March 16, 2021

How To Care For Bonsai Trees Indoors

Growing bonsais indoors can be a bit tricky. However, with these simple tips you’ll be able to better care for your indoor bonsai collection.

As cute as they are, bonsais don’t always make the best indoor house plants.

But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t grow them!

Bonsai trees indoors need to be placed near a window that lets in adequate sunlight. The bonsai tree may need more water, but don’t over water.

This post will teach you exactly how to grow beautiful, healthy bonsai trees indoors

 Start with the right bonsai trees

Not all bonsai trees are suited for indoor growing. Choosing bonsais that don’t like full sun, but prefer shade or low light will make a big difference in the success of your indoor bonsai garden.

Click here to shop for great indoor bonsai from one of our favorite vendors.

In general, bonsais that have bright colors (such as the Japanese Maple bonsai) don’t do well indoors. They require some direct sun, bright shade and more light than is generally available indoors.

A great place to start is with bonsai that are naturally green. A few great examples include Juniper bonsai trees varieties like the ones pictured below.

Juniper Bonsai Tree

As much light as possible

When bonsais are indoors it’s often hard for them to get enough sunlight. Outdoors they generally need about 6 hours of bright, indirect sunlight each day.

However, indoors, you’ll want to place your bonsai trees near a window that gets light all day. If this isn’t an option, place your bonsais near the brightest window or brightest area of your home or office.

Water more, but less frequently for bonsai trees indoors

The biggest problem new bonsai growers face with keeping their bonsais alive indoors is watering. So much so, that I’ve dedicated not just an entire post (you can read that here) .

It’s a big deal! Bonsai trees need a surprising amount of water to thrive. However, they don’t like to be watered as frequently as most indoor plants.

But, I wouldn’t go so far as to say bonsai trees rarely need water. So… here’s the deal…

Bonsai trees like to have their roots soaked with water but then dry out quickly. Then, watered again after the soil has been dry for a few days.

Lightly spraying bonsais with water  (but not on the leaves)can help them survive for a period of time, but if you really want to thrive, they need to follow the “soak and dry” method.

Don’t water indoor bonsais daily. That’s the quickest way to kill them.

Also know that bonsais have a dormant period when don’t need as much water then. Generally this is in the cooler months of the year. Since they aren’t actively growing, they don’t use up as much water.

I get quite a few emails with people who think their succulents are dying because the leaves are wilting and shriveling up. Here is a little secret, just like all plants, eventually the lower leaves of bonsais are going to shrivel up and die.

You should only be concerned about dying leaves if the newest or uppermost leaves on your bonsai tree are shriveling. If it’s just the ones near the bottom of the stem (closest to the soil), you don’t have anything to worry about!

Avoid Glass Containers (or anything that doesn’t drain)

Glass containers generally aren’t a great long term potting solution for bonsai trees. They do not like to be sitting in soggy soil, so a glass jar or terrarium, which does not have anywhere for water to drain out, is not going to make your bonsai happy. The photo above is an exception. Most bonsai trees don’t survive well in glass containers.

Another downside to glass containers is lack of breathability. bonsais need good airflow to maintain healthy roots and therefore healthy stem and leaves.

If you have a glass container that you love and are determined to plant your succulents in it, do some more research. I don’t want to lead you down a path of misery.

If you can help it, I really recommend staying away from glass unless you know your bonsai tree really well and are confident in your watering skills. And, if you want to learn all about why my favorite pots to use indoors are terra cotta and glazed ceramics, just click here!

Bugs that affect bonsai trees indoors

If you are following healthy practices for your bonsai tree as indoor house plants (proper watering, well draining soil, light, airflow, etc.), bugs are generally not a problem.

But… if you happen to purchase a plant with bugs already, they can easily become a big headache.

A common bug new growers encounter are aphids. Generally you’ll only get aphids if your soil stays too wet. Aphids are generally avoidable by using a well draining soil mix and allowing your soil to dry out between watering.

Another bug that surfaces all too often is mealy bugs. They are nasty white little guys that hold on to your bonsai for dear life.

Have fun!

The great thing about growing bonsais indoors is they’ll generally look good for several weeks even if you are a “bonsai killer.”

But, hopefully you feel better prepared to take care of your bonsai indoors now! Make sure you don’t let things get too stressful. After all, bonsai gardening is supposed to be fun and therapeutic.

For a quick overview of some bonsai trees that do well indoors, check out this video!


About the author 

Greg Reed

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