Sources of Bonsai Material

All bonsai starts with a specimen plant material that the bonsai practitioner wishes to train into a bonsai form. These plants should have several characteristics so as to make them ideal for a bonsai. To display the aged look of a bonsai within a short time, the selected plant is often grown on mature stock or is collected from wild. A specimen may be selected based on the bonsai characteristics it already processed like a specimen from the wild which has a great age or a nursery plant which has a taper and is scar free or specimens that are known for their hardiness. The distinguishing traits of a good bonsai material include factor like colour of bark, bark texture, branch and trunk structure, shape and size of leave etc. Once you have selected and grown specimens, reproducing from these bonsai plants through various means of propagation will be discussed hereby.

Growing from Seed

The only way to grow a bonsai right from the start is to grow it from a seed, though it may take a long time for it to grow. The two advantages in growing bonsai trees from seed are firstly, certain species of plants which are hard to be found can be grown at home at a relatively cheap price. Secondly, once the seed have germinate and the tree begins to grow, the grower can control each and every aspect of the tree, at every stage of its development and converse it into a quality bonsai. There is no " specimen bonsai seeds" available, as bonsai are created from normal seeds and peat mixed with sand to grow a bonsai seeding. The potting mix should always remain moist.

Growing from Stem Cuttings

The bonsai material that is propagated through this popular method are genetically identical to parent tree. This method is faster than growing trees from seed. In this method, part of a growing branch of a tree is cut and placed in a growing medium to develop roots.

Stem cuttings should be strong and healthy and should be around 2-4 inches long. They should be cut at an angle of 45° and never in a straight line. All the leaves should be pruned to avoid dissipation of water. The pruned branch is then soaked in water for about 1 hour to let it absorb enough water. This is required because the branch may not be able to absorb enough water for a period after being inserted into soil.

Cuttings will strike roots faster in a porous and well aerated medium which drains well and retains moisture sand, brick/charcoal piece, rice husk or vermiculite can be added to make soil porous. The soil should be sufficient watered in advanced and the water should be allowed to permeate the soil. Newly planted cuttings must be kept in a shade to encourage faster rooting.

Growing By Grafting

This method is used when propagation by cuttings or by seeds are not feasible. In grafting, the selected branch of a desired tree is attached to the bark of a plotted plant. The species of tree to be grafted is called the ' scion' and the tree to which it is going to be attached is called the 'root stock'. Both the root stock and the scion should be of the same species for a successful grafting to take place.

Growing by budding

Budding is a grafting technique in which a single bud from the desired scion is used and is done just before or during the growing seed. The scion and the rootstock must be once again, compatible. A healthy bud along with a small splinter of the wood underneath is cut off from the stem using an upward slicing motion. A 'T' cut is made in the stem of the rootstock and the bark is separated from the cambium. The bark is then exposing a pocket into which the bud is slipped, so that the bud fits into the pocket snuggly. The bark flaps are closed with the bud and wrapped with a grafting tape. Once the union is healed in 2-3 weeks time, the tape is removed. The upper portrait of the rootstock is cut in order to make the scion bud grow vigorously.

Growing by layering      

Plants which cannot be propagated by any other methods, respond to layering, which is a method encouraging new roots to form on a branch while it is still attached to the parent plant. The parent plant supplies the layered branch with water and nutrients. Once the branch has grown roots, it is removed from the parent and grown as an individual plant. Layered plants will fruit earlier than the ones grown from seeds. There are two types of layering.

Ground Layering

Ground layering is a simple form of propagation which consist of bending a low branch down to the soil level, wounding the branch and then covering this portion with soil to encourage it to root. Once the roots have formed it is cut from its parent plant to produce a new plant.

Air Layering

The same principal of ground layering is applied to air layering, the only difference being that it is done on the higher branches. It is preferable to choose a rooting point which is close to the side branches, so that the new rooted tree has a thick trunk and low branches. One of the main attraction to propagating bonsai material through air layering is that a fairly large and thick trunked new tree can be created within a short time, as opposed to the other methods where it takes a long time, except collecting from the wild.

Purchasing From Plant Nurseries

Good specimens for making a bonsai may sometimes may be available in the nursery. Plants bought from nurseries are usually young but fully workable and have sufficient soil in the pot to allow them to survive for some time before it is transplanted into permanent location. The advantage of going to a nursery is that numerous plant can be viewed at a time, which allows the buyer to identify and choose a plant that has a favorable characteristics for making a good bonsai.

Purchasing from Commercial Bonsai Growers

Urban growth, where people live in flats and wants to grow plants in their confined balconies has created a demand for small potted trees like bonsai, thus creating a boom in the commercial bonsai growers market. These growers generally sell mature specimens that display bonsai qualities. They use various methods of propagation to obtain their source material and train them to an extent.

Collecting from the Wild

Collecting a specimen from the wild consist of identifying a suitable bonsai material, successfully digging it up and finally moving it and replanting it in a container. It is important that the tree is dug up with a large amount of soil surrounding it so as to avoid shocking the tree and should be transplanted immediately into a large training pot. discarded mature hedge trees and landscape plants are also good bonsai material.