If you’ve ever asked yourself “How long does it take for bonsai trees to grow?” then you’re not alone. Bonsai growth, of course, varies from species to species.
Is there something you can do to make your tree grow a bit faster? Find out the expert answers to these and more questions in the upcoming sections.
- How Long Does It Take for Bonsai Trees To Grow?
How Long Does It Take for Bonsai Trees To Grow?
On average, it takes around 10 to 15 years for Bonsai trees to go from seed stage to an adult, mature plant. At any rate, five years is the minimum time you will have to wait for the trees to exhibit a stunted enough form that you can then work on. That is why it is said that growing Bonsai has been a hobby passed down by generations.
Here are some important factors to consider when discussing the time it takes to grow these trees.
– The Tree Species Being Grown
Growing bonsai trees is a thing for the generations, and it is not something that can be done in a year or two. Still, you can speed up the process by choosing plant species that grow faster than other plants.
Faster growing species will make grow taller quickly, so you can start pruning and shaping them relatively earlier. Regarding these trees, some are more suited to indoor environments while others are more suited to outdoors. Keep this in mind when selecting a quick-growing tree for Bonsai.
Another aspect of selecting the right plant is seeing if it can handle pruned, defoliated, roped, etc. These are essential steps of bonsai art; if a tree type cannot handle it, then there is no need to select it. Below, we have prepared a list of the most commonly-used tree species that grow faster than others.
- Japanese maple trees
- Chinese juniper
- Pine trees
- Weeping willow
– The Soil Being Used
The soil is a very important factor in how long bonsai trees take to grow. Bonsai needs to take an ordinary tree and grow it in shallow containers in a rather unnatural environment. That is why not just any soil will cut it.
You need the best draining soil so there is no water logging risk. Your soil should also be light enough so the roots growing in such a small space do not feel cramped. It should also contain air pockets so air circulation to the roots is not compromised.
Ideal Bonsai Soil
According to most experts, the ideal Bonsai soil comprises the following essential ingredients.
- Gravel is important for drainage and should be the bottom-most layer of the pot. It also prevents the rest of the soil from clogging the drainage holes.
- Akadama is a natural hard clay that needs to be mixed with well-draining elements. It is easily available everywhere but can be a bit costly. You can replace it with a kitty liter if you like.
- Pumice is an inorganic mineral that improves the porosity of the soil. It also absorbs water and nutrients in small amounts to be released later.
- Lava rock adds structure to the soil. Additionally, it retains water too.
- Lastly, you need a nutritive organic soil additive. You can go for peat, moss, compost, or a combination of them.
– How Much It Is Fertilized
Bonsai, when not properly fed, may take ages to grow. Do you want yours to grow quickly and healthily? Then regular and proper fertilizing is the key to it.
These trees are grown in shallow containers with a limited root growth potential. These plants cannot simply take the nutrients that they need for growth from the soil.
That is why you are responsible for providing fertilizer and nutrients to the plant and the soil from the top. A suitable fertilizer for Bonsai should have a balanced nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium ratio. This is called the NPK ratio and is written on every fertilizer label.
Potassium is needed for the growth of leaves, flowers, and fruits, while Phosphorous is an essential element that gives strength to the root system. It makes absorption by roots easy. Nitrogen is the most important as it contributes to stem and foliage growth.
How to Fertilize a Bonsai Tree
Here is a brief guide on fertilizing a bonsai tree most effectively.
- Add water to dilute your liquid fertilizer to half its starting concentration.
- Water the soil first to make sure it is moist enough.
- Pour the diluted fertilizer over the soil away from where the main stem is growing.
- Fertilize this way every week when the bonsai tree is growing actively. Later on, reduce to fertilizing only once a month.
- Additionally, you can take a small amount of compost and mix it within the top soil layers. Do this every month for that additional natural boost to the soil.
– Repotting Regularly Helps Bonsai Grow
The art of Bonsai entails restricting the overall growth in the size of the plant. You will still need to repot the tree frequently enough, and the logic behind this is twofold.
First, the limited amount of soil used for Bonsai easily loses its organic nutrients to the growing bonsai tree as this growth is particularly rapid during the first few years. Secondly, the roots of the said tree become cramped in a short time.
For faster-growing bonsai tree species, you must repot the plant every year or two. You can choose not to increase the size of the pot, but changing the soil is very important. As the age of the tree increases, less and less repotting will be needed and the roots will adjust to being bound.
How to Repot Bonsai
Since repotting is such an important aspect of bonsai care, here is a brief step-by-step guide of the whole process.
- Repotting is best carried out during dormant winter months. This helps alleviate some effects of shock that the tree inevitably goes through after repotting.
- It would be best if you repotted a bonsai tree when its roots start coming out over the edge of the pot. Even if they don’t, the faster-growing bonsai species should be repotted every year at the start.
- Wet the soil thoroughly and then use a rake to remove the soil layer by layer. Be very gentle when lifting the tree from the soil.
- Wash or brush off the soil attached to the roots.
- Take this opportunity to carry out some much-needed root maintenance on your tree.
- Take your pot, fill it with brand new soil, and replant your Bonsai back in it.
- Take care of your tree as a baby for the next few weeks.
– Root Maintenance
How long a bonsai tree takes to grow also depends on the root care that it receives. Usually, what happens is that the roots carry on growing within the soil as they do in nature. They become thicker, leading to rapid use up of the soil’s nutrients and increasing the need for repotting.
An important aspect of keeping Bonsai is to trim their roots regularly. We have already discussed that young plants need frequent repotting. Once you take the plant out of the pot, trim off all the thick, fat roots you find growing.
Leave only thin, elongated roots on the bonsai tree before repotting it back. Cutting off the roots causes the plant to suffer a temporary shock. Water it a lot afterwards and take great care of it.
– Pruning and Grooming
There is another important thing that helps with bonsai tree growth. That is regularly pruning the stems, leaves, and branches growing away from the plant.
Pruning promotes more leaf growth towards the center of the tree. This, of course, keeps the size of the plant short as intended. It also allows enough leaf growth in the center to carry out optimum photosynthesis.
We always keep our pruning instruments dipped in 70 percent isopropyl alcohol for an hour to disinfect them. Afterwards, we wash them thoroughly and dry them. This makes sure no infections or pests are transferred to our bonsai tree.
– Encourage Thick Trunk Growth
Promoting a bonsai tree to get thicker roots also makes them grow rapidly. This is because a thicker tree trunk is better at supporting the plant. It also contributes to the faster transport of water and minerals to the plant from the roots.
The traditional method of promoting a thicker trunk is splitting the trunk into two parts. Use gardening wires to keep the two halves away from each other. Both of them will heal separately and become thicker as a result.
– How Long Do Bonsai Live for?
If you are giving your Bonsai the best possible care and it is a species known for longevity, then it will easily live upwards of 50 years. The oldest Bonsai currently known is a ficus bonsai in Italy. This tree is a whopping 1,000 years old.
Bonsai trees kept indoors can grow as long as their full-sized counterparts. The actual age up to which these trees live varies from species to species. It also depends on the conditions you are keeping and growing them in.
– How Fast Do Bonsai Trees Grow?
On average, most Bonsai trees grow around 2 to 36 inches long every year. This large variation occurs due to the different growth rates of different tree species.
On the one hand, you have trees like Jade with an extremely slow growth rate, no more than 2 inches a year. Then you have fast-growing trees like Juniper bonsai that can grow up to 15 inches tall yearly.
Very rarely will you find a super fast-growing plant like the Chinese Elm, which grows as much as 36 inches tall within a year.
Bonsai trees take much patience to grow, that is for sure. The key takeaway points from this guide are given below.
- A bonsai tree takes about 10 to 15 years to grow from seedling to the adult stage.
- The growth of the tree depends on whether the trees being used are slow growers or fast ones.
- The growth of outdoor Bonsai also differs from that of bonsai trees grown indoors.
- Regular repotting, root trimming, fertilizing, and pruning will help your tree grow much faster.
Growing a bonsai tree no doubt seems like a daunting task; that is why it is often said to be a marathon, not a sprint. Still, using the information in this article, you can help your tree grow a little bit faster.
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