Bonsai Tree Care – The Guide

Bonsai trees can be tricky to care for, but they’re not impossible to keep alive and healthy. If you know what you’re doing, you can grow and keep your Bonsai thriving for years. 

The following general directions will get you on the road to success with your Bonsai.

  • Water it when you notice that the soil is slightly drying, do not wait until it completely dries out
  • Make sure to double-check if your species needs indirect or direct sunlight
  • Prune it regularly to maintain and achieve the desired tree shape

While these main guidelines sound simple, there are more details that you should consider when caring for a bonsai tree. This article will cover what you should know, especially if you are a beginner bonsai owner.

Let’s get started!

Bonsai Tree Care Fundamentals

So, we have broken down the caring guidelines into the following categories:

  • Light and Position
  • Watering
  • Pruning and Shaping
  • Soil and Repotting

Light and Position

First of all, you will need to know the type of tree your Bonsai is, as well as whether it’s an indoor or outdoor tree. The best way to do this is to ask at a local nursery. In case that’s not possible, you can take a photo and ask on a bonsai Reddit forum where other bonsai owners hang out.

It’s worth mentioning that most bonsai trees are made of outdoor plants, which means that they need to be in the open air year-round. Also, most owners agree that the best Bonsai are made of deciduous trees that change their leaves in the spring and fall. This can include bonsais that are made of maple, elm and ginkgo trees.

On the other side, indoor bonsai trees tend to be subtropical, meaning that they thrive best in warm, humid climates. These include ficus, jade, and umbrella trees.

Indoor Bonsai SpeciesOutdoor Bonsai Species
FicusCherry Blossom
Dwarf Umbrella TreePine
Chinese ElmOlive
SageretiaOrange Bonsai Tree
SerissaWeeping Willow
Indoor vs Outdoor Bonsai Trees

Once you know what kind of tree you want to grow, then you can determine the amount of light it will need and, therefore, the right placement for your Bonsai.

Watering Your Bonsai Tree

The number one cause of bonsai death is the lack of regular watering. The soil in your bonsai pot will dry out quickly if you do not water it often enough. Your Bonsai should be watered often, but not so often that the soil becomes soggy. It is best to water your Bonsai only when the soil feels dry to the touch. Therefore, it’s best to water your Bonsai separately from your other plants.

When you water your Bonsai, make sure to give it enough water to saturate the roots completely. If you do not water it enough, the roots will die and the tree will wither and eventually decay. You can also make use of a shallow tray to catch excess water and use it to water your Bonsai when needed.

Overwatering your Bonsai can also lead to the death of the tree. You can prevent this by giving your Bonsai a good watering once or twice a week and let the soil dry a bit between rounds. Overwatering may also be caused by poor drainage, so make sure to choose an appropriate bonsai pot. 

In short, you should water your Bonsai regularly to keep it healthy and it’s best to water your Bonsai when the soil is starting to dry.

Pruning and Shaping Your Bonsai Tree

Bonsai trees need to be pruned regularly in order to keep them small and compact. The two most common types of pruning are maintenance pruning and structural pruning.

Regular pruning is one of the best methods to keep a tree healthy. Cutting back on the number of pruning you do is a good way to keep your tree vigorous.

Buds and branches should be pruned regularly to achieve the desired shape you have in mind for your tree. When you prune your tree, you can control the size of the tree and the shape of the branches. If you prune the buds off the branches, you can make the tree grow smaller and more compact.

The best time to prune a bonsai is when you notice that the tree is changing too much from the desired shape. Pruning should be ideally done in the spring, as this will encourage the growth of more branches.

If you are hesitant about prune your Bonsai and don’t want to risk ruining your leafy fried, we suggest hiring a professional to teach you the right technique.

Another way to shape your Bonsai is by wiring it. Wrap a thin wire around the branches that you want to shape. Wiring should be done in the winter when the growth of the branches is at its slowest. Do not remove the wire from the branches until you are sure that the growth of the branches has stopped. If the branches grow too fast, they can become twisted and damaged. Also, make sure to use the appropriate bonsai tools for this process.

Choosing the Right Soil For Your Bonsai

When it comes to selecting a soil type for your Bonsai, you need to make sure that it has good drainage properties. Adding clay to the soil will also help keep the right balance between water retention and drainage, which will extend your tree’s lifespan.

If you can, you can use volcanic rocks or other large stones in your soil mix to increase the amount of air that it holds. This will also help retain the right soil moisture levels, which will benefit your bonsai roots’ health. 

bonsai soil mix in zoom

Fertilize your Bonsai regularly to keep it vigorous. This includes the usage of a balanced mix of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in the fertilizer. It’s best to fertilize your Bonsai when the soil is moist so that the nutrients can be absorbed by the plant. Always follow the directions on the fertilizer packet to prevent over-fertilization.

Repotting Your Bonsai

Repot your Bonsai every few years to keep it healthy and looking its very best. If you don’t do this, you could risk that your tree will stop growing and will eventually wither and die. Your Bonsai will continue to grow and develop if you repot it every two or three years to keep.

Here are the steps to repot your Bonsai:

  1. Carefully pull the tree out of its pot.
  2. Using a pair of sharp scissors, cut away the outermost layer of the roots.
  3. Inspect the root mass and trim away any dead or diseased material. If you see any of these, it’s a sign that your Bonsai isn’t getting the proper amount of drainage.
  4. Clean the new pot, and if there are any brown spots or stains, remove them.
  5. Place mesh squares over drainage holes to keep soil from escaping.
  6. Lay the soil in the bottom of the pot and then plant the tree in it.
  7. Fill the remaining spaces between the roots with soil.

Choosing a Bonsai Pot

A bonsai pot can be made from a variety of materials, such as wood, stone, plastic, ceramic, or metal. It is crucial to choose a bonsai pot that will allow the growth of your bonsai tree. Make sure that the container you choose has a drainage hole in so when you water your tree, the roots don’t rot. There are many different types of bonsai containers, including plastic, ceramic, stone and metal.

Bonsai Pot Guide Cover

Ceramic pots stand out as the most preferred by seasoned bonsai owners and they have been used for thousands of years to grow bonsai trees. You can buy ceramic pots at your local garden center or even online.


They say that Bonsai is a lifestyle, not just a hobby. It requires a lot of time and effort to keep a bonsai alive. If you follow the general directions described above, you will have a successful bonsai in no time.

Related Questions

What is a bonsai tree?

A bonsai (plural: bonsais) is a small tree that is planted in a pot. In Japanese, the word bonsai literally means planted in a container.

The art of growing bonsai trees has been passed down through the centuries from one generation to the next in Japan

What’s the best Bonsai for beginners?

Juniper is one of the easiest of all trees to grow and care for as a bonsai. It is also a good choice for people who do not have much experience.

How do you save a dying bonsai tree?

When you have a tree that is showing signs of stress, the best thing to do is check if it is getting the right amount of water and light exposure. Make sure to check the specific species caring guidelines. Reviving a bonsai tree that has been injured is a time-consuming and frustrating process. If you are not able to do it yourself, you will need to hire a professional to do it for you.

Are Bonsai trees pet friendly?

Most bonsai trees are pet friendly. You will need to keep an eye on species that can mildly poisonous, so if they are ingested and your pet cat or dog is showing any signs of illness, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.

If you are interested in learning more details about Bonsai care, make sure to check these guides:

How to Grow a Bonsai From Seeds?

How Long Does it Take to Grow a Bonsai Tree?

How Much Does a Bonsai Tree Cost?