Creating a Bonsai from Seed

The seeds of Abies Nephrolepis the Manchurian Fir (x4)


You may wish to grow a tree from seed. This will give you absolute control over the tree from its beginning. The best advice I can give you is Don't do it!. Life's to short.

You may have been the lucky recipient of one of the many 'Bonsai Kits' available, go on try it!, follow the instructions, watch those precious little seeds germinate, poke their heads above the soil and die. On closer inspection you will probably find the seedling has rotted at about soil level, this is called 'Damping off', and is a fungal attack. You can overcome this by adding a fungicide to the first watering, and then as directed by the instructions. Bonsai 'kits' put people off the hobby, convincing them that bonsai are difficult to keep, as such they should be avoided.

Damping off, caused by a fungal attack. The shoot forms a dark patch just above the soil level and then collapses an dies.

You should of course be aware that trees used in Bonsai are not 'special', not genetically different, they are the same trees as you see all around you.

When you have your seeds, divide them into two lots. If you live in a temperate part of the world the chances are that your seeds will need to be chilled to start them growing, this is called 'Stratification'. Put half of the seeds in a container (a plastic bag) and place them in the refrigerator (not the freezer) for a few weeks. Plant the remainder straight away. If you come from the Tropics plant the seeds soon after collection.

They should be planted in a sturdy pot, or tray and left to their own devices. This may take a year or so but provided they are not disturbed by birds, mice, or you, they should, if fertile germinate.

This tray of Beech seedlings are ready to be planted out into individual pots.

Assuming that you have planted all the seeds in a tray, as soon as they are manageable you should pot them on into separate pots. At this repotting cut, or pinch the tip off of the main or tap root, this causes side roots to develop and will give a strong radial root structure.

Allen. C. Roffey 15:36 23/04/2018