Keeping a healthy indoor bonsai plant is tricky, but the effort is worth it

Caring for an indoor bonsai tree is a lot of work, but if you can meet the demands of this needy plant, it should stay beautiful for years to come.

In the garden

Question: I received an indoor bonsai plant as a holiday gift. I don’t know what kind of plant it is, but it looks like a miniature tree. I am anything but a green thumb. How can I keep this beautiful plant alive in its little pot?

A: Keeping a bonsai alive is no easy task, and caring for an indoor bonsai can be tricky. That said, if you are able to meet the needs of your bonsai, there is a reasonable chance that you can keep it alive for years to come.

Start by finding a warm, well-lit place out of direct sunlight. Unless it is a succulent, typical houseplants require higher humidity than dry air inside the house, especially in winter. Increase the humidity by placing the pot on a pebble tray constantly filled with water, but never allow the level to rise higher than the tops of the stones.

Gardening events

Ciscoe’s Choices

The Northwest Horticultural Society presents “Garden Travels with Ciscoe”:

7.15 p.m., Wednesday January 13 (reception at 6.45 p.m.). I will share plants and stories from public and private gardens around the world. Cost: $ 5 members; $ 10 non-members. Address: Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 NE 41st St., Seattle.

“Pruning Japanese Maple Trees” at the Swansons Nursery:

10 a.m., Saturday January 16. Professional pruner and landscape architect Dan Gilchrist shares his expertise on pruning Japanese maples, with a special focus on Japanese weeping maples. No cost. Address: 9701 15th Ave. NW, Seattle.

Seminar “The Art of Bonsai: Group Plants à la Penjing” at Sky Nursery:

1 p.m., Saturday January 16. Local bonsai guru Robert Cho shows how to create miniature landscapes complete with multiple plants, rocks and other elements. No cost. Address: 18528 Aurora Avenue N., Shoreline.

Every morning, spray your plant with lukewarm water. Good watering is essential. In such a small pot, the roots of a bonsai can dry out quickly, but especially in winter, constantly moist soil can lead directly to the compost bin. Lift the pot often to determine if it is light, then water only if the soil surface is dry to the touch.

Feed with a soluble, half-concentrated houseplant fertilizer every two weeks in the spring and summer.

In about two years, in mid-March, you will need to take the plant out of the pot and cut off about a third of the roots before repotting it in the same container. Continue by pruning off an equal part of the top growth to keep everything in balance.

If you can manage to keep your bonsai alive for this long, your thumb will be a vibrant emerald green!

Question: I brought my potted gardenia into the house for the winter hoping to enjoy the fragrant flowers. The first thing he did was drop all of his buds, and now he’s starting to drop his leaves. What’s the trick to overwintering a gardenia indoors?

A: With dark, leathery evergreen leaves and pure white, sublimely fragrant flowers, gardenias would be the perfect houseplant if they weren’t so picky.

Keeping a thriving gardenia indoors during the winter is a taxing experience, and usually the best you can hope for is to keep the plant alive until you can put it back outside in the spring.

Conditions must be almost perfect for a gardenia to bloom in the house. Daytime temperatures should stay between 70 and 75 degrees and nighttime temperatures should hover around 60. It should also be exposed to direct sunlight or under a grow light for at least six hours a day.

Watering is also tricky: the soil should stay moist, but it should dry out a bit between waterings. Waterlogged soil quickly causes root rot.

Finally, it is virtually impossible to keep the humidity in the house high enough to keep a gardenia happy. Even if you place it on a pebble tray and spray it regularly, it will inevitably end up with spider mites, and the only way to control it is to shower with your plant as often as possible to get rid of the mites underneath. sheets. . (I highly recommend doing this when your partner is away from home.).

If your gardenia survives until spring, start moving it outside in good weather until around Mother’s Day, where it can stay outside for the rest of the summer. I hope you will have a lot of flowers during the summer. You will deserve it after all the work it will take to keep this prima donna alive through the winter.

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