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Not many folks are drawn to acquiring bonsai trees. And we perfectly understand why. Unlike other plants, growing a bonsai requires a long-term commitment to keep the tree healthy. Not only is the bonsai tree a product of proper care and maintenance but of creativity as well.
Now, if you’re committed and willing enough to grow a bonsai tree, this article suits you well. Read ahead and learn the basic things you need to know about bonsai tree growth.
What are Bonsai Trees?
Bonsai trees are not your normal trees. Although they grow normally, a bonsai plant is a miniature version of a huge tree. You can plant it indoors, in a small pot, inside a limited space.
Some bonsai tree species are even able to live for centuries! One of which is the ficus bonsai tree located in Crespi Bonsai Museum in Parabiago, Italy. It is believed to be over a thousand years old.
Now, the thing is the word “bonsai” does not refer to any species of tree but is a form of art. It has its origins in the Chinese tradition but the Japanese redeveloped the techniques and created their style.
According to Bonsai Empire, the literal meaning of “bon-sai” in Japanese is “planted in a container”. That’s why you’ll see bonsai trees planted in small pots rather than on the ground. That’s one technique to prevent the plant from growing into a normal tree size.
How Long Do Bonsai Trees Take To Grow?
Let’s make your expectations clear. Growing a bonsai tree will require patience in terms of time. A typical bonsai tree timeline will need at least 5 years to achieve a miniature-size bonsai tree. And another 10 to 15 years for that tree to achieve mature size.
In that period, there are various techniques that you have to employ such as cultivation, styling, and care. Doing so will help achieve a healthy tree with your desired shape and orientation.
If you start with seeds, you’ll have to cultivate the plant until it’s ready for styling in 3 to 5 years. But if you wish to learn about styling sooner, there are several saplings of pre-bonsai trees that you can buy.
Most bonsai trees live up to 50 to 80 years long. Others can live up to a hundred or thousand years. The lifespan of a bonsai tree will depend on what tree species were used and how well it’s being taken care of.
For many bonsai enthusiasts, the art of growing a bonsai plant is already a part of their lifestyle. Some consider it their treasure, passing them on to the next generation.
What Is The Average Growth Time Of Bonsai Species?
Various bonsai tree species will have different timelines. Not everyone has the same growth rate. There are some fast-growing species while there are trees that will take a longer time. So, it’s crucial to do proper research on the species before you grow a bonsai tree.
We have listed below the common bonsai species and tree varieties including how long it takes to grow the entire tree. Let’s see which one you can use on your first bonsai growing journey.
Juniper tree species are quite popular among bonsai enthusiasts because they’re easy to care for plus they have very nice-looking foliage. Generally, you can choose between two types of foliage. One has a needle-like appearance while the other has a scale-like look.
Junipers will show a steady growth of 6 to 12 inches per year. They could grow up to 3–6 ft. tall, and 1–3 ft. wide, depending on your preference. Although they’re beginner-friendly, junipers aren’t one of fast-growing trees.
The good thing though is that this species is exactly meant for bonsai art. You can easily shape junipers through proper wiring techniques. This bonsai tree is best as an outdoor plant.
If you have a thing for indoor bonsai trees, then go for ficus species. This one is well-suited in an indoor setting and will surely love taking residence in the comfort of your home. However, if you’re living in warm climates with no frost, then, you can plant it outside.
Within a year, a ficus bonsai tree will normally spread 1 to 2 feet when grown indoors. If it’s outdoors, it can expand laterally up to 4 to 6 feet. Given that, we can say that ficus bonsai trees grow faster than any other species.
3. Chinese elm bonsai
Chinese elm bonsai tree is suited as an indoor plant or outdoor. During summer, it’ll enjoy the full sun outdoors. But when the frost comes, you’ll have to bring it indoors for protection.
In some regions, it can tolerate frost to some degree. But the best location would be an indoor setting.
Aside from having attractive foliage, the Chinese elm is known for its thick trunk. It has a moderate growth rate adding about 12 to 48 inches in height every growing season. A friendly bonsai species for aspiring bonsai enthusiasts, a Chinese elm tree is easy to grow.
4. Jade Plants
Jade plants have a soft, woody bonsai tree trunk. In nature, it grows as a shrub, reaching up to 3 meters tall. The leaves are known for their succulent touch which is fleshy and rounded. Since it is not frost-hardy, you should grow a bonsai tree of this kind indoors.
Unlike the previously mentioned species, jade bonsai are slow growers. You have to be extra patient because it could take up to 20 years before it reaches maturity.
Because of its succulent nature, wiring the branches can be extra challenging. If you’re not careful, damaged stems could easily get rotten.
An ever-popular species of bonsai tree is pine. The most classic pine species used for bonsai art is the Japanese black pine. This one is quite vigorous and hardy that it’ll thrive even in poor growing conditions. It’s also known for having a strong root system.
While they enjoy the full sun for the best growth, they need an extra shed of protection against winter. So, if you live in colder climates, be mindful. It doesn’t like getting overwatered as well.
Remember that pine bonsai tend to have vigorous growth on top. So, pruning is an essential practice to make. Japanese black pine also tends to flush or produce new growth twice a year. It’s one of the fast-growing trees suited for bonsai art.
6. Maple Trees
Unlike the normal trees that stay with green foliage all seasons, maple trees have extravagant leaf colors when autumn comes. Japanese maple bonsai boast their foliage with shades of red, gold, and orange making it look extravagant.
Another thing to love is its reputation for being beginner-friendly. They have flexible branches that easily follow the shape of the wirings.
They also grow fast than other bonsai tree species. If it’s your first time growing a bonsai tree, maple trees are a great choice.
How to Grow Bonsai Faster?
Now, here are some tips on how to grow a bonsai tree in a faster manner. While there are no shortcuts, there are some practices that could help boost plant growth.
1. Consider Fast-Growing Bonsai Species
What is the best way to grow a bonsai tree faster than beginning with a fast-growing species? This trait is already embedded in their genes and it’s more convenient to choose a species with this nature.
Make sure to make extensive research on the species and compare them with each other.
2. Thinning out your roots
Root pruning is an essential practice in bonsai art. It has a significant effect on bonsai tree growth. Never allow your bonsai tree to remain rootbound for a longer period as this could lead to death.
Regular thinning should be done to keep the plant to the desired size. Remember not to cut more than 2/3 of the roots as this will harm the plant. Do this before the growing season.
3. Repotting your Bonsai Tree
Another important technique is to repot your bonsai tree. Through time, the bonsai’s roots will expand and will need a bigger space. Repotting helps provide enough room to grow by allowing the root system to have sufficient access to nutrients, water, and air.
This is the time when you’d have to replace depleted potting soil with fresh one.
Depending on the species, repotting should be done every two years or even earlier, especially with young trees. If you have an older tree, you can do repotting every 3 to 5 years.
4. Adding fertilizer to the soil
Fertilizers contain essential macro and micronutrients that would help boost your bonsai’s growth. Although there are nutrients stored in the soil you use, they wouldn’t be enough to sustain the need of the growing tree.
To ensure a healthy life for your bonsai, provide it with a steady supply of nutrients. If the species is deciduous, fertilize weekly from spring to late summer and stop when the leaves have started falling. If conifers, also do weekly fertilization throughout the growing season and a little few more during the winter.
Most bonsai practitioners use 0-10-10 or nitrogen-free formulations.
5. Care and Maintenance
Aside from what we have previously mentioned, other practices to ensure care and maintenance would include watering and pruning the foliage.
Watering is basic but very crucial. Make sure that your bonsai tree receives the right amount of water. Some species would require frequent watering while others would need only a moderate amount. Again, do proper research on the species you’re tending to.
Pruning the twigs, branches, and leaves are also necessary to shape the bonsai tree to its desired form. It’ll also help the bonsai trees develop dense foliage.
6. Ensure Strong Bonsai Tree Trunk Growth
A good bonsai tree’s trunk indicates that the plant is growing well. Ideally, it should have an old look. The root flare must be there and the trunk taper should be well-formed. This ensures that your bonsai is having great support.
There are different techniques to do this. You can do cut-and-grow, annual trimming, side-branch extension, or bend-and-grow. If you’re new to all this, make sure to do extensive reading and watch tutorials to learn how.
How Long Does The Bonsai Tree Live?
Most bonsai trees could live up to 50 to 80 years. However, some species could live up to a hundred or even a thousand years.
While this may sound fascinating, you should consider that success in bonsai art is highly influenced by a combination of proper care and maintenance, and a favorable growing environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
It depends on which species of bonsai trees you’re going to grow. Some can be grown both outdoors and indoors. Others can be grown outdoors or indoors only.
The fastest-growing bonsai tree that you could invest in is the weeping willow tree. It has drooping branches, leaves, and flowers that are highly attractive. However, it would also require extra effort in terms of care and maintenance.
It’s quite difficult to guess the age of a bonsai tree by its appearance alone. And unlike in normal trees, there’s no way you’d cut the trunk to count the rings. However, there are equations that you could use to calculate wherein the diameter of the thick trunk is being multiplied by the growth factor.