I am not a fan of having a set schedule of monthly bonsai tasks. Our bonsai do not have one so why should we. But here I am making a monthly task list.
We need to observe our trees in order to know when to do a certain task. This list is just a guideline and not a set timeline. There are circumstances that change the timing of doing a task. For example, Southern Minnesota has a different growing season than Northern Minnesota. We might have an unseasonably warm winter/spring like this year 2015/2016 or we could have an overly cold winter/spring. Your winter storage plans may differ from the person down the road.
Observe the tree and let it tell you what it needs and when it needs it. There is no set in stone list of tasks.
If the timing seems off for this list please let me know.
For each month I have added links to pages on this website based on the tasks listed.
Monthly Bonsai Tasks
- Your bonsai should be completely dormant by now and in their winter storage area.
- Make sure to keep an eye on the moisture levels in your pots and watch for pests.
- Keep your bonsai and pots cleaned up to prevent mold and fungus.
- This is a good month to start planning and preparing for spring.
- Use this month to study your trees and plan for styling changes that you need to do this spring. Photographs, sketches, and notes that you have made will help remind you of what you had in mind.
- For some styling ideas, you can look at pictures in books, magazines or the internet. Remember that the roots need styling as well.
- While you are planning for repotting you could select the pots that you will use for your trees or search for a pot to purchase. Identify which pot goes with which tree.
- Include in your repotting notes how and where the tree will be positioned in the pot.
- The more notes, indicators, sketches, photos, etc. that you produce during this planning month, the easier and faster your tasks will be when the spring rush begins.
- Continue to keep a watch on the moisture in your pots. Keep an eye out for pests and fungus and keep your trees cleaned up.
- Sharpen tools, check the pot and soil supply for spring planting.
- This is the month of indecision. Some years we are able to bring our trees out of storage, other years we are still in winter.
- Our lists and notes for our various trees should be completed by now.
- This is the month that repotting gets started.
- Begin to watch your trees carefully. Repot when the buds begin to swell.
- Remove wires that were left on from the previous year. The trees will experience a flush of spring growth and the wires could cut into the tree if left on.
- As you start to take your trees out of winter storage, be careful not to subject them to cold wind or frost.
- Be ready to move your bonsai back inside if the weather turns cold again.
- On those nice warm days, get out and clean up your display tables and benches.
- Keep an eye on the thermometer for those overnight lows. End of May is our average last frost day.
- Give your plants a final dormant oil or NEEM oil spray to prepare them for the beginning of bug season.
- Repotting should be just about completed by now.
- By the end of May, everything is outdoors and needs a careful watch on trimming, watering, and fertilizer.
- When trimming deciduous varieties, cut back to one or two leaves on your vigorous trees and back to three or four leaves on those less vigorous.
- Wiring may also be done at this time.
- This is the most dangerous month for wire damage. Keep an eye on wires.
- You should be on your regular fertilizing schedule.
- Monitor the amount of water you give to your pines to control the size of new needles. Too much will encourage long candles.
- Weeds will infest your pots very rapidly this time of year. Pull weeds as soon as you see them. They will rob the bonsai of nutrients.
- Keep an eye out for pests and diseases. Systemic insecticides should control most aphid and insect attacks.
- This is the time for spring flowering trees. Take time to enjoy the flowers. Remove flowers as they wilt.
- If you are going out of town, remember that your bonsai will still require daily care. Although the spring flush of vigorous growth is now slowing, your trees still need constant watering. Maybe even more during those hot, sunny days of summer. Make arrangements for watering with a dependable neighbor, a willing relative or perhaps an automatic watering system.
- Watch for sun damage on delicate species, especially maples.
- Continue with your summer pruning. Select branches that are overcrowded and lacking light. Trim, or wire to correct the problem before the over-shaded branches die.
- Candle pruning on pines should be finished or almost finished this month.
- Keep up on your feeding schedule for all trees.
- Continue to check for pests that may be hiding under leaves, at the base of needles or in the crevices of the bark. Spray only when necessary, with the proper insecticide.
- Keep your pots weeded.
- Water, water, water.
- Rotate the trees for even light and growth.
- As the days grow shorter, your trees will begin to slow their growth. As temperatures get cooler, they begin to prepare for dormancy.
- Watering decreases.
- If you are still feeding a high nitrogen fertilizer, now is the time to switch to a 0-10-10 or some similar low or no nitrogen formula.
- It is never too soon to begin thinking about and planning your winter storage. If you have had success with your previous year’s methods, by all means, continue to do the same.
- Here are some ideas for winter storage. An unheated garage or porch. Basement window well, covered to retain the heat from the basement. Many bonsai enthusiasts bury their trees, pot and all, in their garden, in a protected spot and mulch them for the winter. Cold frames are another good winter storage idea.
- By now your winter storage plans should be final.
- Your bonsai should still be out and be experiencing some frosty morning.
- Clean up your pots and remove any weeds and debris.
- Remove any dead leaves that are still hanging on the branches by cutting through the petiole.
- Spray deciduous trees with NEEM oil. (100% Neem)
- For evergreens use a 3 in 1 spray about a week before putting them in storage.
- Water your trees before putting them away for the winter.
- Keep a constant check to ensure they do not dry out and those critters do not feast on them.
- Clean and put all hardy trees into protected storage toward the end of the month.
- You should either have all of your supplies ready or on their way for the repotting that you are planning to do this spring.
- Soil should be mixed and sifted.
- Pots should be clean and screens wired into the drainage holes.
- Continue to protect trees from freezing winds.
- Shelter trees from heavy snow and excessive rainfall.
- Do Not fertilize your trees at this time.
- Prepare the work area for the heavy repotting schedule of the upcoming months.
- Stock in a supply of fertilizers and mycorrhizal spores.
- Trees are still in storage and we can have some of our worst storms.
- Check carefully for drying but otherwise, keep in storage.
- Most of our repotting is done this month.
- Continue to provide frost protection for emerging buds and leaves. It may mean moving trees in and out of protection during this month.
- Rotate your trees for even light to avoid strong directional growth of new shoots.
- Feeding routines should be underway at this time.
- Monitor the amount of water to retain fine growth. Too much water will create long shoots on deciduous trees. Pines and other needled trees will suffer from long needles instead of delicate tips.
- While you are doing your spring tasks take notes as to treatments and solutions to be done at a later date if needed. Document this with a photo, if necessary.
- Keep a watchful eye out for pests and diseases.
- Bud prune your trees now to direct the bonsai’s energy only into the branches you need!
- The danger of frost has past and the hot months are upon us.
- The sun is getting brighter and hotter, many varieties of deciduous trees will benefit from being shaded from the afternoon sun.
- During extremely hot dry days, you may want to water twice a day. Be especially observant of small trees in small pots as they may require even more frequent watering as they are the first to dry.
- Check your trees closely each day as the spring and summer months are the times when pests and diseases are more troublesome.
- Trees that have been leaf pruned/defoliated are easier to wire at this time as the branches and twigs are more flexible than in winter or spring. It is also easier to style a tree with the foliage thinned. Defoliation should only be attempted on healthy, vigorous trees.
- Candles on your pine bonsai are chosen for development. They are trimmed and needles are removed as dictated by each species.
- Pots should be weeded as weeds appear.
- Check all wires. Remove wire before it damages your tree.
- The heat and wind will dry out your soil. Keep an eye out for heat damage and water as necessary.
- If we are having hot, scorching days, you should keep your trees in a position where they receive sun in the morning but shaded from the heat of the afternoon sun.
- Rotate the trees for even light and growth.
- In the latter part of summer and early autumn, there is a short burst of growth before trees go into winter dormancy. This could mean that wire put on in the spring might begin to cut in.
- Toward the end of the month or the first of next, fertilizing with a zero to low nitrogen and higher phosphorus and potassium fertilizer will help build wood and discourage die-back in deciduous trees. Excess fertilizer, not utilized by the tree, will be stored and used for the production of healthy growth in the spring.
- Wire the new growth that is not in line with your designs.
- Remove the wire that is no longer necessary.
- Apply lime sulfur again.
- As the cool weather progresses, water usage by the bonsai decreases so your watering schedule should reflect this change. Trees do not transpire as much and pots do not dry out as quickly during the cooler days of fall.
- Trees that were kept in partial shade during the heat of summer can be moved to sunnier locations.
- If you haven’t started your winter planning, begin to make your winter storage plans now.
- Prepare the winter storage area.
- Stop fertilizing.
- Your bonsai should be tucked away in their winter quarters.
- Keep an eye on moisture in the pots to ensure that they do not dry out.
- Keep alert for pests that may have come in with your trees.
- This is a good time to start planning for the spring season ahead. What trees are you going to repot, what pots are you going to need, acquire soil and make notes and/or sketches on styling that you will do in the spring.