It's no secret that a lot of Bonsai-lovers treat their trees like pets, just pets that aren't ever going to cause a stinky mess on the floor. However, there's one major way that Bonsai aren't like pets:
They can't tell you how they're feeling.
If a Bonsai tree is so distressed that it's creating visible problems, like stunted or yellowing leaves, it's already in pretty bad shape. Otherwise, only experienced Bonsai trainers can tell how their tree is feeling at a glance. It's a skill that takes time to build up, as the physical signs of a tree's health and happiness are extremely subtle.
The good news is, that's where modern technology comes into play: There are a variety of inexpensive meters available which can make it easy to spot minor issues that might be troubling your Bonsai before those issues become big problems.
Meters That Make Life Easier For You And Your Bonsai
1 - Moisture Meters
The most common cause of untimely Bonsai deaths relates to water. Both under- and over-watering a Bonsai tree can be harmful, or even deadly. Too little water means its circulatory system loses the ability to take in nutrients and move them around the tree. Too much can drown it, no different from an animal.
A corded soil moisture meter can quickly measure the water levels in soil, giving you direct information about how moist your Bonsai's home is. You'll eventually learn to eyeball moisture levels, but early on a moisture meter can make a big difference to your Bonsai's longevity.
2 - Ph Balance Meters
The relative level of acidity in soil is crucial for proper Bonsai growth. Like most plants, they do best in soil which is slightly acidic, and can be greatly harmed if the soil is too alkaline.
A good Ph balance meter gives you an exact numeric readout of the acid\base levels in soil, exactly like professional testing labs use. It's a quick and easy one-look way to ensure your Bonsai's home is providing the best growth conditions.
(For reference, a rating of 7.0 is considered perfectly balanced between acid\base, and most Bonsai grow best at 5.5 - 6.5.)
3 - Sunlight Meters
Why do I need a sunlight meter? I can tell when the sun is out or not!
Well, it's easy to tell when the sun is out, but it's not always obvious how much of the life-giving UV rays your Bonsai is getting at any particular time of day. This is especially true if it lives outdoors and may have shadows moving back and forth over it throughout the day.
A sunlight meter can track light levels throughout the day, and give you good feedback on how much sunlight your Bonsai is actually receiving. Cross-referencing this with a care sheet for your Bonsai can then tell you within a day or two whether it's living in a good spot for optimal growth.
Or, Just Do All At Once...
If that seems like too much equipment, have no fear! There are three-in-one meters available as well, at easily-affordable prices. These miracle meters can instantly tell you all the important details about your Bonsai's soil and location, making these the best option for beginners who want to ensure their first Bonsai trees survive and thrive.
Sure, over time, you'll learn how to tell these things without needing a meter, but they're a must-have for new Bonsai trainers, and a great accompaniment to a gifted Bonsai tree.
Just remember, every Bonsai species is a little different. Check a care guide to learn what your Bonsai prefers!