We are fortunate that Fuku-Bonsai has spent years doing extensive research to identify, propagate and distribute ideal Dwarf Schefflera. These make exceptional starter stock and semi-trained bonsai available to indoor bonsai growers and possible because of their expertise, volume of scale, orientation toward assisting novices, and their ideal growing conditions!  Rather than try to “learn patience", we should learn to create maximum growth and David is commended for being willing to teach us! 

                   It makes sense for David’s “Fast-Track” student Ryan Chang of Hawaii to grow his True Indoor Bonsai outdoors to get superior growth.  Those in the southern  or warmer states can consider growing True Indoor Bonsai outdoors when night low temperatures are above 55°F and bring them indoors when temperatures approach that low temperature later in the year.

                   It would be wonderful for all in the bonsai community who grow temperate climate outdoor bonsai to also grow True Indoor Bonsai outdoors in warmer months to experience the extremely rapid growth. Progress is so much faster with these materials and produce handsome bonsai in only a few years vs. scores of years with temperate species.

                  The exceptional growth experienced by Gerald Johnson of Minnesota in his February 2013 Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai article dramatically illustrates the great growth possible in a single growing season even in northern Minnesota!  The impressive growth in one year by my fellow Montana grower Ron Davis in an article in this issue is another great example of vigorous growth that produces exceptional results! In extreme climates with short warm weather periods growing outdoors may not be feasible. My solution of improving growing conditions for year-around indoor growth makes a lot of sense. I will discuss how this can be done in future articles. 




By Jerry Meislik  (Whitefish, Montana)
MPBF Journal Contributing Editor

This is the time of year when days are lengthening and outdoor temperatures are rising. It’s also the time of year when as indoor bonsai growers we have some decisions to make. Some growers grow their trees indoors full time while others move their trees outdoors for the warmer months and again move the trees back indoors for the cooler months.

            Those keeping their trees indoors full time need little preparation for the upcoming longer days and warmer temperatures. With the seasonal change the trees should be showing new growth as the days are lengthening. New leaves will be growing out of all the growing tips. Watering may need to be increased to keep up with the extra foliage. Fertilization should be started or stepped up.  Old leaves may be shed at this time in preparation for the new growth. Leaf yellowing and shed of 15-20% of the older leaves is to be expected at this time but more leaf drop or loss of new leaves is a sign of problems. Defoliation is the deliberate removal of leaves from a bonsai tree. This is done to create replacement with smaller leaves, new buds and refresh the foliage. We will plan to discuss defoliation on another date.



            LIGHT INTENSITY.  Leaves and stems that are “indoor adapted” will develop brown and black spots on the leaves and trunk if put outdoors directly into full sunlight. Plants kept indoors have soft, weak leaves and stems, and thin cuticle layers. These weak areas will not tolerate direct sun and will burn. Trees grown indoors even under high intensity artificial lights cannot be placed into full sun. In full sun the leaves will burn and often be shed within a day or two of this move. This naturally weakens the tree and forces it to use precious reserves of energy to produce new leaves.

            Instead plan on transitioning the trees to full sun over a 2-3 week period. Initially move the trees to nearly full shade and every 5 days move the plants to brighter and brighter light. Eventually, full sun conditions will be fine and result in no leaf damage or scorching of the branches. A reverse process will be needed as trees are moved back indoors in the fall months but we will leave details of this until fall.


Old leaves turn yellow and will be shed in
late fall and early spring - this is normal"

TEMPERATURES.   Spring has very variable temperatures that must be considered. Most tropicals will stop growing when temperatures are in the range of 55F for the lows. It is best to move your trees indoors for cooler nights and outside for the warm days. Better yet, temperatures above 60F are much more likely to keep the trees happy and growing.     

WATERING.  Watering needs will increase once the trees are outside and exposed to brighter light, warmer temperatures and increased air movement.  Of course if temperatures remain cool water needs will in fact decrease and create water-logged soil that may promote root rot.  Proper watering involves allowing the soil to get nearly dry and then watering the roots thoroughly until water drains out of the drain holes. Be sure your potting media allows water to penetrate the entire root ball and not just the top and sides. Be sure your pots all have ample drain holes. Without drain holes the water will accumulate and roots will rot.

FERTILIZATION.  Fertilization programs can be stepped up at this time as growth accelerates.

INSECTS & PESTS.  Insects can be a problem.  Close observation helps to detect insect attacks and to allow the earliest treatment possible. Outdoors, insects are usually not a problem but real problems occur when trees are moved back indoors in the fall. But that is another story we will discuss at that time. Outdoors, animals, neighbors dogs and cats will also find your trees attractive places to chew, play etc. Squirrels, rabbits and other animals can chew on trees. Protect trees from these chewing friends.  Dogs, cats, raccoons etc. will be interested in organic fertilizers and can dig up trees looking for treats. Fish derived materials seem the most problematic. In my area bears can be a danger both to trees and to humans as they are attracted to the smells of organic decaying materials.

WIND. Out of doors wind increases evaporation and watering needs. Secure the trees against winds that can dislodge the trees from their pots and stands. Wire newly repotted trees into their pots to prevent wind and animals from un-planting them.

          ADVANTAGES OF OUTDOOR GROWTH.   Growth of the bonsai outdoors will be much stronger than growing indoors even when compared with strong artificial light supplementation. Indoor light will never be as strong as outdoor sunlight. Photosynthesis is much stronger and plant leaves and stems will be thicker and more vigorous.  Insect infestations outdoors are reduced and balanced by predators of the insects and by rain, wind and sun that inhibit insects from spreading. Chemical sprays are easier to accomplish and safer outdoors where the spray is away from humans.


           INDOOR LIGHTING:     1.  Windowsill

    2.  Supplemental incandescent lamps


Jerry's beautiful plant room with great lighting and consistent growing conditions. Note that the ficus trees that like more light are closer to the lights.

        ADVANTAGES OF FULL TIME INDOOR GROWTH;  CONSISTENT CONDITIONS. Growing indoors is easy as temperatures, humidity and other environmental conditions are very stable. Watering needs vary only slightly throughout the year.  There is also little or no chance of bugs finding your trees and damaging them unless introduced from new plants.


        Growing indoors is the only way for many of us to care for our bonsai. Indoor growing is always slower than developing plants outdoors and indoor plants can never have the inherent vigor of outdoor growing. However, there are many benefits of indoor growing as discussed above.  Growers who provide marginally indoor conditions will find that their trees will grow significantly only when outdoors each year. If indoor conditions are less than ideal little or no growth occurs during the winter. Moving trees outdoors for the summer allows these trees to grow, thicken and to get really healthy.

        Only strong plants can be trained as bonsai. It is not true that bonsai must be kept weak and slow growing. Always grow your trees as fast and as strong as possible. It is only then that pruning, wiring and shaping can be done properly and safely.   The simple planning discussed above should make the outdoor time more advantageous for your trees and less stressful to you, the owner.

       Bonsai growers should aim for maximum bonsai growth as very few of our trees do not require further growth and development. Obtain the best materials suitable for your environment and/or alter the environment to suit your bonsai. True Indoor Bonsai have proven track records to allow them to thrive whether you grow them indoors or out. Outdoor growing where feasible produce stronger, healthier and more trainable bonsai.   You will need to decide whether growing indoors or outdoors is best given your own situation and needs.

       I’m really looking forward to hearing that these articles are helping you to get better growth and increasing your bonsai interest and success!  If you have any questions, comments or ideas please contact me at




                 As everyone should be able to guess by now,  both Jerry and I are "BONSAI FANATICS" who enjoy helping others.  We are very different and have different environments.  Jerry grows indoors, specializes in ficus, and has some Dwarf Schefflera.  I grow mostly outdoors, specialize in Dwarf Schefflera, and have some ficus.  We both tend to do extensive research and are always running trials to test theories and compare results.

                Most Fuku-Bonsai's customers just want to grow one or two bonsai with as little effort as possible.  They want bonsai as indoor decorative objects and almost everyone had killed purchased outdoor juniper bonsai before they discovered Fuku-Bonsai and our very easy-care Hawaiian Lava Plantings.  Each year we are raising the bar and as a group, our customers are giving Hawaiian Lava Plantings as gifts, but are steadily drifting toward Potted Bonsai that are a lot more trainable.  More are now growing them on windowsills instead of dimly lit interior windowless rooms;  or have two and rotate positions weekly. Some are installing fluorescent or other lighting.  More are trying our Introductory Workshop Package. 

               Our goal is to have True Indoor Bonsai teachers in every American region and city and as we begin we hope the email monthly Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai will provide ideas and information to help you become more successful.  For those who want to learn bonsai, consider joining our study groups.  The basic three Introductory Workshop Package is recommended for beginners even if you have a few store-bought bonsai.  For those that are committed for the long haul,  learn the basics with the Introductory Workshop Package and graduate to our more challenging workshops.  Spring will soon be here and it's a great time to start.  Please email us if there are questions or if we can help!  ~~~David 


***  Go to Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai March 2013 issue #3

***  Go to Jerry Meislik's portal page

***  Go to Fuku-Bonsai home page

        ©  Jerry Meislik,  Fuku-Bonsai, and Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation, 2013