Materials For Indoor Bonsai.

Centuries ago the art of bonsai originated in China and spread to Japan where it underwent much modification prior to its dissemination to the western world.

The Japanese use the trees found in their backyards and woods which are native temperate zone species such as pine, maple, beech etc.

In America we have accepted traditional bonsai but we have modified these methods and are using trees previously untried and unknown in classical bonsai for the newly evolving "indoor bonsai" specialty.

Why bother?
The population of the world is moving to urban environments where outdoor growing is difficult. Growing outdoors has problems such as extreme temperature variation, pollution and vandalism. Apartment dwellers, and home renters can grow trees on a window sill or under artificial light. In addition, during winter outdoor trees are in cold storage and unavailable for work and enjoyment; with the addition of an indoor bonsai collection the fun continues year round. Last, indoor bonsai offer non-traditional materials, and the freedom to experiment with styles and flamboyant pots that would be sneered at in traditional bonsai.

Nature never created an "indoor" tree so materials must be able to cope with the rigors of the indoor habitat. Trees must tolerate low light, low humidity, and lack of chilling. Surprisingly few species have been used indoors, and much work needs to be done to determine which plants will survive this hostile environment. Every indoor grower is a pioneer adding to the fund of knowledge about plant survival and suitability. It is vital that indoor bonsai growers communicate their success as well as failures.
Growing Techniques

Trees need light to survive, and even more for growth, flowering and fruiting. Growers can utilize one of several techniques. First, those lucky enough to have a greenhouse have enough light for successful bonsai culture. Two, a south or west windowsill will provide adequate light for many tree species. Three, if natural light is unavailable great success can be had by growing plants under fluorescent tubes. Plants should be as close as possible to the bulbs, as light energy drops drastically even at one or two feet from the tubes. Fluorescent tubes are cool to the touch and leaves will not be damaged by proximity to the bulb. Special plant grow lights may allow better plant growth and flowering.
Simple homemade fluorescent indoor light setup by Cyril Grum
The second critical factor is humidity. Most homes are incredibly dry due to the heating and cooling necessary for human comfort levels. In fact the humidity in our homes is less than the average desert. Plants, excepting cacti, will not grow and flourish in such low humidity. Any technique to humidify the area around the plants will allow better plant growth. Misting and spraying plants frequently helps but is impractical. A humidifier close to the plants may be beneficial. Last, surround the growing areas with a plastic "tent" and increase the humidity around the plants, but don't completely seal plants in plastic since fungus will take over.

Temperature is another important factor in plant growth. In general most plants thrive indoors in a range of 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher or lower temperatures will result in slower growth of some plants or even their death. Varying temperatures from a daytime high and cooling down twenty degrees at night allows materials considered difficult to be grown indoors.

In twenty three years I have culled through plants searching for plants that will tolerate indoor conditions. Some species have been failures and others have been very successful. Following is a list of ten plant species that I have found to be suitable for indoor bonsai and suggestions to allow success with these plants.

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