How to Keep a  Bonsai Tree Alive (Indoors or Outdoors)

We created this story to break the stereotype that “only a Japanese gardening master can grow a bonsai, as it requires a great deal  of skill, decades of experience,  and endless amounts of patience.” Keep on watching to learn the basics.

Light   An indoor setting has a lower light intensity, striking the right lighting balance with enough light for healthy growth is necessary for achieving the optimal light intensity for your bonsai. But not all species of trees, full-form or bonsai, need the same amount of light to thrive. A tree grown with bonsai will need similar lighting conditions to its full-sized counterpart, so be sure to research what that is.

If you are still unsure about its needs after your research, placing your bonsai in a bright spot with direct light would be a good idea to start, as bonsai trees have less foliage to photosynthesize with and will need more sun to thrive. The ideal spot for direct light throughout the day is in a south-facing window (for the northern hemisphere).

Temperature Typically, bonsai trees can stand tropical temperatures or those of an indoor environment. Since tropical temperatures aren’t too far off from typical indoor temperatures, you can keep most bonsai indoors all year long.

Water It’s a great idea to only water your bonsai tree whenever the topsoil appears dry. A moisture meter can help you decide with certainty when it’s time to water your bonsai. You don’t need a water meter, though. If the soil is dry a few inches under the surface, you should water soon.  

Potted Exotics Pro Tip:  Water your soil in slow bursts, providing about 10 seconds between pours to let the water filter and reach lower levels. Doing this will ensure that even the very center of the soil in the pot will receive moisture. Pouring water too fast can lead to dry patches throughout the soil.

Humidity As tropical plants, bonsai plants need high humidity. If you have low humidity at home, just place your bonsai on top of a humidity tray filled with water.

Soil An exemplary soil mixture should possess proper drainage, water retention, and aeration.  Efficient drainage can be achieved by adding large particles to your soil mixture. These range from volcanic rocks to small pebbles/stones.

Potted Exotics Pro Tip:  If you are having trouble with soil water retention, consider adding vermiculite, sphagnum/peat moss, or coconut coir to your potting mix. These materials help maintain soil porosity while also enhancing water retention.

Spider Mites and Other Pests Spider mites, snails, and other pests are not uncommon when growing bonsai trees. You can deal with these types of pests by using neem oil or a pest spray. We advise using neem oil, as it is organic, safe to apply, and effective treatment.

Interested in the art form of bonsai? Click on the link to learn about maintenance pruning versus structural pruning in bonsai plants.