I once read "watering bonsai trees takes years to learn". How strange, I thought. Why would it take so long to learn such a simple thing?
The truth is, watering bonsai is not as simple as it may sound. And yes, it may take years to get it right. One of the main reasons is bad information in the beginning.
We are bombarded with instructions that vary so greatly, no wonder the novice is confused. The following statements are just a few examples of such varied watering instructions.
They can not all be right!
If you prefer a hose, attach a nozzle set on any setting low enough not to disturb the soil.
They are especially valuable when you ask someone else to water!
If you only have one or a few bonsai . . . hand watering using a watering can with a good rose head on it, is one of the best ways.
There are many variables when it comes to watering any container plants, especially bonsai trees. These are a few of the basic questions to ask:
No matter the method of watering bonsai you select . . . water enough so the water flows through and comes out the holes in the bottom of your bonsai pot.
To be sure all soil is moistened, water twice. Allow the first to 'sink in', then go back and water again.
Be wary of instructions to “water every day” or “every other day” or “every third day” etc. !!
Watering bonsai instructions should read something like “keep evenly moist”, “keep wet” or “allow to dry out a little between waterings”.
Watering bonsai too much can be as big a problem as not enough. It’s important that plants are not over-watered. Be especially careful with succulent plants such as bonsai Jade.
How often should you water? Many beginners will not like this answer . . . . . .
Water as needed for the specific type and size of plant you have!
As you get to know your bonsai, you will be able to just look at them or pick them up (and tell by their weight) to know whether they need water or not.
Some, who have many bonsai, have automatic irrigation systems of one type or another. While living in Miami, I had a timed overhead sprinkler system (leftover from my nursery days.)
When you develop a large collection or have a nursery, automatic systems are certainly an option. I ran my system once a day in winter and twice a day in summer. I also seasonally varied the length of time for each session.
During the rainy season, I often turned it off and watered certain plants by hand.
Automatic irrigation is not without problems. They can break down, can be inconsistent in different zones, create too much water when it rains and they do get clogged from time to time.
Bonsai watering by immersion is not always a good idea. If your tree is completely dried out, it may be a good quick fix. However, frequent immersion can compact the soil. This can cause root damage.
If you find it is necessary to "dunk" on a regular basis (because water is not being absorbed otherwise) . . . your bonsai may need repotting, AND most likely it needs to be in a different soil mix.
Coarse, fast draining type bonsai soil is not as problematic with dunking.
Watering bonsai every day may or may not be necessary.
However, bonsai do need daily inspections!
Did an animal knock over a tree?
Was the wind really bad last night?
Did the watering system miss your favorite small bonsai?
What are those funny looking bugs?
A special technique Watering very Small Bonsai