Bonsai Blog

All posts by Fred Meyer

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November Bonsai Tips

All bonsai should be dormant by now, but if the weather or storage temperature has been too warm they may not be, and care must be taken to prevent a second growth.

Location: Same rules as October. Guard against cold winds, frost and snow storms. Even some freak warm days too.

Watering: Less water this month, but do not let tress dry out even during dormancy. Trees are very sensitive even if they are dormant. Keep an eye on drainage. Never water bonsai when it is frozen.

Trimming: Remove any leaves remaining on deciduous trees. Be sure all fruit and seed pods are off too. This is a good month to remove all tip burned needles on pines, and any unsightly or extra long second year needles. This is also the time for the second trimming on black pines.

Training: Most branches will be too brittle to wire and bend this month.

Fertilizing: No fertilizing this month.

Do not attempt any this month.

Miscellaneous: It is a good time to collect native materials in the Southern states.

Having Bonsai Trouble? It’s All About The Basics

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Fred say, “It’s all about the basics … all your problems with your bonsai boil down to an issue with either light, air, or water.”

I got several pre-bonsai from Dallas Bonsai Garden about a year ago and had been having trouble with them.

The reason: Not enough light!

The back yard is shaded, but it’s secure. The problem was, I had run out of spots for bonsai that were both sunny and cat proof. I had no real choice other than to make use of the front yard.

I had erosion issues out front, so I built a retaining wall. That gave me the ability to spruce it up a bit with mini pine bark nuggets, and well, you can see it in the image below.

The plants that were in dire straights were the Japanese Maple that I wired in a video a couple months back and wasn’t doing so great, and 3 junipers that were rapidly dying. So, I put them out front.

As you can see in the image below, I buried the Japanese Maple in the pot. to soil level, then spread mini pine bark nuggets around it. It looks like a planting, although it’s too close to the stoop. But, I’ll move it later.

The Maple was not budding as spring came. Whatsmore, I snapped a branch while I was tweaking the shaping of it. I forget how pliable they are until they all the sudden break. I was hoping that the cambium layer was undamaged and would keep the branch alive, and together with the wire that was on it, the branch would survive, but it didn’t.

You can see the break and the branch above the break that I am trying to create the new branch from below.

This Japanese Maple has been through a lot. A couple years ago, before I bought it, it must have fallen on it’s head because the main trunk was broken off. There were several new branches forming from this area, so I made use of one of them.

The picture is a little hard to see, (darn point and shoot cameras!) but you can make out that the top was broken, and I wired a new branch upwards.

Over time, this will become the new trunk.

The first two weeks after I put the maple out front, new growth formed. I used plain water and watered it heavily.

The third week, I used weak fertilizer one day and watered the next.

The fourth week, the leaves appeared overnight. It’s looking really good and healthy now.

The junipers have begun their recovery as well. You can see from the image below that there were areas of dried out, but still alive foliage, and areas of seemingly dead foliage. But the same fertilizing routine, and long sunny days brought new growth and the junipers are bouncing back.

It may seem obviously wrong, but too many times I find myself trying to make a plant live within the growing conditions I have available. But that’s not how it works. We need to pick plants that thrive in the environment we have available.

Junipers and maples don’t do well in shade. They need a certain amount of direct sunlight every day. Similarly, ficus are not going to do well in direct sun and a dry climate – they need part sun/shade and a nice humid environment.

I find it funny that I make the same mistakes over and over, but one day, hopefully, I will learn. Now, that I’ve realized how to disguise my bonsai out front, I may be able to get some more to experiment with.

Wish me luck!

January Bonsai Tips

Fred Meyer

This month and February are hang on months. Try to keep your Bonsai hanging on until spring arrives. We hear more sad stories of demise during this time than at any other time of the year. Why now?

It’s the same thing I preach about all the time. Light and Water. Our shortest day of the year is December 21 and we ever so slowly add a minute or two each day to our daylight time. All evergreen Bonsai need light and they suffer during this period.

Water. Our homes during this period are heated and this drops our humidity to desert levels. Kinda great for humans versus high humidity days, but it causes the Bonsai soil and thus the plant to dry out. Watch your Bonsai and water. Remember, with good draining soil you can water daily. But don’t let the Bonsai sit in water in a drip tray.

Indoor: Be sure to check your Bonsai daily for dry soil, effects of low light and pests. Keep your soil evenly moist…which means damp, but not soggy wet. If your Bonsai appears to be losing leaves in the interior part of its branches it’s because it is not receiving enough light. You may need to add a plant light or move the Bonsai to a higher light location.

Outdoor: It’s what you don’t see by casual observation that may do your Bonsai in. Your Bonsai’s most important area of consideration should be the roots and therefore the soil. Be sure your outside Bonsai’s roots are enclosed in soil and the soil is moist. Just because the Bonsai is dormant doesn’t mean that its roots don’t need a small bit of moisture to sustain them. The pot can crack in low temperatures and various varmints can eat the delicious roots

Again….Happy New Year! Now that we are back into the normal chaos of daily living be kind to your Bonsai and treat it with loving care. It will reward you for it in many ways..

December Bonsai Tips

All bonsai should be dormant by now. In colder areas they will have been put in cold frames, or other storage for the winter.

Location: Guard against any and all of Nature’s changeable weather conditions.

Watering: The same rule applies here as last month. Watch watering under frozen conditions. If soil is kept too wet the pot may crack.

Trimming amd training: Can be done under caution.

Fertilizing: None.

Transplanting: Only bare-root nursery stock can be transplanted in a mixture of sand and very little soil. Do not pot any bare-root until spring.

Grafting: December, January, and February are the best months for grafting conifers, for this is the coldest season and the trees are completely dormant. At this time there is no pitch to isolate scion from understock.

Miscellaneous: It is a good time to collect native materials in the Southern states.

Fred Meyer:

  • Water as needed – which means checking your Bonsai soil daily to see or feel if your soil is drying out. A lot of this will depend on the humidity of the surroundings and how active your Bonsai’s growth is this time of year.
  • Check for insects or disease continuously. This comment is not meant to cause paranoia. Its focus is for you to be observant to the overall health and well being of your Bonsai. You can tell if there is a yellowing and falling off of leaves. You can tell if there is a change in the color of the foliage or needles. These are indications that something is changing … some of this is natural and some of this can be from spider mites or other critters. Just be mindful that, as with us, when there is a change in appearance it can be a normal thing or a thing that is the first indication of a larger problem that is just in the formative stages.
  • As to light – For deciduous Bonsai: this is not a problem as there are bare of leaves this time of year. For evergreen Bonsai – this is a problem. December 21 is the shortest day of the year. Meaning there is little natural light during the month of December. For some Bonsai with few leaves this will not be a problem. But for most evergreen Bonsai this is a problem. You may need to give your Bonsai some artificial light to help it through this low light period. Plant lights can be purchased at most large Grocery stores in their light bulb departments or at the large box home improvement warehouses in either incandescent or fluorescent. Fluorescent or incandescent lights will both do the same basic work for your Bonsai. You need a light fixture for either and that may make your mind up as to which one. Just remember incandescent (or light bulbs) do emit a lot of heat. Fluorescents do not, but have larger fixtures to contend with.
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