How is the best way to fertilize my bonsai? When should I feed my bonsai? What type of fertilizer is best for my bonsai? Proper bonsai fertilization can be confusing and hard to figure out … especially if you're new to the world of bonsai. But we're here to help. Here are a couple of do's and don'ts related to feeding and fertilizing your bonsai.
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When to Fertilize
Here's a basic: Start a few weeks after re-potting or after the first leaves begin to emerge in the beginning of the growing season. When you begin, start with a mild fertilizer, and then as the growing season continues, progress to a balanced feed. Finally, in late summer give a few applications of nitrogen-free bonsai fertilizer to prepare for winter.
Stick to a Fertilizing Schedule
Once you become familiar with what your bonsai needs and what it takes to make it thrive, you should try to create a schedule and stick to it. This is especially important during the growing season. For example, in winter, indoor bonsai only need to be fed about once a month, and only then if growth is active.
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Know the Three Numbers
You know, those three numbers that are on all fertilizers. Here's the deal: the first number is for nitrogen. Fertilizers that are higher in nitrogen will promote foliage growth and greener leaves. The second number is for phosphorous and the third number is for potash or potassium. Higher ratios of potassium usually induce flower production.
Organic Bonsai Fertilizer
Whenever possible, try to use an organic bonsai fertilizer because these will truly give your bonsai everything it needs. Unlike chemical or synthetic fertilizers that rely on a number of different methods to delay the release of their nutrients, organic fertilizers only need natural bacteria to break them down, which is better for your bonsai.
Liquid Fertilizers vs. Slow-Release Pellets
Liquid bonsai fertilizers are good for those who faithfully stick to a fertilizing schedule. The nutrients are washed out of the soil through normal watering, so liquid bonsai fertilizers should be applied every three to six weeks in the off season. When applying, pour the liquid bonsai fertilizer directly over the leaves and allow it to drip into the soil.
Slow release bonsai pellets are very convenient and can be a great alternative for those who tend to neglect bonsai fertilizing. When applied to the surface of the soil, the nutrients in these bonsai pellets are released in small amounts, which means they can last up to one month.
During the growing season you should apply slow release bonsai pellets to the surface of the soil for long-term feeding and then supplement this treatment with a liquid preparation every two weeks in the growing season
Don't fertilize sick or unhealthy trees, and never fertilize dry soil. Fertilizing should always be combined with normal watering practices.
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