At its finest, the cherry blossom bonsai (or sakura) is the quintessential expression of the beauty of Japan’s national tree and the refinement of the bonsai technique. But you don’t have to know everything about this 500-year-old practice to achieve the same heights. Just follow along with this guide.
Here are the main guidelines to take care of a Cherry Blossom Bonsai:
- You’re going to need to place it in a spot with plenty of sun, away from the wind. You’re also going to need to keep it in a cool spot during the winter months.
- Watering the tree is going to be important, but it doesn’t require any special care. Just make sure to prevent the tree from drying out.
- Keep the soil fertilized. An organic liquid fertilizer will offer the best nutritional value.
- This is not a beginner-level tree. You will need to prune and wire it during the spring months. If you want the telltale cherry blossoms, you’ll need to avoid pruning the tree for a year.
- Repot the tree every 2 to 3 years.
The cherry blossom bonsai is going to be a striking mainstay in your garden, for sure. But, it’ll take some hands-on care, and plenty of attention. If you’re up for the challenge, you’ll be able to boast about nailing one of the most traditional bonsai varieties.
Cherry Blossom Bonsai Care Essentials
It all starts with putting your cherry blossom bonsai in the right place. This is a tree that’s going to need to be in a bright, sunny spot to grow adequately. Think about placing it around eye level — three to four feet up should suffice — on a table in your garden or yard.
It doesn’t mean that after the summer months are done you can forget about it, though.
The tree needs to stay dormant to cool off for a period of about three months every year — that’s during the winter. Most varieties of this tree don’t take well to tropical climates.
There are several ways to achieve this. One is to take the cherry blossom bonsai out of its pot and bury it in a location that’s isolated from the sun, but not rain or snow.
If you do this, it might be necessary to mulch up to the first branch.
The other method is to place your tree indoors, like a garage or shed. It’s important for these locations to be unheated. Remember, the idea is for the tree to cool off and remain dormant.
Keep the tree away from sunlight during its dormant period.
During the summer months, you may need to water your cherry tree bonsai once a day or more. The rule of thumb to follow here is to never allow the soil to go dry. These trees are not immense water hogs, but you don’t want them to dry out either; always keep an eye on proper soil moisture.
Watering these trees requires a delicate touch. Use a watering can or a hose that facilitates a soft stream. Try to disturb the soil as little as possible, and to stop watering once the stream starts coming out of the holes at the bottom of the pot. You can also have moss on the surface to keep all the watering from eroding the soil.
During the winter months, you’ll still need to water your cherry blossom bonsai approximately every two weeks. Don’t neglect it even though it’s dormant!
Tips on Humidity
Modern heating systems sometimes cause the soil to dry out very quickly. That’s why it’s important to keep your tree in an unheated area during the winter.
If you have your bonsai indoors, keep it in the coolest area you can, in a shallow tray with water and gravel. This will keep it from losing any excess moisture and maintain its health throughout.
Growing a Cherry Blossom Bonsai from Seeds
As with any other tree, you can grow it from seeds and cuttings. If you start with seeds, you’re going to have to identify viable candidates first.
To do this, fill up a glass with water and dip your candidates in. The ones that sink are the ones you want — discard the floaters.
The sinking seeds are viable and are probably ready to germinate. Keep these seeds in the sunniest spot you can find, and water them regularly. The soil should be soaking. Keep the moisture level high.
Keep your seeds (up to four) in a large pot filled with peat seed and sowing mix. In a few weeks, you’ll see a taproot, stems, and leaves.
Advanced Care Guidelines
Fertilizing your Cherry Blossom Bonsai
The bonsai technique requires growth in a very small amount of soil compared to what a full-sized tree would need.
That’s why it’s very important to periodically fertilize the soil to maintain a nutrient-rich environment. Use an organic liquid fertilizer, diluted at about half the recommended dosage.
Apply your fertilizer monthly, except during the dormant winter months. If you want to supplement with foliar feeding (through the leaves), you can spray fertilizer on them every other month.
Wiring should be done while the tree is young, with a soft and malleable trunk. It’s not recommended with mature trees, because of their delicate trunks; you’ll very likely end up irreparably damaging the tree if you’re not extremely careful.
You should exercise care even with very young trees, and remove any wires in the same season you put them on.
To wire cherry blossom bonsai trees in the various styles available, you’ll mostly need two types of wires.
- Anodized aluminum wires for deciduous trees with harder trunks.
- Annealed copper wires are for the hardest trunks, such as pines or conifers.
We recommend that you go with aluminum wires for this. They’re also much easier to find, and less likely to hurt the tree.
You can also use raffia, or palm fiber, soaked in water as extra protection to avoid hurting the tree with the wires.
You can use wiring to achieve the following cherry blossom bonsai styles:
- Shakan, or slanted.
- Dramatic Fukinagashi, or windswept as if in a storm.
- Shari (shaving off the bark to prevent new growth)
Seki-joju, or Rocky Terrain. This entails growing roots through obstacles.
- Literati, with a skinny trunk
- Han-kengai, with a cascading effect.
You need to repot your cherry blossom bonsai when the roots start to fill out the pot. The idea is to provide a renewed environment for the tree as well, so you’ll need to switch the old soil for fresh one too.
Repotting should be done in mid-summer. When you’re removing the tree from the soil, you’ll need to remove the about a quarter of the outer and bottom-most roots before you place it in the new environment.
The new pot should have a screen over the drainage holes, gravel on top, and finally the new soil. Be careful to avoid leaving any air pockets. The soil needs to be compact. Also, make sure that you have enough new soil to cover all the root mass you just pruned.
Make sure to give your cherry blossom bonsai a good soak after you’ve repotted it. A good way to do it is to just give the whole pot a good dip in a tub or sink.
You’re going to need to periodically trim and pinch your tree in order to maintain its size.
Trim back any new growth, but don’t remove the whole thing. The new growth is necessary to keep your cherry blossom bonsai healthy.
You’re going to need to keep a close eye on your trees because different varieties grow at different rates. Sub-tropical and tropical trees tend to have faster growth, and thus require more trimming.
Pests and Diseases
Lovely as it is, the cherry blossom bonsai can be susceptible to rot and mold. Never overwater your tree. Moisture should always be just right. Avoid dry soil, and avoid excess water. Your pot should also have sufficient drainage.
Common pests are mites and caterpillars. If you notice one crawling around, then that’s a sure sign of more pesky creatures jeopardizing the health of your tree.
As usual, use organic, spray-on pesticides in the quantities indicated on the bottle. If things start getting out of hand, don’t drag your feet and contact a certified professional before it gets even worse,
How Long Does it Take for a Cherry Blossom Bonsai to Grow?
If you start from seeds, it’ll take just a few weeks for them to start showing signs of life.
Once they germinate, it’ll only take a few more days before you can transplant your tree. After that, it’s only a short time until you have a young tree.
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