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Indoor Bonsai Part II

by Marius Greeff

Care, Training and Maintenance of Indoor Bonsai

The same care appropriate for any ordinary outdoor bonsai also applies to indoor bonsai, and includes pruning feeding and wiring, re-potting at the right time, correct soil mixture and most importantly, correct watering. The only difference may be that the style of your indoor bonsai tree should reflect the form of a subtropical or warm-climate tree.

Because of their extensive and all year round growth cycle, indoor bonsai are pruned throughout the year whenever- the tree is in active growth and the need is there.

Wiring - is applied and removed at any time during the year taking care that it does not damage new growth or flowers Because of the tendency of indoor bonsai to grow very rapidly, wire should be checked frequently and should be removed before any wire-bite occurs on branches and trunks.

Watering - is done on a daily basis. Allow soil to become moderately dry before watering and take care not to over water. In winter the tree's growth may slow down due to lower temperature and shorter days. Do not fertilise or give the tree too much water. Postpone pruning re-potting and feeding until growth resumes. When these trees are moved outside from time to time, watering might need to be increased to twice daily.

Like any other bonsai indoor bonsai also require regular feeding during growing periods. Inorganic and water-soluble fertilisers are preferable to organic fertilisers which are very smelly and could put you off indoor bonsai for life Apply the fertiliser every three to four weeks in a diluted solution - rather too weak than at full strength. If the tree's growth is excessive, decrease the amount of fertiliser in the solution. If the tree seems to require more, shorten the intervals between applications by one week.

Potting - A good soil mixture for indoor bonsai consists of humus-rich garden compost mixed with sand and loam. Good drainage is essential and if the mixture does not drain very well, add more sand. Weak drainage later may be an indication that your tree needs re-potting. Re-pot your indoor bonsai just before or during the start of the growing season.

The level of the soil should be slightly lower than the edge of the container. This will allow for some ground covering and water accumulation. Don't think of moss in terms of a ground cover. Moss will not grow very well indoors so rather cover the topsoil with small pebbles which can be collected near streams or along the road. Sand and pebbles from the vicinity of the sea should be washed repeatedly before being used.

Pests - Indoor circumstances are very protective to all kinds of pests and plant diseases. The best way to keep your tree heal thy and clean from any insects and pests is to keep the tree CLEAN. Giving the tree a good wash once a week will ensure this to a great extent keeping it within limits of course. Make sure the water is sprayed everywhere especially under leaves where pests sometimes find a very safe hiding place. It might be a good idea to add a little bit of Jaye's Fluid or liquid soap to the water. As Jaye's Fluid will sterilise the soil in the pot, do not add it every week. If chemical treatment is unavoidable, wait for a warm day and spray the tree outdoors. **

If it is possible in any way, try and move your indoor bonsai outdoors from time to time especially when the weather is not too cold. The fresh air, higher levels of humidity and stronger light will enhance the health and beauty of your tree.

Species suitable for indoor Bonsai Azaleas, Bougainvillea, Crassulas, Pomeegranate, Myrtle, Chinese Elm, Pyracantha Juniper, Holly, Cypress, Ficus Benjamina and other Ficus species.

TIP! Keep indoor bonsai clean by washing them. Use a bucket or bath, add one teaspoon of mild detergent to every 5 litres of water (about room temperature). Dunk your tree - head first into this water, using a side to side swishing motion. Be careful not to lose your top soil or ground cover.

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Random Bonsai Tip

Salvaging wire - Off-cuts of heavy electric cable (three centimeters diameter) as used by the Electricity department will keep you in copper and galvanized wire for a few years. Galvanized wire can be used for stay wiring and also tying down trees and pots against the wind.