are which have been cultivated for the indoor environment. Traditionally, bonsai are shaped from temperate climate trees grown in containers but kept outdoors as they require full sunlight and a winter dormancy period at near-freezing temperatures. Kept in the artificial environment of a home, these trees will become weakened and die. However, some of the most outstanding plants used for bonsai, members of the genus Ficus, are frost-sensitive and hence not capable of being grown all year outside in cold climates.
For indoor gardens bonsai-growing techniques have been applied to tropical plants that do not require dormant periods. Because bonsai are rooted in small pots, drought-resistant s are best suited for indoor bonsai cultivation.
Bonsai vs. other forms of house plant
Compared to the usual potted house plant, bonsai are rooted in a much smaller amount of soil. Consequently, they require more frequent watering. This form is therefore best suited for drought-resistant species. Compared to usual house gardening, bonsais require a lot more pruning, both of branches and roots. This often requires a significant shift in attitude for house gardeners.
The spiritual benefits of bonsai cultivation, in Japanese bonsai no kokoro are available equally to classical and indoor bonsai gardeners.
Indoor vs. traditional bonsai
The largest difference between indoor and traditional bonsai is, of course, the enjoyment of an attractive, fully leaved plant in winter instead of a dormant, leafless tree. Other differences include the faster growth rate of tropical plants, which accelerate all steps of the bonsai evolution. Moss
covering, highly valued by bonsai amateurs, will not survive indoor conditions.
Tropical plants suitable for indoor bonsai
The creation of bonsai is limited only by the imagination and talent of the gardener, although some species are much more suitable than others. Members of the genus Ficus
are among the most versatile, while many succulents can be grown in a similar fashion. Here is an incomplete list of the most popular species.
- Ficus benjamina: the Weeping fig is a popular indoor tree that lends itself to the classical, upright form. It is one of the few tropicals that are accepted as "true" bonsai. The miniature cultivars like 'Too Little' are well suited for bonsai. It forms aerial roots and can be shaped as a banyan tree. Ficus are intolerant to branch down-pruning; one must start with a small tree and keep it small. They are sensitive to stress.
- Ficus neriifolia : according to Jerry Meislik, "the most useful fig for bonsai is the willow leafed fig . The small leaf is in excellent scale for bonsai and the tree has good branch ramification, good basal rootage and excellent aerial root formation."
- Schefflera arboricola: the Hawaiian umbrella tree is a popular, hardy houseplant that is ideal for irregular, banyan or roots-on-rock forms . Since it can sprout on old wood, an old specimen can be pruned back to a stockier shape with thick trunk and roots. It tolerates root exposure very well, is drought-resistant and requires a moderate amount of light. Under high humidity conditions, it produces aerial roots and can therefore be shaped as a banyan tree .
- Crassula ovata: the jade plant is a very robust and drought-resistant house plant. The miniature cultivars like the baby jade plant (C. ovata arborescens) is considered the best plant for a first bonsai . This plant will sprout on old wood. Thus, an old specimen can be pruned back to a stockier shape with thick trunk. It is kept dry in winter, placed outdoors in summer for full growth. Its roots are thin and cannot be exposed.
- Portulacaria afra : the dwarf jade looks a lot like a baby jade plant and is used similarly.
- Dracaena marginata: the dragon plant has an interesting palm-like shape. It can sprout on old wood. It does not tolerate root exposure.
- Zygocactus: the holiday cactus does not have a real trunk but easily lends itself to a cascade-type bonsai shape. It tolerates shade, not drought.
Small succulents may be used as accent plants :