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Feed Your Bonsai for Health & Beauty

06/29/20

Lush summer foliage and impressive deadwood are a big part of what makes this old Shimpaku juniper so exceptional. The lush foliage is the result of timely feeding coupled with good all around care. The photo is from our Masters Series Juniper book


Many people underfeed their bonsai. Especially beginners, where limited knowledge and lack of confidence can create hesitation or even a failure to act at all. This isn't always a terrible thing, at least in the short term, as it's possible to get carried away and feed too much. But if you're on the hesitant side, sooner or later you're going to need to fertilize your bonsai. That or stand by and watch it slowly decline

Rather than trying to write a whole treatise on fertilizing, I'm going to suggest you read Michael Hagedorn's Bonsai Heresy (see below). The whole book is well worth the time, however in this case (and once you have the book) you should turn to pages 153 to 199 and read carefully. Unless you already happen to be an expert, your knowledge will increase by leaps and bounds. And even if you are an expert, you'll still pick up valuable tidbits 

 

You can bet that this luxurious crown is the result of timely feeding. This lush Kiohime Japanese maple belongs to Walter Pall, so I'm guessing that's his arm and hand. It (the tree not the hand) is 45 cm (18") high and more than 50 years old. It was originally imported from Japan. This photo and the one below are from Walter's blog

 
Walter's maple after he reduced the crown and turned it around. Now the proportions are better and you can see the bones better too. This shape and crown will be maintained by proper feeding (more in the summer less in the spring on older trees) and skillful trimming. The pot is by Petra Tomlinson

 
 This hornbeam belongs to Mario Komsta. I lifted it from an old Bark post (2010). It's a great example of a powerful trunk and an exceptional example of fine branching, the result of ample fertilizing and skillful trimming. Once the trunk and branching are well developed you can reduce or ever stop spring feeding but continue to feed in the summer (more on this in Bonsai Heresy)

 

 Michael Hagedorn's Bonsai Heresy
The Bonsai book for experienced bonsai practitioners
who may need to unlearn a few things*
and for beginners who want to get it right the first time

 *"It ain't ignorance causes so much trouble, it's folks knowing so much that ain't so"
  Josh Billings 


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