Grow your first bonsai from seed

Grow your first bonsai from seed

Most beginners to bonsai growing will purchase a tree that is already established, from the nursery. From there, they might learn how to prune, and how to wire the tree, to create a certain look. If you are one of such people, have you considered growing a bonsai tree from seed (from scratch)? Here are some tips on growing bonsai from seed.

Trees usually begin from seeds that germinate. Although they can grow from offshoots, by default they grow from seeds. So the bonsai grower needs to simulate the conditions for the seed germination process as much as possible. The clues are provided by Nature.

Please note that these are all general guidelines, and only applies to temperate bonsai species.

Planting the seeds in the fall, allows for the colder and moister conditions to soften the outer shell of the seeds. In fact, this environment is simulated in a method known as “stratification”. Stratification is a process in which seeds are subjected to cold and moist conditions to “pre-treat” them. This cold environment ends the seed’s dormancy, and triggers germination. The length of time varies by species, and climate.

young bonsai tree

You can help the process along by giving the soil proper fertilization. The recommendation is once a month with a (#affiliatelink) 10-10-10 NKP fertilizer, from early spring till mid-summer, when the first phase of soil warming starts to set in. For indoor bonsai, this whole process can be controlled much better with artificial heating. The soil should be kept moist; not wet (wet soil is fatal for almost all types of plants).

Sow the seeds in the bonsai container filled with good soil (and good drainage), and then monitor periodically. How deep should you plant them? Plant them about half to a quarter of an inch beneath the soil surface. Use a moisture gauge (thermometer-like device) to measure water content in the soil.

Most of the time, bonsai is not started from seed, they are bought young from nurseries, and then shaped into proper bonsai. However, growing them from seed is a challenge in itself, and it gives you the feeling of having nursed the tree from the very beginning. Once the small shoots of the bonsai tree emerge from the ground in spring, you know you have succeeded. However, germinating the bonsai tree is only the first stage in a long term project; you still have to shape and train the tree into a bonsai!

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