Making the change to growing bonsai trees outdoors

As a small professional bonsai nursery and lover of bonsai trees generally, we want novice bonsai growers to succeed. It’s good for you, good for us and good for the art of bonsai growing overall. Making the change to growing bonsai trees outdoors is the single biggest thing that you can do to keep bonsai trees happy and healthy.

Misconceptions about bonsai – Making the change to growing bonsai trees outdoors

Here in the UK and in the west generally, people initially assume that bonsai trees are indoor plants. Generally speaking they are not. The vast majority of trees cannot survive indoors. Even the ones that will survive indoors, will be healthier grown outside.

When we recommend people keep bonsai trees outdoors, novice bonsai growers are often quite surprised. Here are some of the questions and comments that we get.

What about the cold?

While some tropical bonsai trees are frost tender, most trees from temperate parts of the world are able to cope with the cold. It depends what species you buy.

What about the rain?

They love it! Dull grey wet days are a bonsai tree’s dream. Combine this with a few sunny days and its perfect bonsai weather.

Aren’t bonsai trees fragile?

No, they are trees, and trees are generally tough. Some of them are tough enough to survive indoors. When you begin to understand this, you start to learn how to have success.

Will I still need to water them?

Yes, bonsai trees will still need watering when kept outdoors?

Do I keep the bonsai tree in the pot?

Should I plant it in the garden? No, keep it in the pot. You will want to keep your bonsai trees displayed on benches, tables or walls etc.

The dog will eat it!

Bonsai trees look much better when they are raised up off the floor. Raise your bonsai tree up so that they are out of immediate reach.

I want one for my desk / coffee table / bookshelf. I don’t want them in the garden.

Go for an indoor one then. Just understand that it’s a big limiting factor on the species that can be grown and how well they will grow.

I don’t have any outdoor space for bonsai trees.

As above I’m afraid.

I’ve always seen bonsai indoors in pictures and films.

Bonsai trees are generally grown outdoors and brought inside for display, for a day or perhaps a couple of days. This is fine and a good thing to do but only for a short period. Quite often, photographers and filmmakers use them as props. The trees don’t live there, it is just for filming.

Getting off to a good start with bonsai trees – Making the change to growing bonsai trees outdoors

So, if you are buying a bonsai tree for someone or a first bonsai tree for yourself, use the garden.  A good spot in the garden is bright and protected from strong wind by walls or fences. We briefly talked about winter above. It depends how cold it gets and for how long.

For a beginner, a Chinese Elm is probably the best choice. Our Chinese Elms come with really good care information, which talks about all this and lots more besides. We would recommend that you get a Chinese Elm first, learn to look after it, and then move on from there. There are lots of lovely and interesting bonsai trees species to work with. It is simply that Chinese Elms are flexible with location, easy to prune and not expensive but still look good. Plus, you can improve the look of them quickly in comparison to some other species of bonsai tree. It is this development over time that is the most satisfying aspect of bonsai tree growing, so it makes sense to start with a species which you can improve the look of more quickly and easily.

We’ve written a number of other articles on bonsai keeping which you may find useful. Click here to see our other articles on bonsai tree care.

some of our Chinese Elm’s are listed below. Have a look at the bonsai kits page of our website for more options or click here to see all the Chinese Elm that we have for sale at the moment.