in shaping a Bonsai are Aluminum and Copper.  Aluminum is less expensive and easier to bend which is why it’s more popular with beginners.  However, because it’s easier to bend, a thinker gauge is required to hold the desired branch in place.  There are various sizes of wire, and a good rule of thumb is to use a wire thickness which will hold the branch you wish to move in position for an extended amount of time.

Wires are also used to firmly attach the Bonsai to the base of the pot to prevent it from moving in the pot once planted.  When purchasing wire, it’s best to purchase an assortment of gauges in order to get experience and practice in wiring your Bonsai.

Wire Cutters

“Wire cutters are used to cut wires.”  This may sound self explanatory, however many times beginners make the mistake of using their pruners to cut the wires for their Bonsai.  Doing this will damage your pruners and prevent a clean cut when using them to cut the branches of your Bonsai.  Do not use your pruners to cut your Bonsai wires.  A decent pair of wire cutters can be purchased for around $10.

 

Your Bonsai tools should be kept clean and dry when not in use. Surfaces of any tool should be cleaned with a soft cloth and alcohol after each use so as not to contaminate other trees when used.  There are many ways to store your Bonsai tools when not in use and for transporting.  Once popular product is a Bonsai tool roll.


 

 

 

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