New bonsai person here! I have some questions?

violakotDecember 25, 2008

Hey there :)

I'd love to get a bonsai, have done some degree of research regarding care and intend on continuing said research.

However, I'd like an "inside" bonsai and don't know what kind of trees this means.

I understand that the trees require a certain degree of humidity (could I just mist a tree if it were kept inside?).

If possible, could someone list off a bunch of okay-for-beginners, "inside"-friendly species? :3 Any other newbie info would be greatly appreciated as well!

Please and thank you,


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Oh, and also, my yard has a full-sized Japanese Maple which brings up little seedlings every year or so. If I dug up one of these, could it become a bonsai? If so, what kind of care would the Japanese Maple require? ^_^

    Bookmark   December 25, 2008 at 8:18PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hi, Kot! Welcome!
As you've mentioned, continue researching...that's really the best means of getting a head start, and eliminating years of frustration. You've asked the right question: which trees/plants will survive indoors. What you will find is that many of the most popular species used for bonsai - conifer species, for instance - need to be grown outdoors. So this reduces your number of options greatly.

I'm no expert, just a new enthusiast...but others will be along to welcome you and offer their advice on particular species. You should include your climate "zone" as well, so that folks can give more specific advice.

Now, about those Japanese maple seedlings.
First of all, most Japanese maples need to be outdoors, so these probably won't work for indoor bonsai (if that's what you were hoping). However, you might have great fun transplanting them into pots just to watch them grow, and to see what sort of character they develop.

If you wish to actually develop one of these seedling into a thick-trunked bonsai specimen, you'll need to grow it in-ground or in a large container (a growing box, basically). This allows for the fastest growth. But be advised that 3 - 5 years is a fairly standard age before a plant is suitable to begin work. In other words, with seed-grown stock, you'll need to be patient.


    Bookmark   December 26, 2008 at 2:37AM
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Hi, welcome to the forum. Greenman's being too modest here, but he's right about what he said. The only bonsai that can be grown inside are basically tropicals - basically because under certain conditions there are a couple of subtropical species that can be tried if you know what you're doing, but conditions must be ideal. Maples won't grow indoors anywhere, anytime, so they're definitely out, as would be anything cold hardy. You're best to start with something like Ficus as there are many different ones available all over and care is fairly straightforward, though not without problems as even experienced growers find with any species in given situations. Remember that the majority of trees are not grown 'up' to be little bonsai and then magically switched off to stay that size, but are cut back from larger trees (not as "cuttings", but as 'chops') allowing smaller new branches to grow (how and when matter for each type) on the fattest trunk achievable - except in the case of a couple of styles - which give the illusion of age by their proportion to each other. "Growing out" trees in the ground is the fastest way to get those trunks, but not practical for tropicals anywhere but in tropical climates, so large containers of various kinds ('training pots or boxes') are used vs little designer pots that keep trees from doing anything more than minimum growth, and which require roots and branches to be pruned to fit pots (which should really only be used once trees are developed and styled over time). Look at for lots of great advice on indoor growing (and particularly Ficus), plus, plus try to find a local club, which is usually a great way to learn as you can watch how things are done on the spot. Whatever you do, never go by attached tags on plants for care, as they are usually so general (and often actually wrong) as to be meaningless for individual plants and take no account of particular environments. Do be prepared to spend on basics up front, like 4' fluorescent, 2 bulb fixtures with full spectrum lights. Don't waste time misting things as it... wastes time, but do use humidity trays,
ones that span the width of trees' growth, holding stones and water, as long as you keep the water below the stones so pots don't wick it up and rot roots. Learn first, spend later and enjoy the ride :0)!

    Bookmark   December 26, 2008 at 5:42AM
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I should have mentioned also that keeping trees alive is your first goal vs how to style them, which means learning a lot about soil mixes (usually close to soil-less, but not like hydroponics), and the biggie for most of us, watering. It's not done as you would for house plants, and can take quite a while to 'get' even for one tree, let alone a bunch, but once you do get it, you're a lot of the way 'there' in bonsai.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2008 at 5:47AM
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Thanks a bunch, guys :3

I live in very south western Canada, about two hours drive from both the Pacific Ocean and the US/Canada border. Mostly it rains a lot.

I'll definitely look into the ficus and try to find some happy ones. Same with the Japanese Maple kids.

Maybe once all the snow goes away (we've gotten like three feet, gaah.) I'll start looking for some of the seedlings. Even if it'll take a while for them grow up, that'll give me a lot of time to learn a bunch.

Much thanks,

    Bookmark   December 27, 2008 at 12:13AM
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