Bonsai is complex and every tree trained as bonsai requires different techniques! If you try to learn everything and read all possible books, websites, and information, you'll just get confused! Fuku-Bonsai's True Indoor Bonsai is easier and successful because all of our materials are written specifically for the Dwarf Schefflera that we supply. The best most economical way to begin is by ordering three sets of Introductory Workshop Packages.
WHY THREE? Because when you order three or more plant items to be sent to a single address, the shipping is free! So you'll get three sets for just a $1 more than if you ordered two sets and paid $24 shipping. You'll get a lot more experience with three trees from the start!
WHAT TO DO WITH EACH OF THE THREE? Plan to create two SUMOs and one ROOTS to understand the basics of potting which is where you need to acquire initial skills. As shown in COMPLETING THREE INTRODUCTORY WORKSHOP PACKAGES! you'll learn three slightly different basic potting concepts. Upon completing the three, you'll be comfortable doing basic potting. If you have questions, please email us before you start. After you complete the first one, send photos and request a critique before starting the second, then send photos and critique before starting the third.
WHY TWO SUMOS? Sumo is the premium styling concept for tropical bonsai and all Introductory Workshop Packages have a range of trees brought to this stage with Sumo techniques. Sumo pre-training creates stout lower trunks with taper, multiple apical growth or low branches, and a shallow, compact root system. If you have evenly distributed roots, plant the tree on top of the accent rock. If the plant has one-sided roots, use the accent rock against the side of the trunk with fewer roots to visually balance the tree and to create a scene. Sumo trees can be trained a number of ways so having at least two will allow you to explore this styling area. As the bonsai develops each tree could be moved into very different advanced styling directions.
WHY ONE ROOTS? Roots can become taller, upright elegant banyans and between Sumo and Roots, it is possible to train all banyan forms. Trees with longer established roots are also very successful for creating attractive "roots-over-taller-rock" styling. By potting together three trees trained with tall roots, you can create the highly desirable "Rainforest Banyan" styling. So by completing three Introductory Workshop Packages, you'll have experienced enough to decide whether you want to make True Indoor Bonsai a major hobby or to keep it as a limited casual experience.
THE THREE INTRODUCTORY WORKSHOPS
LEARN TO GROW THE TREES VIGOROUSLY! Bonsai will develop if given appropriate care and the best possible growing conditions. In general, the more light the better and usually the best place is within a few feet of a sunny south facing window. If your growing area is far from a window, consider using supplemental light in the form of a desk lamp or compact fluorescent light. For those with larger collections, fluorescent lights work well with multiple tubes producing better results. For those seeking faster superior growth, consider growing outdoors whenever the low temperatures at night exceed 50°F. You'll need to learn to adjust your watering and fertilizing practices when growing outdoors. With more light, you'll need to increase the amount of fertilizer so leaves are thick and dark green. These adjustments will be discussed in more detail in the future as more customers begin growing Dwarf Schefflera outdoors.
LEARN TO WATER PROPERLY. If trees dry out in less than one week, try completely filling a large baking pan with 1/4" river gravel and add some water so it will increase the humidity. The surface of the gravel should be dry and your plants will love it! Continue to water weekly by soaking the plant for 30 minutes in a bowl or tub of water; drain, and replace on the DRY gravel in the humidity tray. Don't overwater or your roots will rot and the plants will die! Look for firm white root tips. If the plant dies and the trunk becomes soft and is easy to peel off the bark, it is very likely that the plant was over-watered. This is the major and most common problem! Each time you water, examine the trunks, branches, and leaf stems carefully for any insects, but also to quickly spot any tiny vertical creases that indicate the plant is dehydrating and not getting enough water. Do not add water mid-week. Instead switch to watering every six days instead of once per week. It is preferable to go from 100% water saturation to 5% to 10% moisture to allow maximum air and water exchange to keep the plant healthy. Plants that are misted will grow soft and if watered mid-week, the roots never get to dry out and will rot. DO NOT KEEP THE TREE ALWAYS GROWING IDEALLY! At Fuku-Bonsai we grow tough plants that are allowed to wilt and able to adapt. In contrast plants grown in greenhouses with automatic watering and nutrients will have optimum growth but very little ability to adapt and will quickly die if not given optimum conditions! Grow tough plants! Learn to judge whether a plant needs water just by lifting the pot. Before saturation watering, the pot is light and noticeably heavier when it comes out of the water soaking.
OBSERVE PLANT GROWTH RATES AND PREPARE TO PRUNE. If you removed some or most of the older compound leaves to off-set any loss of roots during potting, growth will resume within two months. The plants should be sparse and light able to reach the new growth points. The new leaves will be relatively compact. But if the tree is allowed to retain a dense amount of foliage, the new compound leaf will have a long elongated stem. Learn to keep the tree sparse to see the structure and prevent elongation. Each new leaf will be larger, but do not prune until 7 or 8 leaves have developed and leaves are noticeably larger. That indicates the growth rate is accelerating and you're developing growth bulk. When such trees are pruned, you'll get multiple regrowth to improve the shapes. If you prune too early and try to create small leaves, you'll stunt the tree and regrowth will be poor. Dwarf Schefflera must be able to build up strength between prunings. Generally a new leaf will emerge every three weeks, so it will take about 21 to 24 weeks (5 to 6 months) for 7 to 8 new leaves to develop on a branch. Prune only the branch that is growing the most vigorously and more rapid growth will switch to another branch. Fuku-Bonsai creates maximum growth and allows all branches to over-grow; then prune all back heavily. This produces heavier trunks and multiple new growth on the entire plant.
SOME CUSTOMERS WAIT AND OBSERVE UNTIL THEIR INITIAL TREES BEGIN DEVELOP AND ARE CONTENT WITH A FEW PLANTS. Others are less patient. Generally it will take one to two years for a recently completed Introductory Workshop I to achieve the development stage of our Potted Living Lovables (items 4LL8). Upon achieving that development standard, the plants are partially root-bound and it can be repotted back into the same pot, and pruned back hard to create a more developed small bonsai. But if the goal is to create a medium size bonsai, customers order our #8 Conversion Kit and pot up their tree. With a larger root system, the tree again grows more vigorously and develops further. Several years later, when the tree is slightly root-bound and has achieved the development stage of our Living Sculpture (items 8LS8), they order a #17 Conversion Kit to move towards a larger bonsai. Moving the tree progressively from a good small bonsai to a good medium bonsai to a good large bonsai is recommended as it is easier to control the growth rate and develop higher quality bonsai. Going straight into a large #17 Conversion Kit is a lot more difficult and not recommended.
IF YOU HAVE THE INTEREST, ENERGY, AND ENTHUSIASM, GROWING BONSAI REALLY TAKES A LOT OF PATIENCE AND DISCIPLINE AS YOU WAIT FOR YOUR TREES TO GROW! Generally our customers have limited indoor space and we recommend that to make faster progress, to develop the discipline and skills to train 4LL8 plant with a #8 Conversion Kit (Intermediate Workshop II), rather than the larger older Advanced Workshop III).
BY ORDERING THE INTERMEDIATE WORKSHOP II (IN SUMO, ROOTS, OR DRAGON STYLES) BEFORE YOUR OWN INTRODUCTORY WORKSHOP I PLANTS REACH THAT STAGE, YOU GET TO WORK ON LARGER MORE DEVELOPED PLANTS THAT WOULD NORMALLY TAKE FIVE YEARS OR MORE TO DEVELOP. In addition to saving a few dollars compared to purchasing older plants that have received more training, you get to work on strong high-quality plants that already have a lot of character and have the opportunity to do the design and training.
FOR THOSE WHO WILL BE GROWING OUTDOORS OR HAVE A LOT OF GROWING AREAS, IT MAY BE PREFERABLE AND POSSIBLE TO GROW LARGER SIZES AND THE ADVANCED WORKSHOP III PLANTS WILL ALLOW YOU TO WORK ON TREES THAT MAY HAVE TAKEN OVER TEN YEARS TO DEVELOP. At this stage of development, each tree is taking on unique character and I strongly recommend doing a range of planning sketches before locking in your training strategy and pre-resolving any questions or issues. Consider sending us photos and sketches for a "second opinion" and possible procedural training recommendations.
DON'T START TRAINING UNTIL YOU HAVE AN EXCITING DESIGN CLEARLY IN YOUR MIND. USE PIECES OF STRING OR WIRE TO MARK YOUR MAJOR BRANCHES TO BE RETAINED AND TAKE YOUR TIME AS IT'S EASY TO CUT OFF THE WRONG BRANCH BUT VERY DIFFICULT TO GLUE BACK! If you follow this detail-oriented strategy, you'll one day be able to quickly recall the training strategy for each of the trees in your collection. A major factor is holding back until all factors are favorable to begin. Be sure the plant is healthy and growing strongly. Sometimes I may wait two to four years for a promising plant to begin growing strongly before I begin training, even though I may have a strong exciting gameplan from the very beginning. So bonsai does require patience if you don't have enough plants to satisfy your interest. But it also demands discipline and the desire to create a beautiful healthy tree and this is what we mean when we say: "MAN AND NATURE IN HARMONY!"
THAT'S REALLY GOING TO DETERMINE WHETHER YOU'LL PRODUCE HIGHEST QUALITY BONSAI OR NOT! FIRST YOU NEED TO ACQUIRE PLANTS WITH THE HIGHEST POTENTIAL, BUT WITHOUT A GOOD DESIGN PLAN AND STRATEGY, YOUR TREE WILL NOT ACHIEVE ITS FULL POTENTIAL! Too often I've seen headstrong hobbyists who prematurely attack a tree without adequate pre-planning. Having tried and failed to create bonsai, when they get our plants, they just can't help attacking the tree immediately. They chop away and are really proud of their results even if they achieve only a tiny percentage of the tree's potential. It's really hard to discourage that type of energy and enthusiasm, especially if there's a lot of creative potential apparent. For those who fit this description, are willing to develop discipline, and will agree to share their results in this Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai, I invite you to contact me at email@example.com for special "fast-track" assistance!
This editorial was published in January 2013 as part of the premier
issue number one of the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai.
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© Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai Inc., 2013