Can You Grow a Tree from a Bonsai Growing Kit?
As a bonsai enthusiast you might be familiar with bonsai growing kits. You might have even received one as a gift at some point. But have you ever tried to use a bonsai seed kit to grow your own bonsai?
A bonsai tree starter kit normally contains everything needed to grow your own bonsai from seeds. There are different types of kits on the market, but generally most of them will contain seeds for a few different tree species.
The main problem many bonsai enthusiasts have with growing kits is that they falsely create the assumption that your seedling will grow into a perfect bonsai. The reality is that it’ll grow into a normal tree that will require pruning and shaping to be turned into a bonsai.
In this article, we cover everything you should know about bonsai tree growing kits and how to start growing your very own bonsai tree.
How to Grow a Bonsai Tree from Seeds?
Just like with every other plant, the first step to growing a bonsai tree is getting the seeds to germinate. Some bonsai growing kits recommend coking the seeds before planting or keeping them in the fridge, however, most of the time this isn’t necessary.
Planting your seeds and getting them to germinate is a pretty straightforward process.
- Get a seed tray and put some compost at the bottom of it. We recommend using compost mixed with perlite to allow for better drainage;
- Water the compost and allow for the excess water to drain;
- Place your seeds on the surface and cover them with a thin layer of soil;
- Cover the seed tray and place it in a sheltered place with natural sunlight.
Remember to keep the solid moist, it’s best to use a spraying water for the task to prevent overwatering. It’s best to keep the germinating seeds outdoors as most tree species prefer cooler temperatures but if you’re planting them in winter you can keep them in a cool place indoors.
Pro Tip: The best time to start germinating your seeds is the end of winter. This way you’re allowing the tree to follow its natural growth cycle.
How Long Does it Take for Bonsai Trees to Grow?
Growing a tree from a seed is a very long process that requires plenty of patience. It would take years for your seedling to start looking remotely like a tree. And up to a decade (or more) for it to truly start looking like the bonsai trees you see in displays.
In general the in the early stages of growing your bonsai the process will look something like this:
- 1st Year – let your seeds germinate and grow into seedlings;
- 2nd Year – allow the seedling to grow into a healthy plant;
- 3rd Year – start training the young tree into a bonsai.
If you planted your seed into a seed tray, after they have established within the first year, you will have to move them into individual pots. This will give them more space to grow and develop.
How to Style a Young Bonsai Tree
Once your seeds have developed into young trees it’s time to start training them into actual bonsai trees. Here is how to do this:
Separate the Roots
Normally tree roots grow downward into the soil to provide stability for the tree and find water easier. With bonsai you want to ideally achieve what is known as buttress roots. This term refers to roots that are visible on the surface of the soil. In the bonsai community it is also called “Nebari”.
The smaller roots of bonsai seedlings make it easier to achieve this as they are flexible. When your tree is about 2-3 years old it’s the perfect time to shape your tree’s roots. You can also prune longer roots to encourage the growth of smaller and thicker roots rather than longer ones.
Wire Train the Sapling
Bonsai trees tend to have curves and movement that gives them a more natural shape. The delicate stems of young bonsai seedlings allow you to easily train them into shape with the help of wire.
Wrap the wire around the trunk and gently bend it into shape allowing for some movement. You will need to keep the wire around your tree for 6 months to a year. Keep in mind that during this period your tree will grow and thicken, so make sure the wire isn’t too tight.
Prune Back to Encourage Growth
Without pruning, your tree will grow straight upwards. Your tree is genetically conditioned to do this, so it can compete with other plants in the wild.
When it comes to bonsai, however, you want your tree to have a robust canopy with plenty of small branches to create a look that imitates large trees. This is achieved by pruning back your tree while it’s young to promote the growth of new branches and leaves.
Keep in mind that not all tree species take well to pruning. How well a species can tolerate pruning affects how you should train it. Deciduous trees are quite tolerant to back budding. Evergreens on the other hand are not.
Repot Your Tree into a Bonsai Pot
Once your tree has established you would probably want to repot it in a beautiful ceramic pot. We would recommend waiting a couple years before moving your tree to a proper display pot.
A small pot will slow down the growth of your tree. So if you want your bonsai to have a thick trunk and lucious foliage, we would recommend planting it in a training grower pot to allow it to develop. If you want to challenge yourself, you can try creating your very own hydroponic bonsai.
Is Growing a Bonsai from Seed a Good Option for Beginner Enthusiasts?
Growing a tree from a bonsai growing kit can be a great exercise for a patient gardener who loves a bit of challenge. But as we have already established your seedling won’t grow into a perfectly shaped bonsai and there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.
If you’re just starting on your bonsai journey and you’re not particularly confident in your skills, then this might not be the best option for you.
What are the Other Options for a Starter Bonsai?
Don’t have the patience to grow a bonsai tree from seed? Worry not, there are options available if you wish to pick up bonsai as a hobby.
For those of you who want to style and display their bonsai without waiting years for it to grow, here at Bonsai 2 U, we have plenty of beginner bonsai trees. We even have all the tools needed to get you started, from pruning scissors to root rakes, pots and bonsai feed, we’ve got you covered.
Browse our stock and shop online or visit our newly refurbished bonsai nursery based in Lutterworth.