We understand. As a newly minted bonsai enthusiast, you probably have dozens of questions about caring for your bonsai. Don't worry; you're going to be fine. After all, your friends at Bonsai Outlet are here to help. Today, we're here to talk about watering basics. This is one of our favorite topics because it allows us to confront one of the most common bonsai myths head-on.
You've probably heard some version of this by now: "I've heard that bonsai are fragile. I don't think I could keep one alive." Let's just hope these types are content with their pet rocks.
But this misconception is out there, and unfortunately, it's not helping bonsai's popularity. While it's true that some plants may go to that "great garden in the sky" prematurely, it is our opinion that dubious watering practices usually have something to do with their early demise ... and that effective watering can prolong the health and vitality of your bonsai.
All of this brings us to the subject at hand: Watering Bonsai. Over the years, we've heard our share of questions on the topic. How often should I water? How much? When is the best time? We thought we go through some watering basics so you can get the information you need to take the guesswork out of watering and start down the road to having a healthy, happy bonsai.
After all, isn't that what it's all about?
How often should I water my bonsai?
Ah, therein lies the question, but unfortunately, only you know the answer. Why? Because you are the only person that can monitor your tree every day in order to determine the most effective watering schedule.
Sorry, we can't give you a more specific answer, but here are some pointers to consider. The frequency of watering will depend on plant location, type, and material, type of soil, the depth of your bonsai pot, lighting, and more.
How do I check my bonsai to see if it needs watering?
This may be easier than you think. Push the top dressing aside and insert your finger approximately ½ inch into the soil. Is the soil cool and moist or warm and dry?
If the soil is more on the warm and dry side, chances are good you're ready to water.
How should I water my bonsai?
There are actually two watering methods: Overhead watering (best for outdoor bonsai) and immersion watering.
The overhead watering method
Let's start with the overhead watering method. You'll need a hose or a watering can, but be careful: Make sure you deliver a fine spray of water; otherwise a strong blast of water can dislodge soil or damage your bonsai. We recommend using a watering can rosette for just the right spray.
Related Article - Why and When to Fertilize Your Bonsai
To water, simply pour water over the plant and allow it to flow into the soil. If water puddles on the surface of the soil, let it drain into the soil and water again.
Keeping going until water begins to run out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Keep watering for a minute or two more to make sure the entire soil mass is soaked.
The immersion method
Probably the most popular and the most-effective method for indoor bonsai. Fill a bucket or sink full of water to the point where the water should go to about one inch up the trunk.
As you submerge your tree, you will see bubbling from the root ball. Pay close attention: The vigorousness of this bubbling will indicate just how much water your tree needs. As you become more in tune to your bonsai, you will come to recognize various levels of bubbling.
For example, if your tree produces bubbles like boiling water, chances are that you're not watering enough. If it bubbles slowly, you may not be watering enough. Watering your bonsai – much like life – is finding the right balance.
But back to the watering. Keep your bonsai immersed until bubbles stop rising to the surface. When they're done, you're done - no more bubbles means that the root mass is thoroughly soaked. Slowly remove the tree and allow it to drain.
If too much soil or top dressing keeps getting washed away, keep your water levels below the rim of your bonsai pot. The water will still soak up through the drainage holes of the pot and provide adequate water for your plant.
And remember, misting is not an acceptable method of watering. It may refresh and clean foliage, but it doesn't provide enough water for your bonsai.
Final words of wisdom
The goal of bonsai watering is to provide even and moderate moisture for the entire root and soil mass. Each variety of bonsai requires a varying amount of moisture, so you need to monitor your tree closely to see what it needs.
The good news is that after the first couple of weeks, you will determine a schedule or pattern. Stay alert to any changes and adjust your schedule accordingly, and you'll be off to a good start.
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.