It would be nice if all the seeds in existence would make it easy on us, and have the same growing requirements. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Seeds come from all different locations, climates, and may have special stratification methods to ensure germination.
Growing a tree from seed requires patience and lots of TLC, keep in mind you are growing a tree! There will always be trial and error, especially if you are just starting on your Bonsai growing adventure. This is your all-in-one, get down to the nitty-gritty, how-to-guide to best sow and care for your bonsai seeds!
*Helpful Note: If the titles/names of the tree seeds are highlighted in green, click on it, and it will take you to a how-to video (thank you Nikki!) for that seed!
*If the title/name is highlighted in blue, click on it and it will take you to the a more-in depth article on the topic, or a product page!
Give the seed packets a good read!
The back of the seed packets contains crucial information, specific to each seed. Pay attention to the germination days ( how long it takes that seed variety to sprout on average), and the soil temperature required for that seeds. The seeds must be kept consistently kept at that temperature during the whole germination period, or they will struggle to pop up! A seed heating mat will be your best friend when it comes to keeping the soil warm.
Seed Specific Sowing and Care Information
Bonsai seeds will need to be "prepared" before sowing in the soil. Stratification is an important step! This is done by soaking the seeds in water, or placing them between layers of wet paper towel, and soaking them. Again, different seeds will have their own unique needs!
Buddha Tree(Ficus Religiosa)
Only use soil specifically for seed-starting when planting these seeds, and skip on using bonsai soil until they have matured and have a substantial root system. Using any other type of soil, other than seed starting soil, can result in poor germination.
Monitor the average hydration of the soil, and make sure it stays damp but not soaking. Soaking wet soil can lead to rotten seeds, mold, and other undesirable soil conditions. All soils are different, so never rely on watering every day or on certain days. The water requirements for sprouts can vary from day to day, depending on their growth rate! You typically will do a deep watering a couple times a week, and mist the top soil whenever it looks dry.
You can purchase a moisture meter or you can use a toothpick/wooden skewer. Carefully push the toothpick all the way into the soil. If it comes up wet/has soil stuck to it, you don't need to water. If it comes up dry/no soil stuck to it, you need to water.
As soon as your seeds have sprouted, they will need lots of light to continue to grow past the cotyledon stage! If you're using an LED grow light, you'll need to make sure that it runs for at least 10 hours a day. If you're using a conventional "bulb-type" grow light, you can run it from 8-10 hours. Failure to supply your sprouts with enough sunshine will deprive them of their primary source of energy.
If you're relying on the light of the sun to get your sprouts to thrive, be prepared for temperamental little plant babies on cloudy days. The cooler varieties( spruces, pine, elm, redwood) won't like hot sunlight/grow lights, so may sure they get plenty of light, but stay nice and cool.
*If you are using a windowsill/natural sunlight to grow your sprouts, rotate the pots daily to help them grow straight and not leaning to one side!
Once your sprouts have developed their second set of leaves, they'll be getting hungry. It's time for plant food! A water-based, low-dose organic plant food is the best route to go, as this will reach the roots the easiest. Make sure it low in nitrogen, and has lots of micro-nutrients.
Thinning out your sprouts:
For the strongest, healthiest sprouts, you'll want just one seedling per pot or cell. Thinning is challenging for many gardeners; who wants to destroy sprouts you've worked so hard to grow?! But it has to be done. Select the strongest, healthiest seedling and use a pair of scissors to snip off the others at the soil line. You can try to transplant the extras into different pots, but you risk disturbing the roots too much and killing them all!
Transplanting (click for video)
Although it can be super tempting, give your sprouts time to grow before putting them in a bonsai pot. Some sprouts can stay in the starter pots for up to a year! Replanting too soon can disturb the tender roots and kill your sprout. You can read our guide on when and how to transplant here.
Have a sick bonsai tree or have questions?
If you have questions at any point about the sowing, growing, and caring process, don't hesitate to reach out! We are here to help and love to help new gardeners achieve optimum success with our seeds! We care! our email is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram
Happy Tree Sowing!