Bonsai & Air Plants

Bonsai for Indoors

The goal of Bonsai is to capture the essence, spirit, and beauty of a large naturally-aged tree in miniature form, often in a small pot indoors. It is an ancient practice that celebrates harmony and balance while adding living art into your home.

Bonsai are a fun way to challenge your indoor gardening skills and can be very rewarding. They are considered high maintenance as they require additional care compared to other tropical houseplants. Watering, humidity, and pruning practices are all aspects that will need additional attention.

Belgian carries a selection of indoor bonsai starter plants and potted specimens year round. Find the one that speaks to you, either for yourself or as a great gift for the indoor gardener on your list!

The History of Bonsai:

The art of Bonsai comes from ancient culture, originating in China and then developed by the Japanese. During the 13th century, the Japanese collected dwarf wild trees, potted them and sold them. As the demand for these grew, the Japanese began to train native trees by shaping them to create the look of age and to simulate a natural setting. 

Currently, many people are growing Bonsai at home and tropical varieties are being used for growing indoors. As a living art form it makes a great conversation piece.

Starting Your Bonsai:

First choose a starter plant that will be appealing to you and fits your plans of shaping. Then select a pot for your Bonsai: for a starter plant in a 4” pot, a Bonsai dish 2” deep with a 4”-5” diameter is ideal.

Place a small stone or piece of screen over the hole in the bottom of the pot to prevent soil from washing out. Remove your Bonsai starter plant and gently shape the roots  to fit the new Bonsai pot – this is done by massaging the roots with your fingertips to avoid damaging roots. Plant with cactus soil and add pebbles or stone on top for decoration. Copper wire can then be added for shaping, if desired. (See Styles below)

Success with Bonsai – Care & Tips

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Light: Medium to bright indirect light. The ideal location is morning sun (East Window) or late afternoon sun (West Window). They cannot handle direct sunlight as this causes them to burn, but you can place them in a South window so long as the plant is set far enough back.

Watering: The timing between watering depends on the size of your Bonsai and how much light and humidity your plant receives. Keep soil evenly moist: not wet,  not dry. When soil is slightly dry water thoroughly, then drain any excess water away. The main killers of most Bonsai are root rot or dehydration. Rot is caused from  watering too often or being left to sit in excess water. Dehydration is caused from not enough water or allowing too much time between waterings.

Misting: Bonsai require humidity; misting the leaves on a daily basis will help to increase the humidity for your plant. The best time to mist is in the mornings, to ensure that the leaves are dry by evening to prevent rot. Another way to increase humidity is to use a pebble tray: use a larger saucer and fill it with rocks, pebbles or even a smaller upside-down saucer. Set your plant on top and fill the larger saucer with water, which will evaporate and surround your Bonsai, thus creating more humidity. The key with using a pebble tray is to make sure the water level is never touching the bottom of your pot, as this would create root rot.

Fertilizer: Bonsai like to be fed monthly with an all-purpose water-soluble fertilizer. Indoor Evergreen varieties like Junipers can be fed with a higher nitrogen fertilizer (like 30-10-10) once a month during the spring and summer to support new greener growth. Flowering types can be fed with a water-soluble flowering plant fertilizer once a month in spring and summer to promote flowers.

Repotting / Root Pruning: Repotting is usually necessary every three to five years. At this time they may require a larger pot (one size up) or they can be root pruned and planted back into the same pot. Bonsai prefer sandy soil; cactus soil works well.

To prune roots, loosen roots gently and trim off a small portion. Return plant to original pot and plant in new soil. When roots are pruned, branches should also be pruned to compensate for lost roots. 

Pruning: Pruning will help to keep your plant nicely shaped and looking full. Use a clean pair of scissors or snips to trim any branches that are in undesired locations or growing in the wrong direction. To keep the foliage thick, simply trim the tips regularly to encourage new sprouts.

Styles of Bonsai (Shaping):

Current styles of Bonsai are taking a more relaxed approach. 

There are five traditional styles:
Semi cascade – A curving trunk that does not touch the bottom of the pot. Good style for Junipers.
Cascade – Resembles a tree growing off an embankment, with the trunk curving below the bottom of pot.
Formal Upright – An easy style that features a straight trunk.
Informal Upright – The trunk bends and curves slightly to the side or front.
Slanting – The trunk has up to a 45º angle from the pot, with its low branches in the opposite direction.

Copper wire can be spiraled gently around trunk and main branches to train them to your desired shape. Gently bend wired branches regularly to attain the desired look, removing the wires once the training is finished; this may take a few years to achieve.

Tillandsias  (Air Plants)

Tillandsias are air plants that live in the tropical rainforests of Latin America. They grow completely without the need for soil! They are primarily found clinging to tree branches, rocks and some are even found on the sides of desert cactus! 

Tillandsias absorb moisture and nutrients through their leaves, rather than through a root system. This makes them unusual and unique from other plants. They can get beautiful, long lasting blooms. After flowering they produce baby plants on their sides which will grow. These will flower next.

Tillandsias can be glued to wood or shells and are best placed in humid locations.

Success with Tillandsias – Care & Tips

Light: Medium to bright indirect light.
Water: Mist or submerse in water 2 to 3 times per week.  
Fertilizer: Add an all-purpose water-soluble fertilizer to water once a month.

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