When you think of a bonsai tree, you may be thinking of a tree that is outside. While this is common, there are bonsai trees that can grow perfectly well indoors. These trees are tropical or subtropical trees. They can only survive outdoors in certain high temperature climates, which makes them suitable for the conditions in your home. We will be talking about the differences between indoor and outdoor bonsai, the best indoor bonsai, and how to take care of your indoor bonsai.
Indoor Bonsai vs Outdoor Bonsai
As mentioned previously, only certain bonsai can survive indoors. Tropical and subtropical trees are suitable for growing indoors because of their need for high temperatures and high humidity. These conditions can be met indoors in pretty much every household. Even if you live in a cold climate, high temperatures can be achieved with artificial lighting (more on this later!). Indoor trees grow consistently all year with no dormancy period in the winter.
Outdoor bonsai trees, on the other hand, cannot be grown indoors. Those that live outdoors need to be exposed to the changing of the seasons and go into dormancy in the winter. Dormancy periods are when trees stop growing to survive the winter and prepare to grow in the following spring. Outdoor bonsai survive in cold temperatures and sometimes even frost, but indoor bonsai trees do not.
Best Indoor Bonsai Trees
There are literally thousands of species you can choose from to make into an indoor bonsai tree. We will simply be going over the best indoor trees to choose from, especially for beginners. These are beautiful, relatively low maintenance, trees.
Ficus Bonsai Trees
The most popular kind of indoor bonsai tree is the Ficus (or a fig). This tropical tree likes temperatures higher than 50 degrees Fahrenheit and lots of water. You can place these trees outdoors in the summer, but they don’t need lots of sunlight. Popular ficuses include the Ginseng ficus (Ficus Retusa) and the Willow leaf ficus (Ficus Nerifolia/Salicafolia).
Chinese Elm Bonsai Trees
The Chinese Elm is a classic bonsai tree. While it is a bit harder to care for than the Ficus, it is definitely worth it. They like a cooler room and lots of light. Occasionally dropping of the leaves are usually normal, but it may also be due to insufficient water or light. The biggest Chinese Elm killer is underwatering. So, keep it’s soil damp at all times, never let it dry out.
Jade Bonsai Trees
The Jade tree is an evergreen from South Africa. Its thick trunk supports its dense, delicate branch structure and thick, green, oval leaves. White flowers may appear in the fall, but not always. Sensitive to the cold, this tree is best grown indoors where it can receive lots of light. When watering your Jade, water thoroughly then allow for the soil to dry out before watering again.
How to Care for an Indoor Bonsai Tree
Caring for an indoor bonsai tree is not as hard as one may think. Most trees are relatively low maintenance.
Light For Your Bonsai Trees
To ensure that your tree is getting the highest light intensity possible, place your tree directly in front of a South facing window. Moving the tree away from the window will lower the light intensity significantly, which will weaken and can eventually kill your tree. Getting enough light for your tree can be difficult, but it can be done. Using artificial lighting for around 10 hours a day will help.
Humidity For Your Bonsai Trees
Tropical and subtropical trees also need high humidity. The humidity levels in your standard living room will not be enough, but there are ways you can increase humidity for your tree. Placing a humidity tray filled with water or wet gravel will help, as well as misting your tree daily. You can also try opening a window during the day, so long as it isn’t too cold, to circulate air throughout the house.
Watering Your Bonsai Trees
Each bonsai tree is different. Some like to dry out in between watering, others like constant soil dampness. But one general rule you can follow with any tree is to check the soil before watering. Watering on a schedule can cause under- and over-watering, which will kill your plant if done frequently. When watering, water generously until water starts to drip out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Then wait a few minutes, and repeat. This will guarantee that the roots are being sufficiently watered.
Fertilizing Your Bonsai Tree
Since indoor bonsai trees grow consistently all year with no dormancy periods, they also need to be fertilized consistently all year. Feed with a balanced fertilizer as often as the directions suggest. To encourage flowering, use a fertilizer with a higher Phosphorus content.
While many bonsai trees are not able to live indoors, there are some that are able to. These are tropical and subtropical trees that need lots of light and high humidity. Caring for these trees is a very rewarding experience that anyone can enjoy. Happy growing!