The plants most commonly used to grow bonsai plants are generally slow growing. There are some species that will grow faster than others, and some ways in which you can encourage good growth. Get the details here.
Bonsais are not one particular species of plant, but rather a way of growing hard-wooded plants to give the appearance that they are growing in the wild. This look is achieved by modifying the form of the plant to direct its growth in a particular way. As an art form, bonsai has been practiced in China and Japan for many hundreds of years and traditional bonsai artists take many years to learn the craft.
How long do bonsai plants live?
Bonsai plants can live as long as is typical for the particular species of plant you are using. For example, if you select a plant that lives about 100 years in the wild, it is entirely possible your bonsai will live for this same amount of time. Your bonsai will require regular care and attention to achieve a long life. Potted plants do not have the same need to rapidly expand their root and leaves systems as plants growing in the earth. And when you think about the fact that bonsai trees can live for 800 years, it’s no wonder that they take their time to grow.
Faster growing options
If patience isn’t your strong point, and you really want to get stuck into the act of sculpting your bonsai, there are some plant options that will give you a faster rate of growth than others. Fast growing plants are useful for beginners, because if you make a mistake while pruning, it won’t take long for the plant to regenerate and grow back. However, you should be aware that faster growing plants actually require more attention- they will need to be pruned more often and will lose shape quickly if not regularly cared for. Faster growing plants will also need to be repotted more often, in some cases twice as often as slower growing options. This could mean repotting twice a year during the first few years of life.
Growth rate in pots
Plants in a pot do not grow the same way as plants in the ground. Plants have a way of adjusting to the local environment. Plants in pots create different root systems to help ensure they are getting enough oxygen and using whatever water is available. By giving your plant a consistent amount of water and a comfortable environment, you will encourage it to develop a healthy root system. This will enable it to grow more quickly.
How to encourage good growth
Establishing a thorough and regular care routine for your bonsai will give it the best chance of achieving a good growth rate. Plants that are dry and stressed will slow down growth in an effort to recover. Tips for encouraging growth include:
• Provide at least four hours of sunlight a day
• Maintain temperature at 60F or higher during daylight hours
• Remove larger roots because many smaller roots will absorb water more efficiently
• Regularly trim and repot your bonsai
• Provide regular water and ensure draining is occurring
Fertilizing your bonsai will encourage growth. Fertilizers are made of nitrogen, which helps the plant to grow branches, phosphorous, which aids the root system and potassium which helps the plant to flower and fruit. Regular fertilizing will help your bonsai maintain a good shape and give you branches and limbs which are strong enough to work with. Fertilize your bonsai every two to three weeks during the growing season, from early spring to later fall. Reduce feeds as autumn begins.
Bonsai seeds and saplings
It is possible to grow bonsai from seed. It will be several years before you have enough growth to begin working with the structure of the plant. In most cases, it might be better to begin your bonsai experience with a sapling tree. There are several factors to consider when choosing a sapling tree. Try to select one that has a bonsai like structure and appearance. First, check the plant’s proportions. Look for a wide base on the trunk which becomes narrower to the top. Lower branches should be longer than branches near the top. Then, select a sapling with small leaves or needles.
Willows are a popular choice for bonsai. They are an attractive plant that has leaves that droop gently and shimmer in the light. If you select a willow you will see good progress within a couple of months after potting. Corkscrew willows are a good choice while weeping willows can be a little more challenging for beginners because they can be tricky to style. You will need to use wire to guide the plant from infancy because they have a tendency to grow upwards in a rush to reach their predetermined height.
Ficus plants are also fast to grow and have lush evergreen foliage. They also give good bonsai options which could be the more formal style, or with hanging leaves. You are better off starting with a young ficus and working it into the desired shape than trying to alter the structure of a more mature plant. Ficus can find it hard to recover from extensive pruning.
Chinese or Japanese Elm Bonsai
Chinese and Japanese elms are not only great trees to grow indoors, but they are also among the easiest trees for bonsai beginners. Their fast growth and the fact they grow in a highly predictable way along with small leaves and woody trunks make it very easy for even the beginners to grow an attractive bonsai.
The bottom line: Patience is something you need in abundance if you want to practice the ancient art of bonsai. But, by selecting a faster growing plant and providing it with its preferred conditions, you will find that you can get stuck into your hobby sooner rather than later.