How to care for Caragana trees

The ultimate care guide for your bonsai

By Laura Graichen | November 15, 2019, 8:13 a.m.

The bonsai is a popular plant to add an Asian touch to your home. The dwarf tree is not suitable for everyone due to its elaborate keeping and requires very special care.

Translated from Japanese, bonsai means "tree in a bowl". In caring for this particular tree, you need to follow important basics of watering, fertilizing, and repotting - otherwise it will die. To prevent this from happening, myHOMEBOOK has the ultimate bonsai care guide.

Choose the optimal location

The choice of location alone determines the lifespan of the tree. Where the bonsai feels most comfortable depends on the factors climate, season and origin of the tree. When asked by myHOMEBOOK, bonsai specialist Manfred Roth explains: “There are subtropical plants from China and Indonesia and native tree species or trees from Japan that have climatic conditions similar to ours. The subtropical plants do not tolerate frost and must be placed frost-free in winter. The native trees or trees from similar climatic zones should be kept outside all year round. ”In principle, they all need light, air and water to be healthy.

Maintain bonsais with a special soil mix

Bonsai need a special soil mix. Usually half of it consists of Akadama soil and a quarter each of fine gravel and humus. If keepers cannot water their tree regularly, a soil mix that can retain moisture for longer is recommended. This prevents the bonsai from drying out.

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Water bonsai trees properly

According to Roth, most mistakes are made when watering a bonsai. Irrigation depends on the type of tree, the size of the tree, the nature of the soil, the size of the shell, the season, the climate and the location. It is important that bonsai is not watered routinely, but according to its care needs. “Unfortunately there is therefore no binding formula. The tree should dry completely and only then be watered again. When the air humidity is high, the earth dries much more slowly than in dry living room air. In the case of an outdoor location, it should be watered daily in summer. From October, when the night dew sets in, watering can be stopped. If there is any uncertainty, a moisture meter is helpful so that you don't pour too much, ”says the expert. More tips:

  • If you use a watering can with a fine shower head, you do not rinse soil out of the pot when you water it.
  • It is best to use water with little lime content (for example rainwater or stale tap water) for watering.

Maintain bonsai with fertilizer

Indoor bonsai can be fertilized all year round - but above all, they must be fertilized regularly during the entire growing season (spring to autumn). This does not apply to sick trees, they must not be fertilized at all. You may not fertilize freshly potted trees for a period of one month.

You don't necessarily have to buy a special bonsai fertilizer. The only important thing when caring for your bonsai is the right mixture of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium (the so-called NPK value). These rules also apply to fertilizing:

  • Early spring: For the trees, you need to use a fertilizer with a high nitrogen content to encourage growth.
  • Summer: One should use a balanced fertilizer.
  • Autumn: Take a fertilizer to develop winter hardiness.
  • If you want to stimulate your bonsai to bloom, you need a fertilizer with a high potassium content.
  • For older trees, a fertilizer with a lower nitrogen content or a lower dose is recommended.
  • The most important rule of all is: never over-fertilize! This harms the health of the tree.

The repotting

In addition to fertilizing, repotting the trees also plays a major role in bonsai care. Only in this way can the bonsai be supplied with fresh substrate. At the same time, you prevent the root ball from compacting and the bonsai starving. How often a bonsai has to be repotted depends on the size of the bowl and the type of tree. Fast-growing trees sometimes have to be repotted every year or every two years, older trees only every three to five years.

The best time to check whether a tree needs repotting is every spring. To do this, you carefully take the bonsai out of the bowl and look at the roots. If they grow in a circle around the bale, it must be repotted. If the roots are still in the ground, everything is fine. The best time to repot is early spring - when the tree is still in hibernation. Then you can start with the maintenance measure. For this you need:

  • Sickle knife
  • scissors
  • Wire cutter
  • chopsticks

Instructions for repotting bonsai

Before you repot your bonsai, you need to find the right substrate mix. In general, it has to dry quickly so that the roots don't rot. But it also has to absorb enough water to supply the tree adequately. And this is how you proceed:

  1. Often, bonsais are attached to the bowl with wire. Cut this through with the scissors.
  2. Carefully loosen the tree from the shell with the sickle knife.
  3. Now you can first check whether repotting is even necessary. If this is the case, you must carefully remove the old substrate with the chopsticks.
  4. Use the scissors to prune roots that are too long (do not cut more than 30 percent).
  5. Then place the tree back in the old bowl. Secure it with the wire.
  6. Now gradually fill in thin layers of coarse substrate around the bale.
  7. Use the chopsticks to work in the substrate around the roots - avoiding cavities.
  8. Finally, you need to water the bonsai thoroughly.

How do you care for sick bonsai?

Newly purchased bonsai trees often die within the first month. So that your bonsai does not suffer the same fate, you should not just stick to the care tips listed above. You also need to watch your tree very closely. "If there is too little or too much moisture, this can be seen on the leaves or needles (discoloration, dry branches)," says Roth.

If you cannot identify a disease and you are not competent in crop protection, you should consult a specialist before trying spray agents. Many commercially available spray agents can also have negative effects if used incorrectly, emphasizes Roth. In many cases the trees can be saved with the right and appropriate care.

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