Bonsai & Air Plants

The Beauty of Bonsai for Indoors

The art of Bonsai requires patience, control, and mindfulness – and anyone can do it! Belgian’s Orchid & Bonsai House (greenhouse #2) has a wonderful selection of Bonsai year-round, in an array of plant varieties and pots to suit every style. Beginners can start out with traditional Junipers, while Ficus Ginseng and Bougainvillea offer unique styling challenges, or create your own Bonsai oasis with our starter plants and Bonsai pots! No matter which variety you choose, as long as you give your Bonsai the light, water, warmth, and humidity it requires, you could be rewarded for years to come.

Bonsai translates to “planted in a pot” in its simplest terms but it can be more than a simple hobby; this ancient botanical art is all about capturing the essence, spirit, and beauty of a large naturally-aged tree but in miniature form. It celebrates harmony and balance while adding living art into your home. Bonsai plants are also a fun way to challenge your indoor gardening skills, as watering, humidity, and pruning practices are all aspects that need extra attention. Plus, they make great gifts!

A Short History of Bonsai:

The art of Bonsai comes from ancient culture, originating in China and then later 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 aged, windblown specimens. 

Currently, many people are growing Bonsai at home and many different tropical varieties are being used to create miniature forest worlds within a single pot. 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 massage the roots to shape them into the new Bonsai pot. Plant with cactus soil (for extra drainage) and add pebbles or stone on top for decoration. Copper wire can then be added around the trunk and branches for shaping, if desired. (See Styles below)

Success with Bonsai – Care & Tips

Click Here to Download our Bonsai & Air Plants Care Pamphlet!

Light: Medium to Bright indirect light. The ideal location is morning sun (East Window) or late afternoon sun (West Window). They can be placed far back from a South window, away from direct sunlight, to reduce the risk of sunburns.

Watering: Your watering schedule will depend 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, be sure to water thoroughly, then drain any excess water away. Bonsai are planted in very little soil, sometimes just a few tablespoons, so check your pots often and water as needed.

The most common issues with 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 can lead to 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 once a month during the spring and summer; this will support new growth and also keep the foliage lush and green. Flowering types can be fed with a water-soluble flowering plant fertilizer once a month in spring and summer to encourage new buds.

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 their roots can be pruned and planted back into the same pot. Bonsai prefer sandy soil for added drainage; cactus soil is an excellent option.

To prune roots, loosen roots gently and trim off a small portion. Fill pot with fresh soil and place newly-pruned plant on top, working the roots in and covering with more fresh soil; water deeply to settle the plant. Prune a few of the branches as well to help conserve the plant’s energy. 

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):

Compared to earlier techniques, which could be very rigid, 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 edge of the pot. Good style for Junipers.
Cascade – Resembles a tree growing off an embankment, with the trunk curving below the edge 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)

Tillandsia, or Air Plants, are epiphytes that do not grow in soil like other plants; instead, they use their roots to often attach themselves to trees, rocks, and other host plants, even Cacti! They are part of the Bromeliad family and use their sturdy foliage to absorb moisture and nutrients from the air. They thrive in high humidity environments and, because they do not need to be planted in soil, they can go anywhere!

Air Plants make incredible statements and are very easy to care for! Place them in Medium to Bright, indirect light and mist them every day to both water them and increase their humidity – you could also “dunk” them in a glass of water two to three times a week, but do not leave them in the water for too long! They can produce beautiful and long lasting blooms, just like their Bromeliad cousins. Once their blooms have faded, they will produce baby plants or “pups” on their sides which can be removed once they are large enough to leave their mother.

These unique specimens are perfect for crafting! They can be attached to rocks, driftwood, and other bases with hot glue – apply the adhesive to your chosen base, wait a few seconds to cool slightly, then press the bottom of the Air Plant onto the sticky spot and hold a few seconds to set.

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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