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TOPIC: Complete newbie, need some help getting started

Complete newbie, need some help getting started 6 months 4 weeks ago #37154

Hello everyone,

I'd like to get started with Bonsai trees. Ideally, I would like to cultivate them from scratch, because I believe that this would be the most fulfilling way of growing them – I don't mind if it takes years. So far, I have no experience with Bonsai trees whatsoever, though, so I could use some assistance. I will probably have a ton of questions during my journey, but first things first:

Let's start with the tree choice. I'd like to have at least some trees indoors, so I believe I should get a Ficus, since this is considered a classic choice for beginners. About the outdoor ones, I'm living in Central Europe and I have a balcony that is pointing to the South East. Can you give me some recommendations based on this climate and my skill level (or lack thereof)? Based on the pictures I've seen so far, one of my favorites would probably be the Japanese Maple with its lovely red leaves - could this be a viable choice already?

Also, I have heard that Fall is generally considered the ideal time to plant Bonsai trees, not sure if this varies depending on the type of tree. Right now, it's the middle of winter over here, does it even make sense to plant (outdoor) trees at all at this time?

Finally, what are the most basic tools and items that are required at this stage? Obviously, I'll need seeds, but what about soil, pots, and everything else?

Like I said, I will most likely have a lot more questions about this, but let's leave it at that for now. Thanks in advance for your answers, and let's hope that I will have a smooth start in this community and the world of Bonsai in general.
  • Harrier
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Complete newbie, need some help getting started 6 months 4 weeks ago #37159

First off, read. A lot. Get some bonsai books and horticultural books. You need to know how to grow and take care of plants before you even start taking care of one. Read up on tools, preferred species, and styles of bonsai. This website and Bonsai Mirai are great places to get started. Youtube is also good, but take everything with a grain of salt. Everyone has their own opinions about how to do this. If you have a local bonsai club, get in contact with them about the best practices in your area.

Type of tree:
Ficus are tropical trees, and though they do ok indoors, it will not really thrive. As for outdoor trees, you want to start with something that's already grown for a year or two. Starting a tree from a seed may be something to try once you get into it, but it won't help you learn bonsai. Again, check with a local club or one near your area for recommendations and guidance. You want to get something already in a pot, not something you have to wait years to begin working on. A small plant from a nursery is a great way to get started without too much expense.

Hope this helps somewhat, and good luck!
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Complete newbie, need some help getting started 6 months 4 weeks ago #37161

Harrier wrote: Also, I have heard that Fall is generally considered the ideal time to plant Bonsai trees


You are planting seeds so you are not planting bonsai trees.
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Complete newbie, need some help getting started 6 months 4 weeks ago #37178

Thanks a lot for your replies!

When it comes to Bonsai clubs, I'm afraid I'm out of luck. The nearest one I could find was 50km away, and even within the larger area, the only club's website that wasn't a dead link hasn't been updated since 2011. I guess it's up to me to bring the art of Bonsai to this area.

el_cheezer wrote: You want to start with something that's already grown for a year or two. Starting a tree from a seed may be something to try once you get into it, but it won't help you learn bonsai.

Yeah, now that I think about it, it does make sense to get a grown plant first in order to get a feel for proper Bonsai care. It would be a shame to spend years raising seeds, only to have no idea what to do with them when they're finally grown. Then again, could I maybe consider planting some seeds 'on the side' while I practice caring for an already grown Bonsai tree? If all goes well, I should have had plenty of time to get some experience by the time they're grown.

As I mentioned, there isn't much in the way of Bonsai clubs or shops over here, but I suppose I could always visit a regular tree nursery in the area. Maybe they can give me some advice, or possibly even some young plants to sell.

Would you advise me to get a fully grown Bonsai tree to get some practice before getting a 1-2 year old plant to grow?

el_cheezer wrote: Ficus are tropical trees, and though they do ok indoors, it will not really thrive.

Does this apply to all so-called indoor trees? This website recommends Ficus as a choice for beginners, because they're supposed to be quite resilient and tolerant to low humidity, thus making them relatively easy to care for. Would you recommend another type of tree, or did you only mean to say that an indoor environment doesn't provide the optimal conditions for them to thrive? Or do you maybe think that I should stick to outdoor trees altogether for now?

Auk wrote:

Harrier wrote: Also, I have heard that Fall is generally considered the ideal time to plant Bonsai trees

You are planting seeds so you are not planting bonsai trees.

So the advice of planting in Fall only applies to seedlings or already grown trees, but not seeds? I believe an article on this website also recommended Fall as the season for planting plain seeds. If that's not the case, is there anything else to consider about timing when it comes to planting seeds?
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Complete newbie, need some help getting started 6 months 4 weeks ago #37181

50k is no distance, I regularly do more than that to a club. You can sow seed anytime of the year, but it dos pay to stratify depending on the species. Outdoor trees are much easier to keep a alive and b healthy. Ficus are tough but not that easy to train. Getting a plant that is several years old or preferably more is by far the easiest way to start. Growing from seed is ok, but will take many years.
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Complete newbie, need some help getting started 6 months 3 weeks ago #37189

Get as many books and take as many classes as possible!

I really like your determination as well.
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Complete newbie, need some help getting started 6 months 3 weeks ago #37203

m5eaygeoff wrote: 50k is no distance, I regularly do more than that to a club. You can sow seed anytime of the year, but it dos pay to stratify depending on the species. Outdoor trees are much easier to keep a alive and b healthy. Ficus are tough but not that easy to train. Getting a plant that is several years old or preferably more is by far the easiest way to start. Growing from seed is ok, but will take many years.

Well, I guess we all have different travelling habits. For me, at least, 50km drives aren't really an option at this point, especially while I'm still in the early planning stages.

The entire project is on a short hiatus of sorts now, since our bathroom is currently being renovated and much of the house is therefore in a state of chaos, so there is a lot of stuff to deal with. I already had a look at some online shops, though, and I found a bunch of young plants (around 2 years old) at a price range of €5-10, which should be great to get started. Most fully grown plants seem to cost upwards of €35, which is more than I'm willing to spend at this point, at least on a single tree. I can imagine that the cost of the necessary equipment etc. will eventually easily put me within that range and beyond, but I'll get to that in time.

JosephCooper wrote: Get as many books and take as many classes as possible!

I really like your determination as well.

Generally, I believe more in the concept of “learning by doing”, but I realize that theory is important too, and that I'll have to do a fair bit of reading on my own.

Can you point me to some specific topics that I definitely should read about before I get my hands on a bonsai seedling?

Thanks for your support.
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Complete newbie, need some help getting started 6 months 3 weeks ago #37204

If you are going the seedling way, I can recommend reading about growing trunks:

www.growingbonsai.net/growing/trunks/

And the size of bonsai:
www.growingbonsai.net/how-big-should-my-bonsai-be/
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Complete newbie, need some help getting started 6 months 3 weeks ago #37226

Thanks a lot for the links, leatherback, they do seem quite helpful.
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