Watering A Bonsai Tree
Watering bonsai trees is one of the most crucial parts of caring for a bonsai. You should water your bonsai when the soil gets slightly dry. Under- and over- watering is a big problem and is one of the leading causes of death in bonsai trees. Knowing how often and how to water your bonsai will be key in growing a healthy, strong bonsai tree.
When Should You Water Your Bonsai?
Never water any bonsai on a schedule. Instead, check the bonsai’s soil once a day, or twice in the hot summer months, to see if the tree needs watering. The tree’s watering needs vary from day to day, and not taking into account the tree’s individual needs can result in under- or over-watering which can cause harm to the tree if it is reoccurring.
Checking Bonsai Tree’s Soil
Before watering your tree, you should always check the soil for moisture. If the soil is ever wet, not just damp, when you check it, you should not water the tree. This can result in over-watering, which causes roots to rot. Even if you think the soil may be moist, you should check the soil anyway.
The most common way to check bonsai soil is to use your finger. Simply insert your finger one centimeter into the soil. If you feel that the soil is dry, you should water immediately. If the soil is still pretty moist, you should not water yet.
Another very common option used by beginners is to use a moisture meter. Moisture meters determine the moisture levels in the soil automatically. This is measured on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the driest and 10 the wettest. If the levels are from 1-3, you need to water your bonsai immediately. A number from 4 to 10 means your tree is still moist and does not need to be watered. After every use, clean and dry the probe and store in a dry place.
The last option we love using is the chopstick method. This method can be used with a chopstick that has no residue on it. Take your clean, dry chopstick and place it one inch or so into the soil. After 10 to 15 minutes, remove the chopstick and look at it. If you see that the chopstick is discolored, the soil is damp and does not need to be watered. If the chopstick is dry and not discolored, you should water your bonsai immediately. After every use, clean and dry the chopstick and store in a dry place.
How To Water Your Bonsai
Now that you’ve checked the soil, if it is time to water your bonsai, this is what you should do:
To ensure the top layer of soil does not get disturbed, use a fine nozzled watering can. When watering your bonsai, water generously and allow for the water to drain out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the plant. Wait for the water to stop draining before you water generously again. This will allow for the roots to be properly soaked while also drained properly to avoid root rot.
Over-watering will not be as big of a problem if you have the right kind of soil. Unlike regular potting soil, bonsai soil is made to allow water to drain out of the pot. Bonsai soil should consist of Akadama, Pumice, and lava rock at a 1/2, 1/4, 1/4 ratio. Using regular gardening soil will not allow for proper drainage or aeration, which will cause the plant’s roots to rot and the plant will eventually die.
Since bonsai’s should never be watered on a routine, it is crucial to check the soil every day, possibly twice a day. We recommend checking the soil using your finger, a moisture meter, or a chopstick. Just make sure to clean off the meter’s probe or the chopstick after use to avoid contamination, especially if you have multiple bonsai tree’s that you are checking on every day. Water the plant generously twice, allowing for the water to drain out of the drainage holes in between. Having the proper soil can reduce the risk of over-watering significantly. Under- and over-watering can be a plant killer, but if you follow these directions, it should be no problem at all.