Schnack
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Oak bonsai?

Hi, I'm new to this forum and to bonsais but I've been thinking about attempting an oak bonsai? It would be a red oak. I have two seedlings that I transplanted into a pot thinking maybe it would work but just wanted to ask the experts! Both seedlings have two full leaves and one of the seedlings has three new leaves.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Oak bonsai?

Starting from seed/ seedlings is a very slow way to get to bonsai.

What you want to do is plant these in to large pots (NOT bonsai pots) and just let them grow undisturbed for the next five years or so, maybe even ten, up-potting to larger pots as needed.

Once they actually have some trunk diameter, then you can start working with them to turn them in to bonsai. Oak trees make some beautiful bonsai with an impression of age and strength when this is done:

Image
https://i64.servimg.com/u/f64/15/24/86/87/englis12.jpg

Note the trunk diameter at the base!

There is a bonsai guideline that says the height of your finished bonsai should be about six times the diameter of the trunk at the base. So if you want even a mini-bonsai 6" tall, you need a tree with an inch of trunk diameter. And once you have pruned away the roots and put it in a bonsai pot, it is not going to keep growing much, especially not much diameter.

This will give you plenty of time to be reading and learning about bonsai, while you grow your little oak seedlings out.

But in the meantime, I would recommend getting yourself a tree or shrub you can be working with now, learning on. Look around your yard/ neighborhood. Often there are shrubs people are getting rid of or that you don't want any more, that could be dug up and potted. Or look in nurseries in a month or so. Often at the end of the season, nurseries are getting rid of stock and are selling off trees and shrubs cheap.

You should be able to get yourself a nice little juniper or other shrub, with some trunk diameter, in a nursery pot for $20 - $30 at the end of the season:

Image
https://lexicon.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341 ... 280970c-pi

Or look on line for pre-bonsai trees or bonsai in training

eg: https://wigertsbonsai.com/store/index.ph ... x&cPath=66

These are trees that have been given a good start and an initial pruning.

In any of these ways, you can get a nice tree or shrub to start on, practice/ learn bonsai technique, while you wait for your tiny oak seedlings to turn in to workable trees. Best Wishes!
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Oak bonsai?

PS I just noticed that you put this in Indoor Bonsai. I don't know if that was on purpose, but your oak trees/seedlings are NOT indoor trees. They need to be outdoors year around. You didn't say where you are, but the oaks are hardy down to zone 4. Even in pots, they should be hardy in zone 5 with a bit of winter protection. They need cold dormancy and will die if kept indoors through the winter.
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Schnack
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Re: Oak bonsai?

Sorry about that, posted it late at night, just wasn't thinking :P and I'm in zone 3a so we've got very cold winters but I forgot to mention that these seedlings are two years old and they survived winter alone so I'll be leaving them outside. Thanks for the reminder though!
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Oak bonsai?

They have been through two growing seasons now and they still have just a few leaves? Not doing very well.

This is an oak seedling described as "5-6 weeks from germination"

Image
https://static1.bigstockphoto.com/thumbs ... 305250.jpg

Here is someone's oak sapling after it survived a winter at the beginning of its second growing season:

Image
https://i.imgur.com/ImcIoLi.jpg

They don't grow real fast in the first couple years, because they are busy growing roots. An oak tree in the ground can have roots five feet deep at the end of the first year. But still it should be growing a foot or so of height a year.

If yours is still tiny, you need to figure out what is wrong. If yours is the northern red oak, quercus rubra, it is rated for zones 3-8. But in zone 3a, you are at the boundary of its cold tolerance. And plants in pots usually cannot survive as much cold as plants in the ground. Perhaps it got very set back in the winter. It still should stay out, but maybe in a protected location, such as an unheated garage, or with lots of winter protection.

And with that deep tap root, it needs a very deep pot, like 16" deep or so, to start with. If the pot is too small, it will be stunted and will never grow and thicken up the way you want it to.
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Schnack
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Re: Oak bonsai?

That is really odd. Last years winter was a really off winter too. not much snow comparatively but still colder than usual. That was their first winter so we'll see. I found another in my yard that I squared off with bricks but it seems to be the same size as my two years so I hope this one grows better. It's also closer to the house which is further from any pests, especially june beetle larvae which have destroyed some shrubs in the far back. I have a bigger pot that isn't being used as of yet so I'll transplant it into there and we'll see what happens with it.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Oak bonsai?

colder than usual (given that usual for you is VERY cold!) and no snow is a bad combination for plants. Snow is insulating/ protective. Your seedlings may have suffered some damage.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

Schnack
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Re: Oak bonsai?

well, I'll keep them in their pots and we'll go from there! Hopefully it's not too bad and not permanent.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Oak bonsai?

What size pots are they and has the soil been changed in them since they were planted in the pots? The fertility of soil in pots gets used up pretty quickly AND the soil breaks down over time, tending to compact, etc. You need to fertilize stuff in pots, but that isn't enough, you also need to change the soil every once in awhile (minimum once a year, maybe twice, trying to grow a tree).
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Schnack
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Re: Oak bonsai?

about 18 inches deep and 12in. wide. Yeah, I actually just recently changed the soil.
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tomc
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Re: Oak bonsai?

Soil for temperate deciduous trees (in the north) is mostly granite grit and a little bark mulch. If your home range was Saigon, your soil might be mostly peat. where you is makes a difference.

Now I fall down and try a red oak about every ten years. (They and mame size trees are failings of mine). They sit and sit and do not grow in pots and I trade them away after about five years.

I might try instead any white oak sapling. I might for either flavor grow them in the biggest colander I could buy or steal. Big big big, think a big home for their feet.

White's only grow about nine times faster than red's do...
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