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Bonsai Care - How to Water

Mar 8, 2008
Do you water a bonsai like any other plant? Of course not. Lots of factors affect bonsai including climate and environment and there are very specific ways on how they should be treated.

There are lots of different species of bonsai that use water at different rates, they grow at different rates in their different growing cycles. Deciduous, non-deciduous - all bonsai are not the same. There are no set cycles with bonsai and they should be attended to when it is required.

Watering - it's important that the compost never dries out. You can quickly kill a bonsai this way. You will of course be aware that when in the ground, plants and trees adapt to the environment - this isn't possible for a bonsai as due to the smallness of scale, everything you do - or not has a big effect on it. The masters say that to fully master the correct watering of a bonsai it takes 3 years.

Under-watering can be much more harmful for a bonsai than over-watering. Make sure the compost is not dried out, its very important to take a careful note of its condition.

A bonsai needs oxygen which it takes in through the roots in order to breathe - this happens when water flows over the roots - it takes away all the by products and provides fresh oxygen which gives the plant nourishment. You will suffocate the plant if you give too much water as this is when the fine root hairs cannot breathe.

So how can you tell how much water is the right amount? Well, if you are re-potting, if you have over-watered the fine root hairs will have turned black and have rotted and died.

Signs that you are watering incorrectly are - loss of vigor, no longer vibrant and healthy, but looking tired - foliage turns yellow and drop - the smaller branches wither and die away these are all good indications that you are not watering correctly.

So what can be done to remedy this? Cutting away the black roots will help. Rotten roots foster bacteria that kill the plant, so cutting the old rotten black roots away will help restore a more friendly eco system and help the plant to recover. Take care not to damage the healthy roots as this will impede recovery. More importantly you will need to change your watering habits!

What is your watering routine? It should not be set. Daily changing temperatures and environment meant that you need to adapt your routine to that which your bonsai needs. You must carefully watch the needs of each plant as bonsai have a very small root system which can dry out quickly. Watch the compost which may be damp on top, but could be dry below the surface. Individual species of bonsai use water at different rates and must be checked daily.

A tip to help you find out what is going on beneath the surface is to put a wooden toothpick into the soil and leave it there. When you check next the toothpick will help you to see if the compost below the surface has dried out, by looking at the lack of dampness and this will help you assess how much water you need to use.

You need to be able to adapt your routine to the needs of your plant and never underestimate how important watering is.
About the Author
Do you know the correct way to look after your bonsai? Read more great articles by Paul March about techniques to help improve your bonsai. More articles on bonsai care and information on reviving bonsai trees to help you enjoy your bonsai.
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