RHack
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Bonsai: Where do I start?

I have accumulated an interest in Bonsai trees over the past several months and have become ambitious to try to grow my own. I know that I want an indoor Bonsai, and I'm leaning toward a Hawaiian Umbrella tree; but the thing is I don't know where I should start.

I don't know what the best choices would be for a novice in terms of buying seeds or one that is already started. I would also like to figure out where acceptable sources of purchase would be (internet, nursery, etc...). I appreciate any help or hints that you might be able to lend to me on any subject of Bonsai.

Thanks!

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bonsaiboy
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A schefflera is a good place to start, in my opinion. Although nursery material is cheap, and can give you a good head start, I recommend you begin with seeds, see [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=27156/url]here[/url] as to why.

And I will add this. Most people don't seem to realize how many types of normal houseplants can be potential bonsai. Currently I am working on developing a Pothos bonsai, but it is still in the first stages. Because a pothos is both long-lived and becomes woody with age, it can be used as a bonsai. Stick around; I might have some pictures soon. My point in saying this is, look around for potential bonsai materials. Some are hidden in plain sight! Other indoor bonsai I would recommend are the ficus, the dwarf cultivars of dizygotheca, and coffee.
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RHack
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Awesome, thank you very much, I'll definitely look into it.

RHack
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bonsaiboy wrote:My point in saying this is, look around for potential bonsai materials. Some are hidden in plain sight!
I apologize because this is probably a stupid question. I have little to no experience in any form of gardening. Do you think a lemon tree would be able to survive as a bonsai in an indoor setting?

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Gnome
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RHack,

I'm going to play Devil's Advocate here and suggest that you look for an established Schefflera. This will cut years from your path toward a reasonable bonsai.

This does not discount any of what bonsaiboy has posited in his thread, but realize that seedlings are the the slowest route to an established bonsai that you can take. By all means, grow seedlings if that is where your interests lie. But at least consider other avenues in conjunction with seedlings, which are a genetic 'crap shoot'.

Ironically, what makes seedlings interesting is also their biggest flaw, unpredictability. Plant breeders usually deal in hundreds, if not thousands, of seedlings in order to find a few superior specimens. How much room, not to mention time, can you devote to what may be a superior specimen? Do you want one nice bonsai or dozens of potential ones?

Now, if all you can find is one or two year old cuttings then you don't stand to gain much, in which case bonsiaboy's approach only cuts a few years off your efforts, no great loss. But, If you can find a substantial trunk of S. arboricola you will be that much further ahead. Again, you don't have to look at it as an either/or scenario but there are pros and cons to both sides. It's your call, I'm just presenting both sides.

BTW, Welcome to The Helpful Gardener.

Norm

linlaoboo
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RHack,

I tend to agree with info from Norm. Those well established bonsais in shows and books take years and years to develop and some are passed to the next generation. Even well established bonsais can be lost if not taken care of properly. I started with bonsais that are already a few years old. While I learned to keep them alive, a few were lost. The ones that survived are doing very good which gives me time to buy younger bonsai starter material from nurseries that specialize in those species. It's definately better than buying Home Depot garden center's trees that were meant to be shrubs and not bonsais. It's good to have multiple trees to work on but I recommend starting with easy trees like ficus. You can even take cuttings from one tree and propagate your own seedlings.
RHack wrote:
bonsaiboy wrote:My point in saying this is, look around for potential bonsai materials. Some are hidden in plain sight!
I apologize because this is probably a stupid question. I have little to no experience in any form of gardening. Do you think a lemon tree would be able to survive as a bonsai in an indoor setting?
ficus, maple, elm, juniper, pine

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bonsaiboy
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Sorry Gnome, I became confused after reading your post, so I might restate something that you had already mentioned. RHack, the reason I said that you should start from seed is that nurserymen are only interested in one thing: plants that will churn out a hefty profit. So, in order to do so, they only grow fast growing Scheffleras with long internodes that aren't great for bonsai. But, I soon learned that if you grow schefflera from seed, then some will be dwarfed versions of the 'normal' and thus better for bonsai. Of course, if such types cropped up in a normal nursery planting, they would be disposed of because of their 'inferiority.' But one mans junk is another mans treasure, and so such dwarf cultivars of schefflera grown from seed will, in the end, be much more valuable than the nursery grown stock. I might also add that, due to a scheffleras' fast rate of growth, if planted in a large pot you are probably only looking at a few years of growing time before a fairly large trunk is formed, even with the ones with less vigorous genes.

Oh, and lemon bonsai are perfect for indoor bonsai, so long as they can be given full sun.
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