Creating works of art through bonsai trees is possible even for beginners. But first, they need to be aware of what the fundamental rules of dos and don’ts for cultivating bonsai trees. These rules have been amassed in the generations of bonsai tree artisans from Japan and China, which is the true origin of bonsai tree gardening. These rules are not meant to restrain your creativity but rather to enhance it. These rules are only meant to give you the right starting point for cultivating your bonsai tree. Anything goes from there.

Cultivating Rules for Trunk and Nebari

Bonsai trees should have a height that is approximately six times the trunk’s diameter or caliper. Trunks should also flare out from the base as this can provide a visual anchor for the entire tree. Roots should also follow the same pattern, particularly in the sense that they should also be radiating from the flare. Roots must not be extending out to the point of seemingly poking a viewer’s eye (Japanese are big on etiquette and courtesy).

Trunks of bonsai trees should also be leaning towards spectators at a slight angle and the apex should be positioned similarly. Speaking of apexes, there should only be one for each bonsai tree. Also, there should be no reverse tapering with the trunk. Everything should taper toward the top.

If any grafts exist, then they should match the scion and under stock of the tree so as to blend in with the rest instead of sticking out like

a sore thumb.

When trying for an informal upright, be wary of adding “S” curves excessively as these can end up being redundant rather than attractive.

Cultivating Rules for Branches

As with all parts of the bonsai tree, branches should also not be positioned in such a way that it may poke a viewer’s eye. Also, branches should never be allowed to cross its trunk or each other for that matter.

There are also specific rules about branch height that must be observed in order to properly cultivate a bonsai tree. For starters, the first branches should be equivalent to around 1/3 of the bonsai tree’s height. Other branches must be positioned at 1/3 of the distance remaining from their spot to the tree’s highest point.

Belly branches are frowned upon and thickness of branches should never be more than 1/3 of the trunk’s diameter. The higher the branches are, the thinner they should be. Spacing is also critical; there should be enough for birds to easily fly through them.

First and second branches should be positioned at opposite sides. The third branch should serve as a branch toward the back. There must always be an alternating and not a parallel pattern for branches.

Outline is also critical. A scalene triangle must be outlined by all the tree’s branches. This is of symbolic importance since the triangle’s apex is believed to symbolize God and with Man as the middle point and Earth as the lower point.

You can also make your bonsai tree look “old” by using wires to lower the branches. If a jin is used, make sure that it is visible and not concealed by foliage

Cultivating Rules for Pots

Work must also be done when it comes to the pot and bonsai tree’s relative position to each other. Unless you are working on a cascade style, the diameter of your trunk (caliper) should be equivalent to your pot’s depth. Moreover, the pot’s width should be equivalent to 2/3 of the bonsai tree’s overall height.

Bonsai trees that bear fruits or flowers would go well with colored and glazed containers. Just make sure that the color of your fruits or flowers matches the color of your container as well.

As for shape, rectangular pots with greater depths are ideal for larger than usual bonsai trees. Informal uprights that have lots of things going on are best contained in rounded pots while normal rectangular pots are best for formal upright.

Last but not the least, trees should never be planted directly in the center of the pot. Firstly, it must be planted behind the middle line. Secondly, it must be planted a little to the left or right and never dead center.

Watering needs to be done properly when it comes to bonsais. Many bonsai plants often die because they become dehydrated. This can be caused by a deficiency in watering or even by being kept in a humid place for an extended period. On the flip side, watering too much can also damage a bonsai plant.

One of the first things to remember when watering is to use a spray nozzle or a watering can. This will help make sure that the water is spread out evenly without applying too much pressure. Second, it is best not to water just one plant at a time. If there are several plants then pass through these about three times. Doing so will provide enough water for the plant, soil and the pot too. Finally, don’t forget to water early in the day or late in the afternoon. There less sunlight during these times and it will prevent the water from evaporating.

Prudent Pruning

Pruning or trimming is an important part of maintaining a bonsai. This will help keep the plant in good shape, keep it balanced and promote the growth of leaves and branches. Two types of pruning are done with bonsais. The first is branch pruning which will remove all the unwanted branches. It is ideal to begin branch pruning at the start of spring. The bottom portion should contain no branches while the middle should have a moderate amount and the top should be full.

The second type of pruning which is root pruning is done to keep the roots within the pot and inside. Exposed roots tend to dry up or become dehydrated more quickly. Also allowing the roots to grow freely will result in the plant being pushed out of the pot. It is always important to remember never to begin root pruning unless the roots of the bonsai have already become bound to the insides of the pot. Roots which grow out of the pot and those that are crowding on the inside should be cut off.

Shape It

A good looking bonsai plant does not just grow naturally. More often than not, intervention is needed while the plant is growing. Aside from regular pruning, these plants also need to be shaped through binding, bending and wiring. Many first timers often worry about doing these. It is completely safe and a usual part of rearing bonsai trees.
Binding and bending is often used to fix the distance between branches or bring them closer to the soil. String can be used to keep that is bent in place. Do keep in mind to add some protective cushioning on the branch which is being tied down. Something soft or flexible like a piece of rubber can be used. Soft aluminum wire should be used for the wiring process. There are different sizes which can be used, depending on the size of the branches of the plant. The wire needs to be wrapped around the branch carefully. Once the branch has been enclosed in wire, it can then be bent in the desired direction. The wire should not be removed until the branch has grown.

Keeping Things Healthy

Despite being kept a small size, these plants still need to be given the right nutrients in order for them to look great. Since it is planted in a pot, it does not have access to any nutrients in natural soil. Bonsais easily lose nutrients and these must be replenished regularly. One good way of ensuring that plants get the nutrients they need is by planting it in organic soil.

Like any other plant, bonsais need fertilizing too. Fertilizing a bonsai is an important part of maintaining it. Although there may be a lot of specialized fertilizers for bonsais, any type of plant fertilizer will actually work and help with growth. Application of this should be done regularly, but not too often. A schedule of every other week will be enough to provide the bonsai with the essential nutrients for its growth.