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How to grow and care for Bonsai trees

Specific to Asia, bonsai is the art and science of growing miniature trees and shrubs. During the process, the plants are forcibly restrained: they are grown in recipients much smaller than optimal for their development, and their branches are cut in order to obtain various esthetic shapes.

Photo: Derek Lyons/Flickr.com
Photo: Derek Lyons/Flickr.com

According to studies, the modern art of bonsai originates in China. In Japanese practice, forces representing the sky and the air are brought together in a single dish. Trees used most commonly are pine, maple, juniper, elm, lark, flowering cherry and flowering peach.

In our days, the word “bonsai” is used as a generic term for all miniature trees that are grown in pots. The reason for the birth of this art is to invite to contemplation those who look at these trees. At the same time, this practice focuses on cultivating and pruning trees as esthetically as possible. Bonsai trees are classified according to several aspects, height and the number of branches being the most common.

In the Japanese school, the modified plant has to resemble an ordinary tree, and it mustn’t show any intervention in its growth. In contrast, in the Chinese practice, there is an accent on opposites, based on the forces of Yin and Yang. The Chinese school is inspired, contrary to the Japanese one, not only by nature, but also by literature, poetry and visual arts.

The leaves of the tiny tree must be green, and it must have a large number of roots. The trunk and the branches must become thinner towards the end, and the branches must not cross. The diameter of the pot should have a dimension comprised between two thirds and three fourths of the height of the plant.

Photo: Derek Lyons/Flickr.com
Photo: Jared Cherup/Flickr.com

The most important part of growing a bonsai is the pruning. Usually, pruning takes place in the spring. In this process, the two most important goals are to obtain spectacular forms and to change the direction in which the branches are growing. The pruning tools have to be very sharp and the inadequately developing small branches need to be removed completely. Bigger cuts need to be covered with wax to prevent the sap oozing out.

Watering needs to be done daily or once in two days. The plant needs to be sprinkled with water, too. The quantity of water used depends on the season and the species of the tree. To verify whether the tree needs water, test the soil with your finger, and add water only if the soil is dry. An adequate humidity can be maintained if you keep a bowl full of water close to the plant.