The great thing about growing dwarf trees and bonsai plants indoors is that all you need is light, water, small growing pots, and a couple of plant training accessories to give your home some fragrance and even a small harvest of fruits, veggies, or flowers. In this article, we'll explore two methods of growing micro versions of your favorite fruiting and flowering plants: growing dwarf trees, and using the bonsai technique.
How to Grow a Dwarf Plant
Dwarf fruit trees can provide year-round freshness, fragrance, and tastiness indoors. The care required will vary from fruit to fruit, so it is best to work with a familiar fruit that you like, and one that you can grow all year. For example, citrus fruits like tangerines, lemons, and oranges do well when grown indoors. While not a citrus fruit tree, a dwarf avocado tree is also an ideal tree to grow indoors.
When you first look for your plants, make sure they're dwarf plants and not meant to be as big as their regular-sized counterparts.
Once you get the dwarf tree you're looking for, it will need to thrive with the following conditions:
- Keep the room temperature should between 60-65°F (15-18°C) throughout the year.
- The room has to be in a sunny part of your house, where the tree can receive at least eight to twelve hours of sunlight per day. If you don't have access to that much sunlight, you can also use a grow light to supplement light or to grow your plant entirely.
- Humidity is key. Citrus fruits and avocados, for example, love around 50% humidity indoors (don't worry, you can get that humidity by misting your plants). Make sure you maintain the humidity your plants need.
- Follow instructions on how to use nutrients and fertilizer for your tree. Because these will be smaller plants, do not use a fertilizer stick, or it may damage the roots of a young citrus plant.
- Don’t forget to keep the soil moist - not too dry but not too soft and wet.
Bonsai trees mimic the outdoor surroundings by bringing clippings of trees inside (or seedlings) and training them to grow in small containers. The bonsai technique needs consistent pruning and upkeep for a natural appearance.
Before you get started, your 3-5 gallon growing pots must have the ability to put holes in them to allow the branches to grow in any direction they desire. You can use a drill to create holes in plastic pots, or if you have fabric pots you can punch holes in it. Punch at least 6 holes around the rim of the container for training your plant.
Once you've got your clone or seedling planted and growing, here's how you train them to grow in the Bonsai style:
- Place a small wood stake next to your young plant. Be careful of roots, as you do not want to damage them while putting the stake in the soil.
- Gently tie the stake to the trunk of the tree, then gently tie the branch to one of the holes you punched (preferably close to the branch).
- As your plant grows you'll see the branches grow out. Gently tie the tree’s branches along the holes you made in the pot. Just like the trunk, make sure to tie gently to allow growth.
- As the tree grows, the branches need pruning to preserve the airflow of the plant. Only prune the new branches as it would slow down the tree’s growth.
- Note that bonsai trees can use a soilless mixture with hardly any organic matter such as rocks and bark to promote airflow.
In reality, any tree or plant with a sturdy trunk and smaller leaves can grow in a small container using a bonsai container. A plant is ideal for the bonsai technique and follows the same phases including the harvest time of buds. Bonsai tree cultivation can take lots of practice, but the time you spend taking care of a tree can create a sense of peace and calm, as well as a nice little harvest when the time comes.
Growing Versus Bonsai Techniques
Both techniques require constant time and care. Either technique can work well depending upon your personal lifestyle:
- If you have enough space and can keep temperature control in a room, you may benefit from growing a dwarf tree.
- If you're limited in space but have supplemental light for a small plant, the bonsai technique may be ideal for you.
Need some help getting started? Drop us a comment and let us know how we can help you get the micro-harvest you've always wanted.