Congratulations on your new bonsai terrarium! Here is a guide to caring for your new creation!
An important note about transplant shock: within the first week or two, the plants in your new terrarium may show some symptoms of transplant shock. Don't worry; this is a normal part of moving plants from one home to another and nearly always goes away on its own. Some plants will show no symptoms while others may exhibit several. Leaves damaged due to transplant shock normally wont recover. Remove damaged, unsightly, or yellowing leaves. New growth should be healthy and beautiful! If new growth after a week or two isn't healthy looking, or if you have any specific questions about how your terrarium is doing, please don't hesitate to contact us - we are more than happy to help!
Symptoms of transplant shock include: bruising, browning, and lower leaves yellowing or falling off.
Now, on to watering! When watering your terrarium it's helpful to keep the weather conditions that your plants are used to in mind. A succulent bonsai are nearly all species that are native to dry areas and are therefore designed to withstand drought by storing any water they can get in their leaves for later (think camel). Armed with this information, you will find that it is always better to under-water than to over-water (whereas a more traditional foliage or tree-like plant will likely require more even moisture).
To water your new bonsai (whether it is in a terrarium or not): use a spray bottle to saturate the top layer of the soil. It is important to be gentle with the roots once they've been re-planted and this is the best way to get them settled in. In class, we removed most of the tap roots to restrict growth, so very careful not to over water. If your bonsai is a succulent, water deeply just once every 3-6 weeks or so and do not water your terrarium again until it is completely dry! If it is a tree or foliage plant, water gently about once per week, allowing the soil to get most of the way dry between waterings and mist the leaves periodically.
Signs of over-watering include: stems or lower leaves turning yellow or black, lower leaves dropping, and mold, mildew or insects appearing in your soil.
If you experience any of these symptoms stop watering, remove any damaged leaves and place in a warm, dry, and sunny place until the soil dries out. If the soil is saturated or soupy, remove the plants and replace the soil or keep them in a cup of water for a few days until the soil dries out. If you get to this point and need help, please send us a photo and we can help!
Signs of under-watering include: a wrinkled or rubbery texture, leaves drying out or feeling crunchy, and the tips of leaves turning brown.
If your bonsai is showing signs of under-watering, resume a gentle watering schedule by following the directions above. Be careful not to panic and over-water! This will most likely result in damaging your plant.
The optimum amount of light will depend on the type of bonsai plant you chose. Succulents tend to prefer higher light and foliage plants tend to prefer low to medium. Keep them near a grow light or window for best results but be careful not to allow the temperature to fluctuate too much between night and day. This may shock your bonsai.
The soil in your terrarium has enough nutrients in it to keep your plants happy for at least 6 months. After that use a bacterial inoculant fertilizer to water into the soil. This will re-up the amazing micro-organisms that live in healthy organic soils to keep the ecosystem you've built for your plants thriving!
Using chemical fertilizers such as Miracle Grow will kill the bacteria in the soil and make it more difficult for your plants to sustain themselves so please refrain. You will also see a white film form on your soil, which is the bacteria and beneficial organisms dying off.
You can also use a foliar fertilizer spray applied directly to the plants' leaves 1 - 2 times per month in addition to or instead of the bacterial fertilizer.
Bonsai have small root masses so be careful not to over-fertilize (difficult to do with a bacterial fertilizer). If you have recently fertilized and the leaves on your bonsai begin to turn yellow flush the soil with water a few times to remove excess fertilizer.
After the second growth season (normally 2 years) trim back nearly all of the new growth on your bonsai. Doing this will encourage the trunk to get thicker and stabilize the bonsai.
After another growth season (1 year for most plants), it's time to re-pot! Remove your bonsai from the container, replace the soil and trim the tap roots back like we did in class until only the finer water roots are left intact and re-plant.
Re-pot your bonsai every 2 years after this - you may choose to increase the size of the container slowly or keep it contained it its original planter.