One of the most common misconceptions about bonsai trees is that they are kept and grown indoors. It is understandable where this misconception comes from as bonsai trees are usually displayed indoors at exhibits or competitions, and most pictures of bonsai trees are taken indoors. We understand your thought process there! However, keeping outdoor trees inside is the leading cause in death amongst bonsai trees! We sadly hear about it all too often. So, if you are set on an indoor bonsai tree, then click that link – otherwise, let’s learn how to properly care for an outdoor bonsai tree! Remember, bonsai trees are trees. Trees live outside. We do have a great selection of indoor bonsai trees for sale on our online nursery, but few people truly appreciate the difference between the two.
Why are bonsai trees different?
“If bonsai trees are supposed to be kept outdoors, then why do they need special care?” Great question. Here is the answer - Trees in nature can spread their roots far and wide and have the ability to soak water and nutrients from a very large area. Bonsai trees on the other hand are kept in a tiny pot, and therefore the roots are constrained to the nutrients and moisture in that tiny amount of soil. That pot with that soil is their entire life source and it needs a slight amount of extra care to ensure its health. Just look at the picture to the right. Do you see how little the pot is? That is the lifeline to the health of the tree so you need to make sure you take care of it!
Basic Outdoor Bonsai Tree Care
An outdoor bonsai tree will need a few hours of natural sunlight each day to stay healthy. If they do not receive enough sun, their internodes and leaves will grow too large – which is not desirable in bonsai – and they will be more prone to diseases and pest problems. Make sure your tree gets plenty of sunlight!
Bonsai trees need humidity. It will benefit your outdoor tree if you use a humidity tray and mist the foliage several times a week. You can also wet the walls, floors, and shelves around the tree to raise the humidity.
Watering and Fertilizing
You should never water to a specific routine. The weather conditions are always changing and therefore when your trees needs to be watered will always change. For example, if it is super-hot and dry you might need to water several times a day, but if it is gloomy and cold you might not water for several days at a time! Water based on your specific tree and the moisture level of the soil. Bonsai trees will need to be fertilized to replace the nutrients that is quickly depleted in the small amount of pot soil. Make sure you don’t forget to fertilize!
Most outdoor species require a period of dormancy to stay healthy during the winter. If temperatures start to dip close to freezing, be sure that you move the tree into a shed or garage to offer frost protection for the roots. You want to tree to enter its natural state of dormancy, but you do not want it to freeze! Most species can endure the heat of summer with no problem, but make sure to check the soil frequently when it’s hot outside to see if it is dry. If it is, time to water!
When you buy a bonsai tree, you should pick one with your local climate in mind. Is it hot where you live? Cold? Humid or dry? The weather outside is always changing and varies from region to region within the United States, so it is up to you to do the research on what environmental factors you can expect within any given year. If you can find a tree that is native to your area and therefore adapted to that specific environment, you will have more success in your bonsai endeavors. Picking a tree native to your area is certainly not a necessity, but just something for you to keep in mind!
Also keep in mind what the conditions are like on your porch or patio (or wherever you are going to keep the tree). If the bonsai is going to receive a full 8 hours of sun, make sure you get a tree that thrives in heavy sunlight. Some species are more sensitive to prolonged sunlight and might need a shade net to be put in place. Other factors to consider about your patio are temperature and humidity. Will the bonsai be right next to a brick wall that could dramatically change the temperature around the tree during the day in the sun (remember that bricks can get HOT)? Will it be amongst other trees or in a garden where the humidity is going to be slightly higher? These are questions that you have to answer!