Small Phoenix Bonsai Society Logo



  Introduction / Choosing Material

  Pruning & Shaping / Feeding & Watering

  Diseases, Prevention & Medicine / Roots, Pots & Soil Mixes

  Display & Accessories / Hot Weather Care


(Presented by Fred Carpenter, 02/11/97)

       Why display?        Personal pride; club pride; public education; sharing a 2,000-year-old art we are extensions of.

        How to display?

  • Tree’s best side = front.
  • Give the tree a decent haircut and thinning before the show.
  • Clean and oil the pots several days before the show.  OK to use WD40® on glazed pots.
  • DO NOT water your tree the morning of the show.  Do so the morning before and let the pot drain at home, not on the stands and table cloths.

        Bonsai are arranged so that the tree goes with the pot, which goes with the stand, which goes with the neighboring show trees.
        A seeming paradox: A novice tree never looks so good as when it is in the company of more developed trees.
        Every club member, no matter how new, is an expert as far as most of the show visitors are concerned.  Be proud of your trees.  Listen to how other members describe the trees on display, then share that with other visitors.
        What not to display?

  • Weak or sick or dead tree, or one with obvious broken limbs or branch stubs.
  • Trees or pots with obvious pest infestations: ants, spider mites, scale, white flies, caterpillars.
  • Chipped pots or a cut-down nursery container, or those showing hard water salt deposits on the tree, pot, or moss.
  • Crossed or very loose wire; trees with deep or excessive wire scars.
  • Spacers: these are OK for at home shaping, but not for a public show.
  • Pot-within-a-pot or an ordinary clay flowerpot, or plastic nursery ID tags.
  • Shriveled blossoms or fruit on the tree or the leaves/needles of another type of tree on the soil or in the branches (e.g., juniper needles under an elm or pine needles among olive branches).
  • Pines or junipers with many brown-tipped or totally brown needles; other trees with mottled, cut, or otherwise less-than-perfect leaves.
  • Moldy fallen leaves or fertilizer pellets on top of the soil, or finger tracks and dig holes.
  • A tree resembling a mall or department store purchase: no defined shape and too dense foliage.
  • A tree in serious need of a haircut — if it is not going to be the demo tree.
  • A tree that is obviously unstable in its pot or else blatantly wired to the pot for support.

     Accessories give added scale or theme, but use with discretion:

  • Companion/accessory plants: dwarf bamboos or grasses or sedums, smaller/more delicate bonsai;
  • Mudmen or porcelain figurines or animals;
  • Bridges, houses, etc.

        Our club does not use individual owner name tags next to the trees.  This is primarily for security/privacy reasons.

        Remember: how you have your trees at home is also a type of display.  Be proud of your bonsai.  Keep the domestic display area clean and orderly.


(Presented by Dick Selkirk, 04/08/97)

        Grow native or naturalized plants.
        Use the recommended coarse soil mixes.
        Keep your plants healthy and pest-free.        Don’t let your plants get out of control, especially the faster growers like junipers and elms.  Keep new growth pinched after it gets only so long. Don’t lose the shape you’ve spent time working on.  Thin any tight growth to allow air and light flow.
        Rotate each plant a quarter turn every week.  This gives even exposure to the sun and fresh air, plus allows you to check on the health or dis-ease from all sides.
        Know your plants and be aware of the water-retention of each pot of soil mix.  Slight differences in soil materials when each plant was potted up, the requirements of each type of tree, the siting of each pot — all these prohibit a “one-method-fits-all” watering.  Learn to customize to your plants’ needs.        Set pots on low stands or slatted workbenches over a lawn, mulch or gravel, but NOT over desert landscaping or concrete.  Soak the ground thoroughly in the morning.  Carefully give the trees an occasional and good-strength shower.
        Provide shade cloth overhead, especially after noon.  (Get UV-resistant 50 or 70% shaded, on 3/4″ PVC pipe or metal conduit.)  Or, better yet, site your bonsai under landscape trees or shrubs for the shade.  Exposure to Arizona sun causes faster growth in plants at temperatures below about 105 F.  Consider the possibility of a lath house, or a greenhouse with evaporative cooler.        Sink your potted trees in a layer of mulch or sawdust.  Check occasionally that the roots haven’t grown out the drainage holes and into the ground.
        Set pots near a swimming pool or pond, or above but not in pans of non-tap water.  (However, Bald cypress and wisteria do prefer to be kept in pans of water.)  Be aware of reflected sunlight: keep trees a little ways away from south or west facing masonry walls or windows.
        Group plants together, but not touching one another.  Allow room for good air circulation.
        Don’t let your more delicate trees get unfiltered west/afternoon sun or exposure to the winds of a monsoon dust storm.
        Have your plants spend the summer in a growing bed, not in their pots.  Keep vigorous top growth pruned.
        Overpot your trees in the springtime.  The extra room will be much appreciated.

        Water maples and other plants with thin-edged leaves with distilled or reverse-osmosis (R.O.) water.  Remember to use half-strength fertilizer regularly.
        Try Dyna-Gro’s liquid Pro-TeKt ® to toughen up leaves and plants for summer survival.  Mix 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of water and apply before the summer heat kicks in.  This product can also cut down on bug infestations.
        Misting systems are not workable here: rapid evaporation just coats the leaves with a layer of concentrated minerals, and the hard water source similarly can quickly clog the waterlines.
        Experiment with your automated (or human-substitute) watering system before you leave for vacation.
        Many plants can go one more day without watering if the bonsai is in a deep enough pot and if it is sufficiently shaded and if this isn’t already the “extra day.”  Use common sense.
        If a bonsai has wilted leaves, put it in the shade and give it a little water.  Give it a little more water later that day.  Let the roots recover slowly — don’t drown them.

        Learn why any of your trees die; clean and reuse the pot; keep practicing with both tried and new plants.  Study the shape and growth patterns of full-size trees.  Enjoy your bonsai and share your experiences.