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Q&A for Bonsai Beginners

What is a bonsai? Is it a special kind of plant?

The word "Bonsai" (pronounced bone-sigh) literally means "tree in a pot." It is not a special kind of tree or plant; rather, it is a special method of training a tree or plant. Certain plants lend themselves to bonsai cultivation better than others, but any tree or shrub can become bonsai. The bonsai grower starts with what nature provides (the plant) and uses artistic vision and skill to create a miniature version of what would be found in the wild. Some of the best bonsai will appear to be old, weathered, and twisted.

What makes a bonsai so small?

These plants are miniaturized through years of carefully pruning their top growth and their roots. They are also grown in special containers that help restricting their root mass. Oh, and don't worry, this training is not harmful to the tree.

Are bonsai really hard to take care of?

They have special requirements, but they are not hard to take care of. The easiest thing to do is select a bonsai that suits your lifestyle. For example, if you are the type of person that forgets to water plants or travels a lot, buy a bonsai tree that does not require a lot of attention, like a Baby Jade. We recommend starting with a beginner bonsai tree until you become comfortable with the training process.

Don't worry if your first few bonsai trees don't turn out the way you planned. Experience will teach you what to do and improve your technique over time. 

What is the difference between indoor and outdoor bonsai?

Plants that are naturally tropical or subtropical are indoor bonsai. They can be treated almost the same year around. Outdoor bonsai are hardy plants that need a winter rest period at a specific temperature each year in order to survive. They cannot be kept indoors continually.

Are some bonsai easier than others to care for?

Yes. However, the trees you find on our website, unless otherwise mentioned, are all suitable for beginners. We include an individualized care sheet with each bonsai to help ensure your Bonsai tree's health and well being. If you find that's not the case, just let us know.

Is it safe to buy a bonsai online?

Unfortunately, bonsai nurseries are few and far between which means online is one of the only convenient ways to purchase a bonsai. The Bonsai Outlet has been shipping bonsai trees safely for many years, so you can count on your healthy tree's arrival, guaranteed. 

How old is my bonsai?

Unless the grower keeps careful records of when a bonsai is begun from seed or cutting, determining the actual age of a live bonsai is impossible. However, the more mature a bonsai tree, the more value it gains. 

We all want our bonsai to look old and mature, but the age of the tree should be of secondary interest. The health and beauty of the tree is far more important. Once you gain more experience bonsai gardening, you will learn tricks to make a young tree look old. 

Is this hobby going to cost me a fortune in special tools?

While bonsai gardening may not cost a fortune, it does require special tools that cannot be purchased at a dollar store. Although you don't need purchase everything on our website to have a healthy bonsai tree, you do need some basic bonsai tools to get started. At the very least consider purchasing our beginner tool kit and then gradually expand your tool set.

Which is the best bonsai for beginners?

All the trees featured in our online store are indoor bonsai trees, the easiest to care for. The Bonsai Outlet provides a bonsai survival booklet with every tree, which is designed to help you with basic watering and trimming and provides care instructions that are specific to your tree. So with these booklets to give you guidance, every bonsai tree from the Bonsai Outlet is perfect for beginners! Everyone can experience confidence and success with their bonsai.

It's my first bonsai. Are they difficult to keep?

No, they are not difficult to keep. Most bonsai perish because their owners treated them like decorations. Bonsai trees should not be kept on the dining room table or on top of the television. In fact, they require the same conditions as any garden plant. Follow the care instructions that come with your bonsai and we can guarantee you'll have a healthy and vibrant bonsai tree for many years to come. 

Also for beginners, a word to the wise: avoid the mass-produced "twigs" that are often sold in cheaper garden stores, home improvement centers, and malls. These are not bonsai trees, and are guaranteed not to survive for long.

DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Bonsai Outlet. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. Happy bonsai gardening.