omegasnake
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Help choosing a first bonsai

I am new to bonsai and gardening in general. I live in an apartment in southwest wisconsin so I am looking for a good indoor bonsai. I was looking at either a fukien tea or chinese elm from bonsai boy in the indoor section to start with. Are those good choices? btw I have two cats, so I thought of those as they are non-toxic to them.

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bonsaiboy
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Scheffleras are excellent beginner plants, and can make great bonsais. They may be mildly toxic (I'm not sure), but I have not known cats to trouble them (I own several myself). But if you are concerned with these matters, stick to your original choices.

BTW I am not the plant vendor bonsaiboy (despite my name). Just thought I'd let you know.
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omegasnake
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also due to the relatively small size of the city my options for shopping are online as I am not sure that there are any local vendors. How much should I spend on my first bonsai?

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bonsaiboy
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That is a relative question. As a beginner, I would not spend much. In fact, it might be cheaper on your part if you ordered the plant from a nursery in an unbonsaied form, and you bonsaied it yourself. I can tell you right now that if you order from bonsaiboy or one of those mass produce 'bonsai' nurseries, your paying for the pot more than you are for the plant. If you are unsure how to bonsai, you should check out a book from a library (if you have any in your area), or buy one.
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snowblind
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your first tree

hello omegasnake and let me say well done on chooseing to start off on the road to bonsai bliss

your first tree is a big choice and as keeping it indoors is a huge thing aswell as you will need to put a lot more time into it due to indoor heating (and there no weather indoors at all :lol: )

anyway a elm would be a good choice for a first tree as thay r verry hardy and forgiveing. On the other hand fukien tea trees can be right little monsters to keep thay r tempermental at best and down right sulky at worst wth a lot of leaf droping and wilting unless kept perfectly.

how much you should pay for a first tress is upto you tottaly. I wouldnt advise speending a huge ammount on a first tree. You can get sum really nice and cheep little trees. On the other hand you could go mad and spend 500 pounds + on a large elm that will look amzeing and you will have verry little work to do on it yourself for a wile.

Or do whot i do trawl the garden centers to find stock plants then spend a few hrs each night wireing triming ect till you have a tree you have made yourself. Wen looking at that tree you have crafted yourself next to the tree you have baught from a suppler yours willl allways seem more sepcial.

o and on the cat issue ive never heard of either elms or tea's being a issue to them so go for you life and enjoy wich either you get =)
sparkels

omegasnake
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bonsaiboy wrote: If you are unsure how to bonsai, you should check out a book from a library (if you have any in your area), or buy one.
What is a good book for beginners?

omegasnake
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https://www.bonsaiboy.com/catalog/product17.html

or

[url=https://www.amazon.com/Chinese-Elm-Bonsai-Tree-Medium/dp/B000XXZ01I/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=thehelpfulgar-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325]https://www.amazon.com/Chinese-Elm-Bonsai-Tree-Medium/dp/B000XXZ01I/[/url]

The Amazon one says that it is by bonsai boy but it is much cheaper and gives me reason for concern. As for starting with a pre-bonsai, I would prefer not to as I want something that is already great to look at to begin with but still gives me a chance to learn and shape it.

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Gnome
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omegasnake,

Although Chinese Elms can make fine bonsai, even for beginners, they would not be my first choice for indoor culture. My two main concerns are lighting and lack of a dormant period.

Light levels in our homes are generally pretty poor for most plants, that will apply to any 'indoor' bonsai bit some species are a more tolerant than others. The Schefflera that was mentioned earlier is one that will do OK in a lower light condition. Unless you have a south facing bay/garden window you almost certainly will benefit from some form of supplemental lighting.

Chinese Elms are subtropical and as such do not have the same strict dormancy requirements that temperate species do. Still, most growers agree that a rest period, even a brief one, is beneficial. I have several and always allow them a dormancy. Last year, for the first time, I brought one inside around January first and it did fine but I have never tried to keep one inside permanently.

Consider Ficus as an alternative. Also, if you like succulents, Portulacaria can make a pretty nice indoor bonsai.

https://www.bonsaihunk.us/cultural.html

Norm

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bonsaiboy
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The second one is probably smaller and not as old as the first. If you don't care too much about how your tree looks, the second one is probably a better choice. As for a book, any book that is about 150+ pages is good probably good (I say this because the books with lots of pages are filled with helpful pictures).

Gnome,
I did some research on those succulent plants used as bonsai (Portulacaria and Crassula). They are mildly toxic, and I have known my cats to bother them (the thick leaves are probably very enticing), and so I wouldn't recommend them.

The ficus might be better, but they do ooze latex when wounded, so if you have latex allergies this plant is not a good idea.
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Gnome
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bonsaiboy wrote:Gnome,
I did some research on those succulent plants used as bonsai (Portulacaria and Crassula). They are mildly toxic, and I have known my cats to bother them (the thick leaves are probably very enticing), and so I wouldn't recommend them.


Really, I was under the impression that Portulacaria was edible. Recently I even consumed one leaf and am still here to tell the tale. :wink: Perhaps felines have a different reaction.
"In some areas it is exploited by browsers such as goats, as most Spekboom is extremely palatable. A sour form identical to the sweet form is, however, never or rarely browsed by domestic or wild ungulates.
"[It forms] the backbone of the goat industry."
Spekboom is browsed by all kinds of stock, cattle and goats in particular being very fond of it. Cattle and large buck, such as kudu, have done great damage in spekboom country by tearing down branches, which are very brittle. Spekboom was a favourite food of the elephant which once roamed parts of the Eastern province. In difficult years it has been a great stand-by to farmers as it is extremely drought resistant, nourishing, and has a high moisture content.
Source: https://www.phoenixbonsai.com/portulacaria2.html#Uses


Norm

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bonsaiboy
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Grazing animals develop resistances to poisons in some plants. https://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/poison-control/Plants/jade-plant.aspx
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bonsaiboy
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Here's a list of bonsai books: https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4139
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linlaoboo
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i've seen good sized ficuses that are already trained from supermarkets or Lowes. Seen them from Ikea too. Ficuses are definately among the easiest of bonsais to care for. I'm not advocating you buy from any stores I mentioned, I just happen to see them being offered there.
ficus, maple, elm, juniper, pine

omegasnake
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Well I ordered the 17 dollar chinese elm to work with as it was inexpensive. Now onto caring for it.
For watering it can I use the sprayer in the sink, not using full intensity but rather low? For fertilizer would the slow-release pellets that only need to be reapplied every 3-6 months be okay? How soon should I fertilize it?
Thanks

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manofthetrees
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the sprayer works perfect in the sink. just let the soil dry out a bit between watering and when i spray my bigger trees i wait to hear water running down the drain through the pot.
as for the fertalizer the slow release is what i use its a 5/2/5 mixure. it promotes root and foliage growth. i would wait to see how your plant reacts for a month or so ,if it is growing vigorusly it most likely been fertalized recently

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bonsaiboy
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I'm not sure about the conditions in which it was sent, but it should probably be placed on either an east or west windowsill for the time being. Also, it is a good idea to check the soil, and remove any rocks or coverings that would prohibit you from determining the moisture content. Be warned, this tree tends to shed almost its entire leaf content when moved around, so you might have a naked tree for the next week or so. This is nothing to worry about, as it will recover.
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