When you are taking care of bonsai trees, don’t forget that just like you, they like to be fed. Despite what some people think, you do not starve a bonsai in order to stunt its growth. In fact, you can control how your tree grows by correct feeding.

As bonsai have a relatively small amount of soil, their small pots can quickly be drained of nutrients which means that it is easy for a bonsai tree to become deficient if not fertilized adequately. To take care of bonsai trees, we need to add fertilizer to help ‘feed’ them. Feeding will help keep your bonsai healthy so we need to know about how often it should be done, what nutrients it supplies and what form it comes in.

Fertilizing is most important in the growing seasons of mid-spring to early-summer and again from late- summer to early fall. These are times when the tree is active and needs extra nourishment to help it carry out the extra energy converting, growth activity at this time but the temperatures are moderate and not too extreme.

When you purchase fertilizer for the care of bonsai trees, it will be a form of liquid fish or seaweed mixtures or as pellets/granules. Check the label to see what the composition is and watch how your tree responds to that particular brand. You may want to change brands from time to time to expose the tree to different amounts. By watching the progress of your tree, you will be able to assess if you’re adding the correct amount at the appropriate time.

These chemical and mineral elements nutrients are required to keep your tree healthy and help it to grow.

Nitrogen: It helps determine the size and amount of new growth through cell division and protein manufacturing.

Phosphorus: It is necessary for cell division and assists with good root growth and flowering.

Potassium: Also known as potash. This activates cell enzymes and helps to regulate the water balance in and outside of cells.

The manufacturer’s will have recommendations as to how much and how often to use the fertilizer for the care of bonsai trees. These are often over generous, so until you see how your tree responds, it’s a good idea to use only half their recommended amount and then you can amend as required.

The pellet/granule forms of fertilizers are usually in this form to provide a slow release of the fertilizer into the soil each time the plant is watered. Some bonsai owners like to use granules as they can be worked into the soil and left to gradually release their nutrients over a period of time. Others prefer adding the soluble powder a couple of times a month as the liquid is a quick acting nutrient that you use to water the tree.

An important thing to consider in the care of bonsai trees is that fertilizer provides nutrition to a bonsai tree but it is not medicine. The role of fertilizing is to enhance the soil to help the tree to grow in the active season. If your tree does not look well, you should see if there are other ways to take care of your tree to restore its health. For example, if the leaves are dry and brittle or it is losing its leaves, it may need a change in the watering rather than a dose of fertilizer which may only stress the tree even further, making it work harder and suffer more.

When it comes to the type and frequency of fertilization another item to take into account for the successful care of bonsai trees is the amount of growth that is required. A young tree may need heavy feeding so that it grows vigorously, while a well developed bonsai should be fed sparingly so that it does not become thick and woody.

As with the other elements in the care of bonsai trees, you need to work with the requirements of your individual tree, taking into consideration its variety, stage of development, growth and health.

One tip that I must pass on is:

Always make sure that the soil is wet before you add the fertilizer. It must not be dry.

Your bonsai will like the additional nutrients that you provide through fertilization – just don’t over do it and kill it with kindness. Start feeding your tree slowly and see how it responds and then amend it accordingly. Your tree will thank you for it and thrive, allowing you to experience the joy of being a success with the care of bonsai trees.

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