Updated: Jan 23
So you have bought your very first Bonsai and it is likely a Juniper.
Junipers are a good tree to start off with as they are hardy and have a fairly simple maintenance routine, But this doesn't mean you should be complacent.
Lets start with the single biggest mistake i see with Junipers and other beginner Bonsai Plants..
Junipers are an outdoor plant, In fact the more sun they get the better, This needs to be Direct sunlight and not filtered light through a window. Sunlight or Photosynthesis if we are getting technical is what keeps the Bonsai alive and thriving ( along with other things such as water ). The more sun a Juniper gets the healthier it will be, the tighter the Foliage will be and the better the colouring will be. Many people fear that the sun will ruin their new beloved Bonsai Tree but the damage is actually from temperature rather then the direct sun light. On really hot days it is good to mist your Juniper Bonsai to help reduce Transpiration which is water loss through the foliage. If you cant mist your Juniper Bonsai on really hot days then its ideal to find a spot in your garden that gets plenty of morning sun but is shaded by the hottest time of the day. As long as your tree gets a few hours of sun in the morning it will be fine.
There is no set schedule for when or how much to water a Bonsai Tree. How often you need to water comes down to a few variables which include;
How much water retention your soil mix has ( in a more simple term, How long your soil stays wet )
What the weather conditions are
How healthy the trees root system is
and how well draining your pot is.
The best method for watering is the watch and react method. Check your soil to see how much it has dried out, if it is still pretty damp then it doesn't need watering but if it is starting to get a bit on the dry side it could use a drink. To put it simple don't ever let the soil completely dry out and don't keep the soil really wet. To much oxygen in the root system will kill the roots and they will no longer be able to take up water and nutrients, on the other hand too much water for many days will give your tree root rot.
Pruning has 2 purposes, Aesthetics and Development.
If your pruning for development then you have a plan in mind and you know what you want to achieve. Maybe you are trying to push strength to another area of the tree or are trying to develop ramification.
If your pruning for Aesthetics then this would just simply be trying to keep the shape of the tree as it grows out. Either way you want to avoid pruning a juniper like a hedge. This will cause die back and the foliage tips will turn brown, Junipers need to be trimmed between the needles. Do not prune too much foliage off the tree as it will become weak and die, remember before when we said junipers get their energy from the sun? well think of the foliage as solar panels, the more panels the more energy is being created, the more panels you take away the less energy is being created. This is not to say you cant trim a tree back and create pads etc etc, just dont trim it back and leave 2 branches when the tree had 8 for example.
Fertalizing a Juniper Bonsai Tree Can be done simply with a slow release pellet form fertalizer. This prevents burning of the root system and is very effective as the tree gets fed every time you water it. Try to stick to an even NPK Ratio so something like 10-10-10.
You could use another ratio if your were try to achieve a particular result with your tree but that is a discussion for another artical.
Wiring can take place at pretty much anytime of the year, if possible i would try to wire in between rapid growth seasons like spring to try and avoid excessive wire bite. After wiring keep an eye on the tree over the next few months and make sure that the wire isnt biting in too hard. If your wire does bite in really bad this isn't detrimental to the trees health but it will leave visible. It will heal over though pretty quickly so dont panic too much.
So that wraps it up, This is only a very basic guide with some pretty broad guidelines but it will get you going on your way to keeping your tree healthy.
If you have bought a pre styled Bonsai Tree then the soil mix has already been done for you but we will lightly touch on this now in case you want to re pot in the future and change your soil mix. Junipers love a well draining soil, something that doesn't stay too wet. Its not easy to say straight up what mix to use as there is no 1 mix that is king. When Bonsai Enthusiasts mix soil each mix is usually different from the next but they all follow the same fundamentals. You want a component that is Well draining ( so something thats coarse ) You want a component that has moisture retention and you also want a component that can hold nutrients. You can research what components do what and make your own mix from there. For our beginner trees here at Bonsai-En we use 2 parts perlite , 1 part pine, 1 part charcoal and 1 part peat.
This is a mix we tried and tested and our trees seem the thrive in it, This doesn't mean its the best mix around but it is what has worked for us and kept many trees alive and producing plenty of new growth
If you want to further your education check out our Master Class Series Online Bonsai Course! https://www.bonsai-en.com.au/master-class-series