How to look after a bonsai tree

Who knew there was so much to looking after a bonsai tree?


Looking after a bonsai

Key steps

When you’re looking after a bonsai tree:

  1. Choose an appropriate species for where you plan to keep it.
  2. Keep it in a place away from direct heat but with plenty of sunlight.
  3. Water and fertilise regularly.
  4. Keep it under control with regular pruning.

A bonsai tree is a striking addition to any home but it’s also a living thing and it needs a certain amount of care. Flex your green fingers and learn how to look after a bonsai tree today – for other plant species, try our advice on how to look after houseplants.

Not sure how to water bonsai trees? Some soil mixtures retain more water than others and adding more akadama generally means moister soil. If you can’t water your bonsai as regularly as you’d like, choose a water-retentive soil instead!

How to care for a bonsai tree: placement

First things first, what type of bonsai do you want? An indoor bonsai will be warm more or less year-round so choose a tropical or subtropical variety. Temperate bonsai, whether deciduous or evergreen, do better outdoors so keep them in a garden or on a balcony.

No matter what type you choose, follow these basking rules of looking after a bonsai tree:

  1. Place your bonsai in good sunlight – near a window, if indoors.
  2. Don’t put it too close to radiators, fireplaces, or other sources of warmth.

How to water bonsai trees

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how often to water your bonsai; it’ll depend on the climate and the tree itself.

  • Your bonsai may need daily watering if it has a lot of direct sunlight.
  • Feel the soil to check if it needs watering – dry soil needs to be watered!
  • Make sure your bonsai is kept in a pot with good drainage.
  • When you water your bonsai, soak the soil until water seeps from the drainage holes.
  • Never let your bonsai tree’s soil become completely dry.

How to care for bonsai trees: soil and fertilisation

Knowing how to look after a bonsai is complicated by the fact that there are many different types of bonsai tree and they all have different needs.

  • Bonsai soil is usually a mixture of several things, from composted bark to gravel.
  • The goal is to retain moisture while also allowing excess water to drain away.
  • To ensure the soil has enough nutrients, you’ll need to fertilise it regularly.
  • Use a fertiliser with balanced levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
  • Fertilise your indoor bonsai weekly during spring and summer and once a month during autumn and winter.
  • You don’t need to be fertilise temperate bonsai kept outdoors in autumn or winter.
  • Never fertilise a bonsai that’s unwell or has been repotted within the last month.
  • Seek advice on what soil and fertiliser to use for your specific species of tree if you’re unsure.

How to take care of bonsai trees: pruning

A bonsai doesn’t know it’s supposed to be a tiny tree, rather than a regular-sized one, so it’ll naturally try to grow upwards and outwards.

  • Trim branches that go against the shape you’re aiming for.
  • Pay particular attention to the outer edges of your bonsai.
  • Prune dead or broken branches and remove any dead leaves or weeds in the soil.
  • Branches that are growing across other branches, and rubbing against them, may cause issues if they’re left alone so they should also be removed.
  • If you’ve had a major pruning session, give your bonsai a watering afterwards.

Now that you’ve learnt how to take care of a bonsai tree, it’s time to put your green fingers to work!

Originally published