Lets learn how to make Bonsai!

How To Grow 1

So, you want to learn how to make Bonsai?

We can help!

Firstly, a couple of things for you to consider.....

You, as a Bonsai gardener, or a future Bonsai gardener, can buy Bonsai trees that are already established, growing them from seed, or can grow them from cuttings taken off a parent tree. Lets explore these two ways of how to make Bonsai!

Growing from seed or cuttings. Grow Bonsai from scratch!

Perhaps the ultimate way to live the Bonsai experience is to grow a tree from scratch. Growing a tree from scratch allows complete freedom, experimentation and brings great reward.

This is the best way how to make Bonsai!

How to make Bonsai from seed
Growing from seed is inexpensive, and it is much easier to acquire specific plants as seeds rather than as established trees. Trees grown from seed are unique, individual and will reflect the tastes and personality of their owner.

Growing from seed provides the artist with a satisfying journey of learning. Growing Bonsai from seed is one of the most organic ways to watch your ideas come to life, but also requires much more care and attention than pre-established Bonsai.

Whilst growing from seed is the ultimate in Bonsai artistry, there are many trees that cannot be grown for a number of reasons. Sometimes a particular tree’s seeds may be hard to obtain or hard to grow in a specific climate, or the artist has not obtained seeds from a choice tree that they want to replicate.

Also, if an artist wishes only to produce a small number of specific Bonsai, propagation by cuttings is a quick and fairly easy method in which to achieve this. The majority of Bonsai can be grown this way, including ones best grown from seed.

The most important thing to consider when growing from scratch is the time factor. It will literally take YEARS to grow: some trees are nurtured by people for more than THIRTY years!!!!!!!!

This may suit a Bonsai enthusiast who cares for their tree like a child, but for some, this is unrealistic.

Growing From Cuttings
The word ‘cutting’ refers to a small piece of tree carefully cut from a specific spot, used almost like a seed to cultivate a new tree. This can be experimental and is also the best way how to make Bonsai interesting!

There are 3 categories of cuttings:

• Softwood

Softwood cuttings are taken from young, new growth.

• Semi-Hardwood

The most common cutting type. This type of cutting is generally taken from newer growth, but older than brand new growth with harder and firmer wood.

• Hardwood

Hardwood cuttings are taken from growth that has survived a whole growing season. Generally the cuttings are hard and firm.

When taking cuttings from a Bonsai tree, there are some basic points to consider, particularly when learning how to make Bonsai:

• Clean, well drained rooting mediums

• The application of hormones (if they are absent in the medium)

• A Constant supply of moisture

• Good light

• Bottom heat, if possible.

In starting, it is of high importance to take strong and healthy cuttings from Bonsai that are in peak physical form; high in health and vigour.

Cuttings should be taken from ‘new growth’, that is; areas of the tree that are young and have not become hard and old.

TIP! If a branch is young and healthy, it should snap between the thumb and forefingers like a fresh green bean. If it bends on itself then it is old and soft, and will most likely not root.

Aim to have your cutting around 2 to 4 inches long, bearing in mind the type of tree you are replicating. The cutting should be taken on a 45 degree angle; not cut in a straight line.

When you plant the cutting in a box, a tapered stem will allow it to be pushed into the soil without pressuring the stem. Less surface area means less force needed!

Hmmmm….. By now you've probably asked what a cutting box is? Lets have a quick look at how to make bonsai cutting boxes.

• Get a 5 inch deep box (depth is important, not width and length – smaller width and length will be cheaper on materials)

•Fill the box 1 to 2 inches deep with gravel or coal ashes.

•Cover gravel or ashes with moss or a layer of old bag.

•Fill to the 5 inches with sand or, preferably: perlite.

Ok, detour done….. Lets continue looking at how to make Bonsai from cuttings!

Take the cutting from an eye or joint. The leaves around (usually lower leaves) should be cleanly taken off and the large remaining ones shortened back. This will prevent your tree becoming sad and wilted.

Take your cuttings and ensure to place them as quickly as possible into their box. If it is not possible to plant them soon after removal, ensure to keep them damp and out of the sun.

Keep your box in a room that is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit and ensure that during the day, to shade the Bonsai if in direct sunlight. At night time, when inside, a heating pad will assist the growth process, adding up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. In warmer climates, if warm at night, keep the tree damp to ensure freshness and health.

Remember, all your hard work will be lost if you fail to water. As a rule -NEVER LET THE SAND IN THE BOX DRY OUT!

After around 2 weeks, give or take, your cutting should begin to shoot roots. When the roots form, remove from the box and pot them before the roots begin to grown longer than half an inch.

Here is a quick checklist to help you learn how to make Bonsai:

• Firstly you must ensure the cutting you take is from a healthy, vigorous tree.

• Take the cutting from areas of ‘new growth’ – portions of shoots that are younger and have not become old and hard.

• To test the stem, bend it between your fingers – if it bends and doubles over on itself then the stem is old and unhealthy. If it snaps then this would usually denote vigour and youth.

• The cutting should be taken from a joint or eye

• The cutting should be between 2 and 4 inches long and cut on an angle for ease of insertion into potted soil.

• Get a 5 inch deep box (depth is important, not width and length – smaller width and length will be cheaper on materials)

•Fill the box 1 to 2 inches deep with gravel or coal ashes.

•Cover gravel or ashes with moss or a layer of old bag.

•Fill to the 5 inches with sand or, preferably: perlite.

•Level the top off and soak thoroughly.

•Wait 1-1 ½ hours.

•Pot the cutting to about ½ it’s length (so you can only see half of it)

•Wet the sand and compact around the cutting.

•The cutting will thrive in warmer conditions and particularly bottom heat (you can purchase a heat mat from gardening stores). When putting your cutting box outside, ensure the cutting does not have extended periods of direct sunlight. Shade the box from direct sunlight with newspaper to allow heat through.

•Cuttings should show roots between 1 – 3 weeks.

•When the cuttings begin to show roots, they should be potted immediately

The best trees to take cuttings from are Junipers (Chinese Junipers take well) and Maples (Trident Maples take well).

Elms and Willows also take well but generally the tree’s ability to grow will depend on your cutting and it’s treatment post-cut.

Be sure to check out Part 2 of our How to Guide...... Learn how to grow Bonsai that have been taken from the wild!
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