Friday, November 29, 2019

A Gift of Bonsai

 love watching bonsai go out the door as gifts during the Christmas season. It is so gratifying to see them grow, that the joy that I find in gardening, especially bonsai, is going to be shared and encouraged in another.
I also end up talking to many people in January who were given bonsai as gifts and have no idea how to care for them. So, let’s go over bonsai gift giving 101.

In this climate, there are indoor trees and outdoor trees. Bonsai is a growing style, not the name of the plant. Trees such as pines, junipers, and maples are outdoor trees. They need cold temperatures and will not thrive indoors, though they may live for a time.
Indoor trees, such as portulacaria, ficus, and bougainvillea, will not survive Maryland winter temperatures and must remain inside throughout the winter and early spring.

The best way to determine the light and water requirements of your tree is to know the plant material. Knowing the variety of trees will give you an idea of the amount of water and light the tree needs for optimal growth. Your tree may need more, or less than recommended, but you will learn that as you learn your tree. A little research, or a trip to your garden center, can help you identify the tree if you don’t already know.

A few other tips:

Place the tree and leave it. Every time you move it, the tree is forced to adapt to a new environment. The only way a tree can adapt is by growing new leaves, which means it will shed the old leaves.

Water thoroughly. You can water from the bottom: allow the pot to sit in water that comes about halfway up the side of the pot until the top of the soil is moist to the touch. Or, you can water slowly and gently from the top until water comes out the bottom.
Check before you water. Though the top of the soil is dry, underneath the soil may still be moist. Don’t be afraid to stick your finger in to check, or pick up a water meter to go with your tree.
Humidity is key to indoor plants. With the cold temperatures, we are turning up our heat and drying out the air. A humidity tray beneath the tree will increase the moisture in the air around the pot. Place small pebbles in a saucer and set your tree on the pebbles. Keep water in the pebbles but not touching the pot.

Finally, If you are not sure, why not try a gift card and make an outing of it. Attend a bonsai class, Valley View Farms has a free class every month except May, and then head out to our greenhouse and check out the stock. Spending more time together is always a great gift!
Jen Kostick, pictured below, is an avid bonsai enthusiast and today's guest blogger. 

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