Grow Beautiful Bonsai
By Justin Hancock
Few plants create the Zen look bonsai does; there’s something about a bonsai that seems to radiate peace and tranquility. Here are some of our favorite bonsai varieties for your home -- and tips to keep them healthy and beautiful.
The first -- and perhaps most important -- thing to know about bonsai is that it’s not a type of plant, but instead, a way to treat a plant. Each tree that’s been grown as a bonsai wants the same light, moisture, and temperature conditions as it would if you let it grow full size.
Featuring a thick, swollen trunk and glossy green leaves, Ginseng ficus grows fabulously as a houseplant. It’s a wonderful bonsai selection for first-time bonsai growers; place it in medium or bright light and water once a week or so.
A common bonsai type, Fukien tea has small leaves, and if it gets enough light, cute little white flowers on and off throughout the year. You’ll often find it trained with an artistically bent trunk, making it the perfect specimen for a desk or tabletop. Fukien tea grows best in medium to bright light with a weekly watering.
Bearing little blue-green needles and flexible stems, juniper also offers natural, windswept shapes. It likes a bright spot and wants to be watered once a week or so. Juniper appreciates cooler temperatures in winter, making it a good choice for windowsills.
Green Island Ficus
Like Ginseng ficus, this variety is an especially good choice for beginners. It features shiny, round leaves and, if it’s in enough humidity, little aerial roots that hang down from the branches. Grow Green Island ficus in medium to bright light (though it will tolerate low light) and water weekly.
With its shiny leaves that appear to clasp the stems, privet is a distinctive and stylish choice for growing as a bonsai. It tolerates low, medium, or bright light and can be watered once a week or so. It prefers to be a little cooler in winter than in summer.
Because you don’t want trees treated as bonsai to grow fast, you don’t need to fertilize them as frequently as you do traditional indoor plants. But the bonsai still depend on you for all of their nutrients. Fertilize most varieties lightly in spring, following the directions on the fertilizer product packaging.
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