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How to Buy a Healthy Bonsai Tree

How to Buy a Healthy Bonsai Tree

Much of your success in growing and training a bonsai will be based on the tree you start with. If you’re buying a bonsai tree for the first time, there are two things to consider before you make your purchase.

First, where you buy your bonsai tree is very important. While you may be able to find a bonsai at a big box store such as Home Depot or Lowes, or even at the grocery store, the people who handle the trees at these stores are less likely to know much about bonsai care. As a result, the trees may not be in the best of health. It is much better to purchase your bonsai from a reputable bonsai nursery. These nurseries have experts who can help you select the right tree as well as the appropriate food, tools, and other supplies.

Also, rather than considering an online vendor, be sure to take the time to look for your tree in person. It is critical that you see exactly what you are buying so you can choose a healthy, well-cared-for plant. Your goal is to buy a bonsai that will thrive, not one that will die within a week of purchase.

Second, the initial health of your tree when you purchase it makes a huge difference! So how do you tell if the bonsai tree you are buying is healthy or ailing? Here are things to look for:

  1. Leaves or needles should be glossy and green. Avoid trees with foliage that is shriveled, brown, or yellow.
  2. Avoid plants with brown spots on the leaves or any kind of white or black spots on the undersides of leaves, as this can indicate a pest, virus, or fungus.
  3. Inspect the soil in the tree’s pot. If it’s very damp, check to see if the leaves are yellowing as this can indicate overwatering. If the soil is dry to the touch, look for needles or leaves that have fallen off or are wrinkled as this means the tree is dehydrated. Ideally, the soil should be moist but not soggy.
  4. Check out the roots. The tree should be securely anchored in its container, and any visible roots should be spread out evenly. If the trunk is wobbly, you should pick another plant.
  5. The trunk should be both sturdy and tapered, with a thick base that ends in a narrow apex, or top.
  6. Look for wire marks or other scars on the trunk and branches. The bonsai may already have been wired too tightly. You want a tree with smooth, unmarked bark.
  7. Ideally, try to find a tree with branches that are distributed all around the trunk, getting smaller in size as they move up the tree. It is all right if lower branches bend down, but middle and upper branches should be horizontally or even pointing upwards.

Take the time to thoroughly inspect not only your tree but also your nursery, and ask the owner or specialist questions about bonsai care to gauge their expertise. That way, you’ll minimize the risk of buying an unhealthy tree!