Caring for Your Bonsai in Winter

Caring for Your Bonsai in Winter

Did you know that in the cooler months of the year your Bonsai enters a dormancy period?

The cooler temperature and the shortening of daylight is a sign that your evergreen or deciduous Bonsai will soon enter its dormancy stage. Dormancy is a critical cycle that your Bonsai must go through for the overall health of your Bonsai and its root system.

In Autumn deciduous Bonsai starts to prepare for winter by slowly shedding its foilage, this is a process that all deciduous trees go through when entering into its dormant state. As the days become shorter and the temperature drops, the location where the leaves are attached to the branch begins to seal off, depriving the leaves of nutrients and water. This is what makes their leaves drop off after putting on a pretty spectacular autumn show of vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges.

Evergreens have very strong leaves that are rolled up as long thin needles, they conserve much more water than their deciduous siblings. This special needle shape has a lovely wax coating that allows the evergreen Bonsai to conserve water during summer and winter, this is why their leaves stay green and do not lose them as often.

Follow these simple tips to help your Bonsai tolerate the many elements that winter brings.

Avoid pruning your Bonsai by at least two months before winter because it may not have enough time to recover, making the bonsai very weak and this will make it vulnerable in winter and delay its growth for the coming years.

It's a great time to remove leaves from deciduous trees and brown needles from
conifers. If your Bonsai has any signs of insects or fungus in Autumn, treating them before winter hits will help them recover and prevent the problem from spreading to other Bonsai. It is also advisable to apply dormant oil to your Bonsai in Autumn as a precaution.

The next step is to remove any fertiliser build-up on the surface of the soil. Organic fertiliser pellets like Blood & Bone or Dynamic Lifter can break down over the growing season and form a crust that makes watering difficult. By removing the crusty surface soil and replacing it with fresh soil, you can make it easier to water trees over winter.

Allow your Bonsai to experience some cold weather, without this your Bonsai
dormancy period may be cut short. Depending on where you live and how you plan to store your trees, this might mean waiting for one good frost before tucking your trees in for winter.

One option is to take your bonsai out from its original pot and directly plant it in the soil in your garden. The soil in the ground is far warmer than the soil in the Bonsai pot. This will give the roots maximum protection to frost as it will be surrounded in much more soil than its pot. If you do not have a space for this in your garden you could use a much larger pot or container.

When growing outdoors, make sure to observe proper watering. Your Bonsai doesn’t need much water during the dormancy period. Only water your bonsai when it appears a little dry. Check the soil frequently as this is the only way to know if it needs watering. Feel the soil an inch under the surface of your Bonsai, this is the best indicator of its dryness.

Because your Bonsai doesn’t need the sun to survive in its dormancy state you can place your Bonsai in an unheated garden shed during winter to protect it from severe frost, snow and hail, all of these elements can cause damage to your Bonsai’s branches.

When your deciduous Bonsai starts to show signs of new growth, this is the best way to know that its dormancy period has finished.

For your evergreen Bonsai, tiny new foliage will be visable giving your Bonsai a
brighter shade of green.

When there are no signs of intense cold that may damage your Bonsai roots, you
may repot your bonsai most especially if you placed it directly in the soil in your
garden or if you want to transfer it back to its original pot.

Spring is a great time to spend pruning and reshaping your Bonsai, check the wire
on your Bonsai as this needs to be redone every spring to prepare it for the following year ahead. Spring is also the best time to fertilise your Bonsai, we recommend Bonsai Boy’s Plant Fertiliser that can be used on all of your Bonsai species.


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