There comes a time when all bonsai enthusiasts, especially the veteran bonsai creators, find it necessary to create an indoor bonsai forest. Creating this kind of a small bonsai forest inside the house procreates the out of the ordinary appeal of a rain forest or brings into reality the dream of developing a passionate grouping of quite a few trees.
In fact, plants with small leafs, such as the small-leafed Carmona, elm, Serissa, Ficus, or myrtle are ideal for growing as an indoor forest.
It is relatively easier to use young plants, especially those that are aged between two to six years, to create a small bonsai forest indoors. When you use such small plants, creating an indoor bonsai forest is not that expensive and, hence, you need not spend a fortune on it. You require a minimum of five trees, but it would be better to use seven to nine or even more trees of different heights as well as trunk size to create the indoor forest. What is of utmost importance is that the number of trees should always be uneven.
Here is an extremely vital tip: if you desire to create an indoor bonsai forest of mixed trees, it is advisable that you opt for plants having similar or same requirements. If the plants do not match well with one another at this level, it may become extremely problematic to care for the bonsai forest later on.
While planning your indoor bonsai forest and start searching for bonsai trees, you need to remember how the trees you choose actually appear in nature. You should know that all trees appear differently in nature. One of these trees may be sort of a “father”, which means it has a distinctly larger and stronger appearance compared to others, and it may tempt you to arrange your trees in a manner as a family photo with the “father” being at the center. However, it is advisable that you should ignore the concept that suggests that the smaller trees should always be grown in front.
While creating a small indoor bonsai forest, you should ideally follow an opposite concept, as when the smaller trees are planted at the back of the taller trees, visually it gives the cluster of trees an addition depth. You can create visual effects that are more interesting provided you use ferns as well as different low-growing plants in your indoor bonsai forest. These plants impart a variety to your landscape and reproduce the forest floor as found in nature.
Just envisage that you are looking above the shoulders of a bonsai master creating an indoor forest, while you continue with every step of developing your own indoor bonsai forest. It is suggested that you go for nine Ficus neriifolia plants (commonly called rubber plants) of varying sizes as well as height for your indoor bonsai garden. Take enough care while selecting the bonsai container. It would be best to opt for a rather plain and flat container.
In addition to the main plants, you would also be requiring a few low-growing plants and some soil. Keep all the necessary tools such as earth, container, wire, mesh, a pair of bonsai scissors, a pair of pliers for cutting roots and wooden picks within reach.
Before you start using your plants and tools for the indoor bonsai forest, you need to draw a blueprint or layout of the container on a small craft paper. Subsequently, reproduce the arrangement of the trees (counting their numbers), on the drawing.
Next, you need to prepare the plants. Take them out of their containers/ pots, cut the roots back by roughly a third of their original size and get rid of the large leaves as well as branches that are either too long or you wouldn’t require. Place the plants in a line as per their height. When all this is complete, you can finally start planting your first bonsai tree in the container.
The trees that have been planted on the outer side are turned in such a manner that the strong branches of these trees point externally. If required, you may use additional soil.
After having planted all the bonsai trees on the container, water them appropriately. This is the time when you can also use fertilizers if you wish to. After this, you only need to look after your small indoor bonsai forest in the same way as you would care for any other bonsai tree. Be careful while watering the trees; the less water you use the better it is. Keep the container in a brightly lit place, but never under direct sunlight. If you notice that the trees have developed new leaves and roots, consider this to be an indication of the fact that they have established themselves and are growing well. When new growth occurs, you may enhance the watering as well as feeding. As in the case of any other bonsai tree, you need to transplant the trees of your indoor bonsai forest once in two years. Ideally, all the trees in your bonsai forest should develop a single root system and each should be considered as an individual plant.
A small bonsai forest in the house
As far as growing things are concerned, nature has infinite imagination. In fact, on many occasions we only realize this when we start gardening, because this hobby helps us to try and imitate nature’s imaginations. Crafting a bonsai forest or growing a cluster of miniature trees in one container or tray having their origin in an individual potted plant is based on two basic principles. First, the slender twigs and branches will grow roots when they are placed in the soil (also known as the principle of layering). Second, the branches should always grow in an ascending position – in the direction of the light.
One plant that is best suited for growing in an indoor bonsai forest is a houseplant called the Ficus benjamina “Natasha”. Once you have obtained the plant, inspect it carefully to decide on its “good side”, which means the side of the plant that has the longest as well as the maximum number of branches. This is important because these branches will grow upwards later.
Then, remove all the small twigs as well as leaves that growing in the area close to the trunk. Subsequently, wire the entire trunk from its base to the crown in such a manner that you will be able to bend it easily. Similarly it will be easy to bend the twigs and branches of the plant on its “good side”, provided you fasten them together using a bonsai wire. The greater number of branches you are able to bind together, the more beneficial it will be for your small indoor bonsai forest. It is important to bear in mind that the crown of the tree is always bent towards the left.
Cut off the remaining branches on the “slender” side of the tree, ensuring that one-third of the trees branches, which you have fastened together loosely and are free of the small leaves and twigs. Using a sharp edged knife get rid of roughly 2 cm (3/4 inch) of bark at intervals of every 3 cm to 5 cm (1 1/4 inches to 2 inches) on the side of the trunk that is bare. When these cuts are exposed to the soil, they will develop roots from there.
After the bonsai plant has been prepared using this method, it is taken out from its pot or container. The next thing you need to do is to drastically cut back the root ball, just leaving sufficient root fibers that may be essential for the tree to receive a minimum supply of nutrients.
Now, the trunk along with the reduced root ball is planted in a horizontal manner in a flower box or an elongated bonsai bowl. Subsequently, cover the root ball and the trunk with soil up to a depth of anything between 3 cm and 4 cm (1 1/4 inches to 1 1/2 inches).
It is suggested that you create a mound with soil in the region of the root ball. Allow the twigs and branches to be tied till they become used to the new direction, wherein they should grow and can also support themselves. Usually it takes anything between 4 months and 6 months for the bonsai forest to develop and also sustain itself via the recently formed roots at places where you had made the incisions on the trunk. While transplanting this small forest, you need to check if the new roots are in place. If you find the new roots are in their place, you can get rid of the old root ball and start watering the plants carefully and sparingly. It is important that you do not expose the newly formed plants and their roots to direct sunlight for about 6 weeks to 8 weeks. Your indoor bonsai forest will look further beautiful as well as compact provided you undertake their pruning at regular intervals.