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How To Care For Your Bonsai In The Winter

How To Care For Your Bonsai In The Winter

Winter is a rough time for most living things on earth.  Unless you’re a polar bear, arctic fox or fir tree with deep roots, winter can be brutal.

Before we go into winter care, let’s cover a quick point:  Tropical trees, and most subtropical trees can’t tolerate the winter!  Bring them inside or they’ll die.  Tropicals shouldn’t be outside when the weather is below 50 degrees F, and sub tropicals should be inside before the first frost.

The trees that should be kept outside during the winter are trees that would naturally experience a winter in your local zone.  And to care for a tree in winter, you have to alter the rules slightly since your bonsai trees have likely become dormant.

When trees enter dormancy, they tend to need less water.  This means that overwatering is bad.  But with that said, trees still need water in the winter.  If you don’t water at all, your bonsai tree will die.

So how much is enough?  I still like to check for dryness.  Check just like you would over the summer, and water your tree just before it completely dries out.

Unless, of course, the whole rootball is frozen.  Then you don’t need to water it, because well… no water will get in.

I don’t like the rootball to completely freeze though, so what I do is mulch over my pots to provide some extra protection.

To do this, I take my trees off of their display bench, and put them right on the ground.  Someplace that will get some good morning sun, is somewhat protected from the wind and the worst of the snow, and I mulch over them.  Right up to the trunk of the tree, completely burying the pot if possible.

Also, if there’s fresh snow on the ground, I like to make sure there is always some snow on my bonsai’s.  This helps to protect and insulate the trees, and provide some natural water.

Then, I go about my business just like normal.  I’ll water the trees every few days as needed, make sure no bugs or pests have taken home in them, and I wait (im)patiently until the spring when I can enjoy that tiny greenery again.

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Steve - May 9, 2024

Irv – Depending on where you live, that can certainly happen and depending on the tree, it’s totally fine.

The soil freezes in nature over the winter in many places, including my home garden, and my winter bonsai can freeze over too. I like to protect from a true freeze to prevent the pot from breaking more than anything.

irv - May 9, 2024

i have freeze cloth on my bonsai,but the top soil is frozen, is that normal? thanks for your reply

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