Summer: Seasonal Care Information

 Summer: Seasonal Care Information

 Article courtesy of the Phoenix Bonsai Society.

Keeping in mind the variations due to each tree's size, variety, age, health, and microclimate positioning, the following are tips to help your bonsai survive during a long, hard summer.

  • Grow native or naturalized plants.
  • Use the recommended coarse soil mix.
  • Keep your plants healthy and pest-free. Rotate each plant a quarter turn every week. This gives even exposure to the sun and fresh air, plus allows you to check on the health or disease from all sides.
  • Don't let your plants get out of control, especially the faster growers like junipers and elms.
  • Keep new growth pinched after it gets only so long. Don't lose the shape you've spent time working on. Thin any tight growth to allow air and light flow.
  • Be aware of the water-retention of each pot of soil mix. Slight differences in soil materials when each plant was potted up, the requirements of each type of tree, the siting of each pot -- all these prohibit a "one-method-fits-all" watering. Learn to customize to your plants' needs.
  • Provide shade cloth overhead, especially after noon. Or site your bonsai under landscape trees or shrubs.
  • Set pots on low stands or slatted workbenches over a lawn, mulch or gravel; less preferable is over concrete or desert landscaping. Soak the ground thoroughly in the morning. Give the trees an occasional good-strength shower.
  • Over-pot your trees in the springtime. The extra room will be much appreciated. Or, sink your potted trees in a layer of mulch or sawdust. Check every now and then that the roots haven't grown out the drainage holes and into the ground!
  • Set pots near a swimming pool or pond, or above but not in pans of water. Be aware of reflected sunlight. (Keep trees a little way away from south or west facing masonry walls or windows.)
  • Group plants together, but not touching one another. Allow room for good air circulation.
  • Don't let your more delicate trees get unfiltered west/afternoon sun or a monsoon dust storm.
  • Have your plants spend the summer in a growing bed, not in their pots. Prune vigorous top growth.
  • Water maples and other plants bearing thin-edged leaves with distilled or reverse-osmosis (RO) water. Remember to fertilize half-strength regularly.
  • If a bonsai has wilted leaves, put it in the shade and give it a little water. Give it a little more water later that day. Let the roots recover slowly -- don't drown them.
  • When established -- not recently repotted or root-pruned -- larger specimens of the following can take full sun: bougainvillea, elephant food, fruitless olive, lantana, lysiloma, Texas ebony, junipers, dwarf myrtle.
  • In the late summer and throughout the fall use a high phosphate fertilizer, such as a 10-60-10 blend, for the flowering trees. This allows the plant to build up reserves and rudimentary buds for next spring.
  • Sketch or photograph your trees. Determine what kind of tree would be right -- or wrong -- for that empty container you have. When traveling, study full-grown trees. Notice their shapes: what is it that gives them "character?"
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