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Growing Bonsai Trees from Seed
Member Name: rosiesmum
Date: 01/06/01, updated on 08/08/01 (3014 review reads)
Advantages: after a few years these trees can be worth a few hundred quid
Disadvantages: takes a lot of patience
Bonsai trees are fascinating and they take years to grow. They are stunted trees that grow in a shallow pot.
‘Bon’ is Japanese for shallow pot and ‘Sai’ is a plant, hence the name.
In Japan Bonsai trees are a recognised art form and they are becoming a popular hobby over here in the UK.
You can train them to have slanted trunks by tying wire around them and weighting them down to make the trunks bend and even double trunks if you nip the growth at the right time so that the trunk splits. This is a bit out of my league at present but I will have a go one day but for now I will stick to the simple versions.
I became interested in them after seeing a really beautiful display at a flower festival. I was so intrigued so I decided to have a go at growing one from seed.
It isn’t easy and I have only had two successes up to now over five years, but it is not an expensive hobby if you start from seed.
I have managed to grow a Laburnum and I am now after three years trying to prune it to cascade, I just prey that I don’t upset it too much because it is my pride and joy.
To start germination plant your seeds in a small plastic pot containing a good potting soil with a peat nutrient. Make sure that you have pierced the base of the pot, then stand in a bowl of water for about an hour until the soil is nice and moist.
Put the pot in a plastic bag and place in the bottom of a refrigerator for six to eight weeks. I was surprised that this was necessary but it is because most tree seeds spend the winter in freezing cold soil and it is important to keep them as close to their normal habitat as possible. This procedure is called ‘moist chilling.’
The next step is to keep the tub in the bottom of a warm dark cupboard; the airing cupboard is ideal and remember to water every couple of days. After about four weeks the seeds will begin to sprout, keep a light lid on the tub this helps
to keep them warm.
I tried this procedure twice and had no luck until a friend advised me that I was not keeping them warm enough. I was sprinkling cold tap water onto the seeds, which didn’t help, and the airing cupboard was going cold at night. I retried during the summer months and it worked ok.
Once you have sprouts you can put them in a warm light position I just put mine in the kitchen window, and watered them every other day, until they grew to about one and a half inches tall.
Potting them is the fun part, put a layer of drainage material in the bottom of each pot and then a good potting compost, just one sprout per pot is all that is needed and do be careful to lift the seedlings gently by the leaves don’t touch the roots. I found it best to stand the pots in a bowl of water to give them a good drink, and then I left them in the windowsill just watering every other day.
Putting them in the garden is risky I know that all the books tell you to put them out about May time but I kept mine indoors for the first year.
When the plants got to about four inches high I nipped the sprouting tip to allow them to branch out.
After two years your trees should be about five inches high and this is the time for the Bonsai potting to begin.
Make sure that the soil is really moist and remove the tree from the pot, untangle the roots very carefully and then cut them with scissors leaving the length at about two inches, very nerve racking this stage but it wont harm the tree.
The pots should be about one and a half inches tall and about six inches across with a few drainage holes in. A layer of fine gravel is put in then the compost. A good tip here is to anchor the tree with wire twisted around the bottom of the trunk and threaded through the holes in the bottom of the pot, it doesn’t harm the tree but it helps it to sit sturdier in the shallow pot.
There you go now all you have to do is train yo
ur tree over the next couple of years, the general rule is to keep the roots trimmed to lay laterally about the same span as the branches.
I have re potted my Laburnums every year for four years now and it is just a case of cutting the roots and then trimming the branches.
I am no expert but I am getting quite brave at the pruning bit now and I am trying to get a nice cascading flow to one of them. It is great fun and cost very little to start.
Have you seen the price of some of the mature Bonsai trees? They can cost a couple of hundred pounds believe it or not.
This is a hobby for a patient person but it is very interesting and has given me a lot of pleasure.
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