Caring for Indoor Bonsai Trees

Growing these bonsai trees is an ancient art that dates back centuries. Although you can grow many different varieties of trees as a bonsai, juniper, pine and maple are some of the most common. Bonsai gardening doesn’t have to be difficult as long as you follow the basic care tips.

Indoor Growing Environment

Place indoor bonsai trees in a window facing south. The tree needs at least four to six hours of sunlight each day. Full sunlight may be too much for some types of bonsai trees. During the summer months, give a bonsai full morning sun and then filtered sunlight during the hottest hours of the day. Keep the potted plant in a shallow tray filled with gravel and water. As the water evaporates from the tray, it will add moisture to the air surrounding the bonsai. Soil dries out more quickly if there isn’t enough humidity in the air.

Watering Requirements

How often you need to water a bonsai tree varies depending on the type of tree, the size of the pot, and the type of soil it's growing in. Bonsai trees often die because they receive either too much or too little water. A general rule of thumb is to water the bonsai when the soil surface begins to look dry. Avoid allowing the soil to dry completely. A bonsai that receives full sun usually needs watering at least once each day. Pour the water over the top of the soil. You know you’ve given the plant enough water once the water starts seeping out of the holes in the bottom of the pot. Leaves that turn yellow are signs of overwatering a bonsai. The tree’s leaves will turn brown if it isn’t getting enough water.

Fertilizing a Bonsai

Fertilizing a bonsai with a general-purpose liquid fertilizer available at most garden centers will help keep the tree healthy. Choose a high-quality fertilizer that contains a broad variety of nutrients necessary for the type of tree you are growing. Use half the strength recommended on the product label when fertilizing a bonsai. Apply fertilizer at least once a month during the plant’s active growing season. Fertilizing every two weeks is best for most bonsai plants, especially from March until October. Feed the plant when the soil is still moist. You can also apply a water-soluble liquid fertilizer directly to the tree’s leaves. Spray the leaves with fertilizer every other month.


A bonsai tree requires careful pruning to shape the tree the way you want. Keep your bonsai tree miniature by pinching and trimming back new shoots once they grow to about 3 to 4 inches long. Always leave some new growth on the tree. You may need to trim back the bonsai several times throughout the year. Branch pruning a bonsai tree in early spring involves removing any branches on the tree you don’t want to keep. Many people choose an alternating arrangement of branches. Trim the remaining upper branches shorter than those near the bottom of the tree. Pinching back the ends of foliage encourages side buds to develop so that the branches spread out more.

References & Resources


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