I bought a small bonsai and have
had it in my living room for several months. It's failing fast _ what
should I do to save it?
Put it outdoors, or at least move it to an indoor location with cooler
temperatures, higher humidity, and abundant sunlight. Many bonsai, such
as those crafted from junipers and maples, cannot live very long in the
low light and high temperatures found indoors. At the very least, bonsai
should spend the growing season outdoors. Temperate species can be left
outdoors all year as long as they are not subjected to repeated freezing
and thawing. Tropical plants like schefflera, weeping fig, and Natal plum
can be grown as bonsai inside the home, as long as you can provide enough
light and humidity and moderate indoor temperatures. In the past, bonsai
specimens were almost always temperate plants, but more and more tropical
bonsai are being produced so those without an outdoor space for bonsai
can enjoy them as well.
What's the difference between bonsai
Bonsai and penjing are closely related art forms. Penjing takes its name
from the Chinese name for miniature trees or landscape plantings and predates
the development of bonsai. Even rock landscapes that lack plant materials
are considered penjing. Elements of penjing eventually migrated to Japan
and became known as bonsai, which is the Japanese word for miniature trees
and forest plantings. Landscape stones that lack plant material are called
beanstalk. In the past, penjing took on unusual shapes that were symbolic,
and sometimes the styling of early penjing was far from the natural form
of the plants used. Over time, bonsai slowly began to adapt a more naturalistic,
free flowing style. More recently, some penjing have also come to embrace
a style that echoes nature as well. Today, it is very difficult for those
outside the bonsai and penjing communities to tell the difference between
bonsai and penjing. Both are outstanding examples of Asian art expressed
in plants and natural materials, and both forms continue to evolve.
What is ikebana?
Ikebana is the ancient Japanese art of flower arrangement. It is a disciplined
art form in which rules of placement guide the flower arranger to strategically
place natural materials in an appropriate container; the finished product
evokes a deep appreciation for the symbolism of nature and the ikebana
artist's creative expression. Many distinct schools of ikebana have evolved
over the years.
What is suiseki?
Nature and time weather stones into shapes that sometimes suggest miniature
landscapes, human forms, animals, or even flowers. These stones are collected
by enthusiasts and are known as viewing stones. In China, they are sometimes
called scholar stones. In Japan, viewing stones are called suiseki. The
value of a given stone is related to its beauty, color, form, and rarity.
Sometimes stones are cut to create a flat surface on the bottom, but this
decreases the value of the stone. Suiseki are not usually polished or sealed;
they are displayed as nature has created them. Suiseki are often displayed
in a tray, or suiban, on a thin layer of sand or stone chips, or on a wooden
base known as a daiza that has been carved to fit the stone.
How often should I water my bonsai or penjing
We generally water our pieces once a day. In the heat of summer, they are
watered more often; in winter, they are watered less frequently. Other
factors, such as humidity, cloud cover, temperature, and the time that
has elapsed since the last repotting are taken into account for each piece
to determine whether or not it needs to be watered.
How often should bonsai pieces be
Repotting may be done as often as every year, but for older specimens,
the interval may be as long as five years. Older trees need less frequent
repotting; the goal is to maintain their existing proportions, with moderate
growth. Bonsai specimens are repotted to refresh a portion of the soil
and to renew the vigor of the plant, not to produce a noticeable increase
I'm very interested in the Asian art
forms of bonsai, penjing, suiseki, and ikebana. Where can I find more information?
A good place to start is the National Bonsai Foundation (NBF) at www.bonsai-nbf.org.
Here you will find lots of links with access to bonsai and suiseki information
of all kinds. Information on all of these related Asian arts can also be
found at The Bonsai Site and
All About Bonsai. If you'd
like some tips on finding sources for bonsai, look for help in our
Plant Sources Page.
For more information about the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum: