Can Bonsai Trees Grow Indoors?

Last Updated on February 2, 2023 by Derek

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“If you are drawn to the refined, take up calligraphy or grow a Bonsai”.

These words from author Laurie A Helgoe are apt to describe the beautiful, and indeed, the refined art of growing Bonsai trees.

Although bonsai plants conjure up images of Japanese homes and gardens, this technique goes back to over a millennium ago in ancient China. It was later perfected and practiced widely in Japan.

Bonsai means “plotted in a pot” or “container”. That much is evident from their dwarfed appearance. What meaning does bonsai hold? Culturally it can signify harmony, balance, or luck.

It is natural to associate trees with parks, gardens, and outdoor spaces. Is it then possible to cultivate them on the same lines as indoor plants? The answer is yes.

These days, a variety of tools and technology are available to make life easier for bonsai beginners and at the same time ensure all bonsai tree species can receive proper care.

Tropical plants and trees do grow well in small pots or even a small container in an indoor environment

What should a beginner be aware of before venturing down this path? Let’s look at a few fundamentals.

When deciding to add bonsai to your indoor space, the climatic conditions of the area, space, and time constraints matter as well.

Selecting either an all-weather species or a tree suited to the local climate will mean a greater survival chance. Gardening is a commitment that should be made only if one can dedicate time.

Bonsai can germinate from seeds. Cuttings from other bonsai plants work too. The other way is to purchase grown trees.

When seeds form the basis to grow bonsai trees, this is a long-drawn process. The germination process itself might take a long time. This, however, is the best way to watch the entire growth cycle of the bonsai tree

If bringing home a grown tree, it is advisable to do it during spring which is the tree’s growing season. It will recover quickly from any re-potting or pruning that is applied.

Do take care to replace any plastic pots that the store might have used. In choosing a replacement container, pick something that gives the tree breathing room.

Jargons that bonsai lovers need to be aware of before delving into growing and managing them include terms like pruning, wiring, what is a humidity tray, etc.

Pruning is the act of trimming any excess growth or dead parts away. This is vital both for the health of the tree and also to direct how it grows.

Pruning takes time and patience. It must be perfected over time and can naturally seem daunting to new bonsai owners.

Take time to identify which of the branches need pruning. Do not overdo the process, especially during the initial growth phase.

Pruning at a root level is also required. A good understanding of the bonsai root system helps in this regard.

Once the bonsai has developed a solid root system, that’s the time to consider wiring.

Wiring is simply winding a wire around the branches of the tree. Sounds simple, but does involve finesse and decision-making.

Although not compulsory, through wiring, the direction in which the branches grow can be controlled. This in turn has a bearing on the aesthetics.

Use a copper or aluminum wire and work it upwards from the trunk. It does take a while for the efforts to bear fruit. Do remove any wire that the branch has outgrown.

One thing that bonsai most positively need is moisture. A humidity tray provides this.

The tray normally has either pebbles or other materials that are absorbent in nature.

They soak up the water that’s put into the tray and help diffuse moisture to the bonsai.

Buy a tray that is bigger compared to the base of the planter. The ideal water level in the humidity tray should be such that it keeps the tree moist but doesn’t cause other problems such as decay.

With the basics dispensed, let’s get down to how to select, grow and take care of bonsai trees.

How to grow indoor bonsai trees?

Unlike other plants and trees, bonsai require special care. To grow bonsai indoors, first, understand which species of tree is the best suited for enclosed spaces.

Trees with small leaves are well suited. Use resources such as this article to get a deeper understanding of creating the right indoor conditions for them to thrive.

Growing indoor bonsai tree for beginners

As a beginner, choosing a tropical bonsai variety may be best. Examples of these can be the Ficus bonsai tree or Schefflera. These varieties are:

  • Easier to nurture and maintain
  • Both these genera of bonsai trees offer a wide variety of species to choose from.
  • They grow well in low humidity settings.

If in beginner’s enthusiasm one wants to explore more options of ornamental trees or shrubs, then Juniper trees are another popular species to consider. They grow in a beautiful natural cascade,

This bonsai type is again very learner-friendly. They are easy to shape, and some variants require very little trimming.

Juniper bonsai indoors growing tips

A few important things to keep in mind while growing Juniper bonsai are that these trees can use fertilizer during the growing season. Make sure to use an organic fertilizer.

The Winter months are a good time for the wiring of Juniper trees and shrubs. As for pruning, it is best kept to early spring or summer.

Types of bonsai trees indoor with pictures

These visuals will help to get a feel for how some of the best indoor bonsai trees look and how they need to be cared for.

Schefflera arboricola

File:Schefflera arboricola 10zz.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

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Ficus Benjamina

File:Ficus benjamina 16zz.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

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Fukien Tea Tree or Carmona

File:Fukien Tea.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

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Flowering bonsai variety, with small white flowers.

The care these tropical trees need may differ slightly based on their species. For instance, deciduous trees such as the Chinese elm bonsai tree require a lot of light.

Now that a good baseline in bonsai selection has been established, it’s time to look at buying options.

Where do you find indoor bonsai trees for sale?

You can buy online from a store or through a marketplace. The quality of the plant is not assured though, so do read reviews prior to purchasing.

The other option would be to visit specialty outlets or nurseries where you are more likely to have a personalized and satisfactory shopping experience.

The bonsai might come potted or in grow bags. They may be a need to have them transferred to a more suitable container upon bringing them home.

Remember to also re-pot once a year or at a lesser frequency depending on the specific bonsai species.

5 types of bonsai trees indoor growing

The next logical question would be which specific indoor trees from the different genera is suitable for novice bonsai enthusiasts.

Here’s a list of 5 popular types that can be grown indoors.

  • Schefflera arboricola or Dwarf umbrella tree
  • Ficus Benjamina or Ficus trees
  • Ficus retusa
  • Fukien tea or Carmona
  • Chinese elm or Ulmus parvifolia

How do you take care of a bonsai tree for beginners

Most indoor bonsai requires attention to the following details for them to flourish:

  • Right amount of light: this can be via grow light or indirect sunlight based on the species (direct sunlight can harm the plant)
  • Maintain appropriate humidity level, with balanced watering. That means neither excess water nor
  • leaving the tree to dry out completely.
  • Fertilize, if necessary, although this may not be needed in all cases
  • Re-pot to accommodate new growth

FAQs relating to can bonsai trees grow indoors

· How long do bonsai trees live indoors?

Bonsai are not only pleasing to the eye. They are also resilient, in that they can grow and prosper under suboptimal conditions too.

Provided they are cared for perfectly, Bonsai can last hundreds of years and be passed on through generations.

· Can you grow a bonsai tree without sunlight?

Not all bonsai species of bonsai can survive without sunlight. It is possible for bonsai trees to grow in low light though. For example, Ficus bonsai can still grow in low-lighting areas.

They can either be placed near bright places such as windows. Artificial light such as fluorescent lights can also be used as a supplement.

· Which bonsai is best for indoors?

The most popular bonsai that can easily be maintained indoors would be from the genus Ficus or Schefflera. These are the most commonly preferred choices.

Other than these, Jade or Crassula are also well-known. Serissa Japonica which is also called snow rose and Juniper is best to begin the journey of bonsai cultivation.

· How do you take care of a bonsai plant indoors?

A well-balanced care regime is essential for bonsai indoor plants. Pay attention to where you place these plants.

They require sunlight, high humidity, and cooler or lower temperatures to be healthy. So, avoid placing them on top of TV sets, inside dark rooms, or closer to heat sources.

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