How to water a bonsai?

Bonsai are plants that, after having worked them for a long time (sometimes decades), humans have managed to give them a style and elegance without equal. In fact, it is hard to believe that they are actually trees; Not surprisingly, when we think of them, large and very tall plants come to mind that seem to want to touch the sky with their branches. But perhaps that is why they attract us so much attention and we decide to acquire one.

Now, doubts assail us from the first moment we get home with it, the most important being how to water a bonsai. Water is the essential element for life, but how often do you have to give it and in what quantity?

When to water a bonsai?

Irrigation is, we are not going to fool you, the most difficult task to master. On the one hand, if you water too much the roots will rot, but if you water less… the roots will dry out. To this must be added that bonsai grow in trays that are generally low and rather narrow, in which very little substrate fits. This substrate, if it is exposed to the sun directly, will lose its moisture quickly, so much so that if the human is not attentive it could be without a plant in a matter of hours in midsummer.

Can anything be done to avoid this upset? Yes, sure, but it is not easy. To know when to water them, it is important to take into account several factors:

  • Climate: temperature, rainfall, humidity, wind… all this directly influences the plants, and of course also the bonsai. In principle, you have to know that the warmer and drier, the frequency of irrigation will be higher than if it is cool and humid.
  • Location: those bonsai that are grown outdoors will require more frequent waterings than those that are indoors. This is so because in the open air the substrate takes less time to dry when exposed to the sun. The air barely runs in the house (compared to what happens outside it), and also the sun does not reach the substrate directly, so it remains humid for longer.
  • Substrate: Substrates such as peat or mulch absorb moisture and stay that way for a longer period of time than akadama, pumice or other mineral substrates.
  • Pot size: it is true that bonsai trays are all more or less equal in size, but it is necessary to know that the smaller it is, the less substrate it will have and, therefore, more will have to be watered.

So, based on what has been said, when do you have to water them? Well, the short answer but no less clarifying is: when necessary. Yes, I know, I’m not saying anything with that, so I’m going to explain myself: during the summer you might have to water every day, even two or three times a day, especially if you have them outside, in the sun, and the climate is very hot and dry. In winter these irrigations will be very spaced, every 4-5 days or so. The rest of the year you have to keep watching and checking the humidity of the substrate so as not to overdo it with watering.

How to water bonsai?

When it comes to watering your bonsai, it is necessary to prepare what you are going to use, which in this case is a specific watering can for bonsai, and rainwater, or failing that, bottled for human consumption or without lime. You got it? So the next step is to fill the watering can with water and proceed to moisten the entire substrate well.

Water well over the entire surface, until you see that it comes out through the drainage holes, being well soaked. In the event that you use a peat-based substrate and the water runs to the sides instead of being absorbed, do not hesitate to take the bonsai and place the pot or tray in a basin of water for a few minutes. In this way, the substrate will regain its ability to properly drain the precious liquid.

And if you have a plate underneath, remember to remove the remaining water after each watering.

Lack and excess of watering in bonsai: how to solve these problems?

Bonsai can often have problems, both due to lack and overwatering. What steps to take to get them healthy again? Let’s talk about it:

Lack of irrigation

Lack of watering is a problem you can identify by looking at bonsai. The most common symptoms are the following:

  • Dry leaf tips
  • Fall of leaves, stems and flowers
  • Flower abortion
  • Dry substrate

To solve it, you have to cut the dry parts with previously disinfected scissors, and then put the pot or tray in a container with water for a few minutes.

Excess irrigation

Excess water is very common in bonsai, especially in those that are being cultivated indoors. Let’s know what the symptoms are:

  • Young leaves turn brown
  • Lower leaves yellow
  • Leaf fall
  • Appearance of fungi on roots, stems or the rest of the plant

Recovering them when they have suffered excess water is not easy; however, it can be tried. To do this, you have to follow this step by step:

  1. Cut off the parts that are yellow and/ or brown with clean scissors.
  2. Then remove the plant from the tray to wrap the root ball or soil bread with absorbent kitchen paper, and leave it like that overnight.
  3. Then replant it in the bonsai tray and treat with fungicide.
  4. Finally, place it in a bright area, and do not water until you see that the soil is dry.

Should the leaves be sprayed/ sprayed with water?

It is customary for indoor plants, and consequently also bonsai grown indoors, to be sprayed with water. But…, although each teacher has his own book , from my point of view it is something that should not be done for the reasons that I expose below:

No good ventilation

Not enough to prevent disease. If the plant is a little weak, any spore could germinate and cause serious damage to the leaves… and therefore we could lose it.

Risk of suffocation is high

Although leaves absorb water through the pores on their surface, if they remain constantly wet they will eventually run out of air and die.

Therefore, if you live in a house where the humidity is low, it is much better to buy a humidifier or put glasses with water around it, so that you notice that the humidity is high near it but without causing it. problems.

Image – Flickr/ jacinta lluch valero

We hope it has been useful to you.

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