Follow-Up Care

After planting, cover the surface of the soil with moss or coarse sand to hold it in place and to give the bonsai a finished appearance. Water is applied frequently and from the top. Because the root system is restrict­ed and the soil mass is shallow, the plant dries out quickly. Since it must never be permitted to dry out completely, it may need to be watered as often as once a day, if a houseplant has been used, or several times weekly if a woody plant has been used. If the soil and container have been prepared to drain properly, there is little danger of overwatering, but the plants should not be kept saturated.

Fertilization of bonsais is also a frequent necessity due to the rapid leaching of nutrients by the drainage water. Nutrients can be applied several times monthly using a low-analysis fertilizer at half strength. They may also be applied using a pelletized time-release fertilizer that will release small amounts of nutrients over a three – to six-month period. Regardless of the form of fertilizer used, the amount of nitrogen should be limited to avoid the promotion of undesirable growth.

Should the bonsai become top-heavy, it will be necessary to wire it to the container. A heavy-gauge copper wire can be threaded like a shoe­string through two drainage holes in the container and bent upward and around or through the soil mass to be tied around the trunk. This wire and the wires used to shape the bonsai should be either removed or loosened and reapplied before they can damage or mark the plant. For branches and twigs, the wire may have served its purpose after a month. Stiffer branches and the trunk may require a year before the shape is permanent.

Pest problems are no different with bonsais than other plants except that woody temperate plants, displayed both indoors and out, may carry some insects into the home that would otherwise have remained outside. All bonsai plants should be set outside for spraying with pesti­cides. In the winter, a systemic product can be used. If the species does not accept pesticides without damage, as the Jade plant does not, the foliage can be washed with a dilute soap solution and rinsed off under the shower.

For growth indoors, bonsais need a well-lit location if they are nor­mally outdoor species. Window greenhouses or artificially lit growth racks are ideal. House plant bonsais should receive the same amount of light required by others of their species. Ideally, the temperature will be on the cool side and the humidity will be maintained by frequent misting.


Vines are plants with a vigorous central lead shoot and a long, linear growth habit. They are versatile landscape plants and generally under­used in modern gardens. They are usually sold as containerized plants. If the vine needs a trellis or other support to aid its climbing, the support should be in place before the vine is planted. Fertilization, deep water­ing, and developmental pruning will help ensure a successful transplant and a satisfactory effect.

Espaliers are trees and shrubs that are allowed to develop only height and width, not depth. In appearance, they suggest a vine. For training purposes and to provide a suitable background, espaliers are usually grown against walls or along fences, although free-standing forms exist. An espalier must be started as a young plant. To develop any of the popular decorative patterns, time, patience, and attention are required.

Topiary is a technique of shearing plants into nontypical shapes, usu­ally sculptural in form. Like espaliers, topiary plants are garden novelties. Also as with espaliers, topiary requires patience and complex training techniques.

Bonsai is the ancient Japanese craft of dwarfing trees. In the hands of a skilled bonsaist, the containerized tree acquires a mature appearance but in miniature. Bonsai development takes the longest time of all the specialized training techniques.

This chapter provided instructions for training plants in these spe­cialized forms.


A. SHORT ANSWER 1. Define the following terms.

Answer each of the following questions as briefly a. vine c. topiary

as possible. b. espalier d. bonsai

2. List six common bonsai styles. 8. The most critical relationship in the

successful dwarfing of trees is that between


From the choices given, select the answer that best completes each of the following state­ments.

1. The two methods of vine climbing that

require supplemental support are _____ .

a. twining and holdfasts

b. holdfasts and tendrils

c. tendrils and twining

d. trellis and lattice

2. The best time to prune vines _____ .

a. is in the spring

b. is in the early summer

c. is in the autumn

d. depends on the species

3. are not products primarily of the

horticulturist’s craft.

a. Vines

b. Espaliers

c. Topiary shrubs

d. Bonsai

4. Vines function in the landscape as_____ .

a. softeners

b. wall elements

c. surfacing elements

d. all of these

5. Espaliers and topiaries function in the

landscape as_____ .

a. aesthetic contributions

b. ceiling elements

c. support elements

d. mood evocators

6. How do bonsai plants function?

a. as hobbies

b. as patio or houseplants

c. as expressions of Oriental nature symbolism

d. all of these

7. In their first season of growth, the

horizontal branches of an espalier should be tied.

a. root mass and container size

b. root mass and top growth

c. nitrogen content and top growth

d. wiring and top growth


Indicate if the following statements are true or


1. Topiary attempts to suggest a miniaturization of the natural world. It is rooted deep in Japanese garden tradition.

2. Espaliers may be supported or free­standing. If free-standing, they are three­dimensional.

3. Bonsai containers must have drainage holes.

4. Bonsai plants should be shaped and wired before being placed in containers.

5. The copper wire used to shape bonsais should be coiled randomly around each branch and twig.

6. Bonsai plants should be watered on a schedule similar to their outdoor counterparts.

7. Bonsais should be fertilized more frequently than outdoor plants due to nutrient leaching by the drainage water.

8. Wire used to shape bonsai plants can be left on indefinitely.

9. Temperate-zone woody plants are well suited to be indoor bonsais.

10. Bonsai is a technique of landscape pruning.

11. Each year when a developing espalier goes dormant, pruning should cut back the central branch to a point 15 to 18 inches above the horizontal branches, and the horizontal branches by one-third.

a. vertically

b. at a 45° angle

c. at a 90° angle

d. loosely