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Want to buy bonsai? What to consider.

Want to buy bonsai? What to consider.

​A true bonsai tree is an art piece that an artist spent years developing. Before you make that investment answer the following questions. 

What is a bonsai?
What a bonsai isn't. A bonsai tree is not a house plant. The word "Bonsai" means tree in a pot. Almost any variety of tree can be fashioned into a bonsai tree. But, these trees need special care. Bonsai must watered every day or two. If you go on vacation someone must care for it like your dog. A bonsai is a tree and needs the same conditions as any tree in nature. Almost all bonsai should live outside. Some trees need full sun, some need shade. Bonsai need to be routinely pruned to retain their shape. Most commercial bonsai are junipers and most are nothing more than seedlings slapped in a pot. Junipers will probably die if kept indoors. True bonsai are artistically styled over many years. Anything else is just a tree in a pot. Cost is a good indicator, like any good art it could be quite an investment. A true bonsai is not cheap, after all someone spent many years developing it.

What is your skill level?
The art of bonsai is a combination of art and horticulture. If you have little exposure to bonsai you should start with a good book. Sunset Press has a good one called "Bonsai" sold at most garden centers. Or, check out your library. Beginners should consider junipers to start since they are very forgiving and tolerant while you learn. They make excellent bonsai. If you have more experience then make sure you are up on the horticulture of the species you are interested in.

Which species is best for your environment?
Since bonsai are typically outdoor plants, will it grow in your locale? Don't forget, not all trees are hardy to all locations. How will you protect your investment in all seasons? Be sure to research your purchase before handing your money over.

Are you prepared to care for it?
Ok, you found a really neat tree. You can afford it, It's good for your location. You will need to water it almost every day to keep it alive, you will need to prune it a couple of times per growing season to keep it's shape, you'll need to fertilize once a month for its health, you'll need to root prune it every few years to keep it from getting root bound. If you are ready to do all that, then good for you! Welcome to a  rewarding hobby. 

What help is available?
Your local library will have bonsai books available to learn the basics. You probably have a county agriculture agent to help diagnose health issues. There are two authoritative websites, American Bonsai Society and Bonsai Clubs International. Best resource is a local bonsai club, check with your garden center to find one. 

For more "how to" information click the "Bonsai tips" button

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