Beginner Friendly Bonsai Trees
We have all heard about how hard bonsai is, but this really isn't true.
Usually a beginners down fall is in the hands of the retailer where they got their first tree. This might be because it was a big box store that didn’t properly care for the tree before sale which lead to the beginner buying a tree in poor health, or maybe the store just gave bad advice.
Lets try and give you a better start buy recommending some beginner friendly bonsai trees and some good advice for those particular species.
If you live in a tropical or sub tropical climate this will be a fantastic start for you. Ficus or “ Figs “ love warm temperatures and thrive in humid environments. They are fast growers which generally keeps the beginner engaged with their tree and gives them plenty to do over the growing season. Ficus strike easily from cuttings so as you trim your tree you can create more trees to work on in the future. Ficus come in all different varieties with different leaf sizes and shapes, some even have interesting bark textures and grow fruits. Another interesting feature of the ficus is that in really humid environment you will begin to see ariel roots growing from your trunk and branches. If your winter doesn’t drop below 4c in the winter and your weather is mostly warm and humid through out the year this is a fantastic choice for you.
Here are some basic care tips
This tree can be kept in low light conditions although a spot with a good amount of direct sunlight each day will be best. This tree can be grown indoors but keep in mind its structure wont be the best for bonsai purposes inside.
Figs enjoy their soil to be moist so water regularly through out the growing season. Each tree will have different watering requirements depending on the type of soil they are in, the pot size and the environment. Keep an eye on the moisture levels of the soil and water when the surface begins to dry.
Once your ficus puts out an extension of growth you can prune back to the first set of leaves or leave a little extra length if the design requires it. It is good practise to allow the new growth to remain on the tree until the leaves harden off and become waxy, this allows the tree to regain some of its strength and prevents the tree becoming too weak. Ficus can be top pruned all throughout the growing season, I would refrain from making larger cuts though until mid autumn to reduce the amount of sap loss from the cut site. Cover any cuts with Cut Paste For Bonsai.
Chinese Elm Bonsai
Chinese Elm Bonsai is another species that is very beginner friendly and very rewarding when a few basic techniques are followed. This tree has a nice leaf pattern and a rewarding winter silhouette. This tree is Deciduous meaning it loses its leaf mass during the winter months leaving you with your branch structure work you have achieved through out the growing season. Although this tree is deciduous it will only have leaf drop in colder climates, this is one of the few deciduous trees that can survive in warmer climates due to the fact it comes from the warmer climates of China, Taiwan and Korea. Chinese elm will ramify quickly with strategic pruning.
Here are some basic care tips
Full sun will be best for Chinese elm bonsai. In summer you can position the tree where it receives full morning sun then some afternoon shade at the hottest part of the day. During winter it is best to keep the trees root system protected from frost in hatch cold environments. You can do this by sitting the pot on the ground and surrounding it with mulch.
Chinese elm bonsai can move a lot of water during the growing season so keep an eye on your soil and keep it moist. Once again watering frequency can depend on your tree, the pot its in, the soil and its environment. If you over water your Chinese elm you may begin to see the leaves turn yellow and fall, they will grow back though. This can also be a sign nutrient deficiency.
Much like the ficus you will want to allow the extensions to harden off before cutting back to the first 2 leaves or to the length as needed for the design. Once you cut back this will cause the latent buds at those leaves to grow causing ramification. This can be done at least twice over the growing season. Most environments will allow for more.
Perhaps one of the most common species for beginner bonsai but the most misunderstood. Juniper bonsai can be a very hardy species and easy to care for given the correct start. Unfortunately most of the times if not bought from a proper bonsai nursery the juniper bonsai may already be dead at the time of sale. Juniper bonsai can look healthy for up to 2 months after death. We have a full Juniper Bonsai Care Guide Here, Or we also sell a Juniper Bonsai Care eBook. This species of tree makes a great looking bonsai really quickly and can handle some light drought.
Here are some basic care tips
This species loves sunlight, so full sun for this tree if you can keep up with the watering requirements. This tree can not be keep indoors as it is a temperate species so outside only. It will do fine with morning sun and afternoon shade as well. This tree can also do well in low temperatures. How low will depend on pot size and health of the tree. The smaller the pot or weaker the tree the less cold tolerant it will be. A good start is a healthy tree in a 30cm pot with a nice big root ball and soil mass could be fine down to -6c. Start reducing cold tolerance from there depending on health and pot size.
Junipers don’t like to have wet feet, but you cant let the soil completely dry out. In the growing season you may need to water once maybe even twice a day depending on your circumstances. During winter this watering will be reduced. Keep an eye on your soil as an indicator for when the tree needs water.
Junipers can be pruned throughout the growing season but like the other species you will want to let the new growth stay on the tree until it has time to harden off and help the tree regain its strength. Don’t take off more then 50% of the foliage in one flush with a juniper as they keep their strength in the foliage. Make sure you cut the stem between the needles with sharp bonsai scissors.
I hope this has given you an idea of some of the best trees for beginners in bonsai. Grab yourself a tree and give it a go. Its not as hard as it seems and with a few simple lessons you will be on the road to success. We do have an online beginners bonsai course available for anyone who want to learn more in depth.
Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Bonsai Journey.