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how to bonsai cannabis from seed

How to grow a cannabis bonsai

Bonsai is a form of art and gardening that is believed to pave a path toward spiritual enlightenment. The practice of bonsai is also a form of wabi-sabi, an artistic expression that celebrates impermanence, the beauty of imperfection, and acceptance of growth, decay, and death in nature.

Since bonsai is underpinned by a philosophy steeped in Zen concepts, it’s little wonder that cannabis and bonsai are a natural combination. Many cannabis users will attest to the plant’s ability to offer glimpses into an enlightened state of being and a heightened sense of peace and acceptance. On an esoteric level, adherents of canna-bonsai believe the practice fosters a sense of connection and understanding with the plant.

But, there are also more pragmatic reasons that marijuana bonsai trees — also known as canna-bonsai or “budsai” — are increasing in popularity. Cannabis bonsai plants allow the cultivation of cannabis virtually anywhere. Even an apartment dweller living in the most compact of studios in New York can nurture a miniature cannabis plant and reap the benefits of their miniature harvest.

What is bonsai?

Bonsai is the practice of growing ornamental, artificially dwarfed plants and trees in containers. Bonsai plants are believed to have originated in Japan, but the practice has its roots in China, where it is popular as an art form and horticultural method. The Chinese began practicing pen-jing, creating miniature landscapes, more than 2000 years ago. Tiny reproductions of landscapes were believed to be imbued with magical properties, which could then be transferred to students that focused on them.

During the Kamakura period of Japanese history from 1192 to 1333, many cultural traditions from China were adopted and adapted by the Japanese. The art of bonsai began to emerge and diverge from Chinese pen-jing. Japanese bonsai focuses on growing individual trees of short stature rather than creating entire tiny landscapes. In the same vein, canna-bonsai focuses on growing individual miniature cannabis plants.

The word ‘bonsai’ is a Japanese term that means ‘planted in a container’,” said Harry Williams, founder and CEO of cannabis cultivation magazine Grow Reporter. “This type of plant is prevented from growing into its normal size through a number of different techniques. Today, bonsai is widely popular across Asia and in several parts of the world.”

When planted in restrictive containers or pots, the tree’s ability to absorb nutrients and develop an extensive root system is constrained, dwarfing its growth. Bonsai cultivation also adheres to certain aesthetic ideals. Bonsai practitioners engage in careful and deliberate pruning so that the grower slowly manipulates the bonsai plant to take on the appearance of an older, more mature tree.

What cultural traditions underpin bonsai?

There’s a traditional Japanese saying 花鳥風月 or kachu fugetsu, which literally translates as “flower, bird, wind, moon.” These simple words convey a more profound meaning — by experiencing the beauties of nature, people can learn about themselves. Bonsai cultivation in Japan became aligned with the belief that planting miniature trees was a meditative, reflective, and harmonious art form that enhanced communion with nature.

It’s little wonder that bonsai became interwoven with Zen Buddhism, which emerged in the Kamakura period of Japanese history simultaneously with bonsai. According to historians, Buddhist monks were the main teachers of bonsai in Japan for many years. Zen forms part of the religious practice of Buddhism, but many individuals embrace Zen concepts without practicing the religion.

There are several Zen virtues required for successful bonsai horticulture. First, the growth of the tree should be guided by human hands but human manipulation of the plant should not be obvious. Bonsai should also always be planted slightly off-center and not blocking the center point of the container, which Buddhists believe represents the place where heaven and earth meet. The bonsai tree should also have a significant impact on the artist’s state of mind. Daily care should become a meditative and reflective time for the practitioner.

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An ancient scroll dating from the Kamakura period speaks to the intention underlying the cultivation of bonsai: To appreciate and find beauty in curiously potted trees is to find love in deformity.

How did cannabis bonsai become a trend?

Marijuana bonsai trees initially gathered momentum as a method of producing clones while saving space. However, many growers found other reasons for cultivating cannabis bonsai, increasing the popularity of the trend in the cannabis community.

“Compared with other bonsai-suitable plant varieties, growing a cannabis bonsai tree is quite a bit easier,” said Williams. “Canna-bonsai has become a trend because the marijuana market is increasing as it becomes more legal across many parts of the US and Canada. It requires less space for growers. Any interested gardener can plant regular cannabis seeds and cultivate it into a bonsai.”

Tips for growing your own canna-bonsai

It’s important to point out that debate exists as to whether cannabis constitutes a bonsai-suitable plant. Bonsai trees typically have woody, gnarled-looking trunks and take years to grow. In contrast, cannabis is quick-growing and has a more flexible stalk.

Another distinguishing feature of bonsai is that the plants are not cultivated for any reason other than to provide a means of contemplation and connection to nature. In other words, bonsai plants are not grown to yield fruit or medicine. Since some cannabis bonsai tree growers enjoy the fruits of their labor with the harvest of enough weed at the flowering stage to make a teeny-tiny joint, it’s not strictly bonsai according to purists.

If growing your own canna-bonsai appeals, Williams has some expert tips to help you hone a cannabis plant into a classic bonsai shape.

Choose a suitable pot

Choosing a small container that will restrict growth, and preparing it prior to planting, is key. “Remember that you are growing a bonsai, so smaller pots are preferred,” said Williams. “Drilling small holes for twine and strings to fit are highly recommended so you can control and train your bonsai in the desired shape and direction.”

Plant your cutting

Just as with regular cannabis plant cultivation, genetics matter. “Pick a healthy and sturdy mother plant capable of producing quality buds,” advised Williams. Choosing seeds or a clone from a healthy specimen will offer better odds of growing a robust cannabis plant, albeit in miniature. As the vertical growth of canna-bonsai plants is both restricted and manipulated, sturdier plants from reliable genetic lines have higher odds of doing better given the constraints of bonsai growing. Many marijuana bonsai plants are trained to wind around a miniature wooden stake as they grow so they take on a more exotic appearance.

Train your bonsai branches

Growing a cannabis bonsai tree is an exercise in aesthetics and refinement. “Bonsai is also an art form; thus, as a grower you can dictate how you want your plant to look,” said Williams. “If you want your branches to grow horizontally, it’s best to tie them down with more force. If you prefer them to be more vertical, tie them down more loosely.” Williams also offers this pro tip: Make sure you leave space for other branches to grow in between the branches that have been tied down.

Don’t forget to prune

Pruning is one of the fundamental elements that define the practice of bonsai. ”Only prune offshoot branches because cutting main branches can damage your plant,” advised Williams. Careful (sometimes daily) clipping and trimming allows the plant to assume the intricate shape or design held in the mind of the cultivator. Pruning is also key because cannabis plants require optimal airflow to prevent mold on their leaves or buds.

Ultimately, the practice of bonsai is about nurturing a relationship with a cannabis plant. The grower has a unique opportunity to devote special attention to the cultivation of the plant and witness it as it responds to this deep level of care and connection.

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How to Grow a Cannabis Bonsai Tree from Scratch (Step by Step)

Cannabis enthusiasts recently showed quite a surge of newfound interest for cannabis bonsai trees, so I’ve decided to cover this topic in vigorous depth.

Before starting the tutorial, we should probably say something about the bonsai culture first, in order to have a better comprehension of why would someone start to grow their own marijuana bonsai tree.

Lasting for more than a millennia, the subtle art of grooming miniature-sized plants originated in ancient Japan (and this tradition is closely connected to their Zen Buddhism practices), but the roots of this custom actually originated in old China.

The end-goal of growing a bonsai tree is to create an authentic plant that appears identical to the ones that can be found in nature, with the sole difference being the actual size of the tree.

It’s important to note that bonsai’s aren’t genetically tampered to become smaller in size, and actually any kind of tree could be used for creating a bonsai.

Naturally, some species are far more suitable for this than others.

The word bonsai (when directly translated from Japanese) means “planted in a container”, and this is very true to the heart, because once the plant is grown in a small container, this will limit its ability to store large amounts of nutrients and to have a large root system, and these limitations are the most important aspects of growing a bonsai tree.

In order for the bonsai to turn out as perfect as it can be, plants that have a woody trunk should be used, and preferably ones that have smaller leaves by default, or plants that have reducible-size leaves.

Cultivating a healthy bonsai tree involves a lot of pruning, branch-wiring, limiting the quantity of fertilizers and many other precise details, which makes bonsai cultivation a very time-consuming and demanding task, but that is (besides a gorgeous looking plant) the most rewarding thing about bonsai culture.

The same Zen-like philosophy could be applied when we are nurturing a new cannabis bonsai tree, because the sheer time and effort you put into this living thing will result in a more personal and engaging relationship with your plant, and the time spent working on it will be filled with peace and serenity.

So now that we’ve gotten acquainted with the history and the fundamental characteristics of the bonsai tradition, we can move on to the practical part of this piece.

How to grow a cannabis bonsai tree from scratch

In order to cultivate your own canna-bonsai, you’ll be needing a couple of things:

  • A young cannabis plant in a pot (here’s how to grow it indoors)
  • Electric drill
  • Plastic-covered wire (or gardening twine)
  • A wooden stake (don’t worry, there are no vampires involved)

Phase One – Drilling the Pot

Start by drilling numerous holes from all sides of the pot, and through them you’ll be running the wire (or twine, depending on your personal preference) to suspend the branches of your canna-bonsai in any desired direction.

Double check that the holes you’ve drilled are wide enough for the wire or twine, so you don’t have to waste any time broadening them afterwards.

Phase Two – Trunk Training

The most important aspect to get your cannabis plant looking like a bonsai tree is to stick a wooden stake next to the trunk.

You’ll use the stake to position the trunk in any direction you wish, which will give your plant that unusual exotic appearance.

To avoid any possible root damage, very gently press the wooden stake down into the soil alongside the trunk of your plant, and once you’ve wrapped the trunk the way you wanted to, tie it with wire or twine to one of the nearest holes that you’ve previously drilled in the pot.

Make sure you don’t tie the trunk with too much force, and always leave some extra room for the trunk to expand in size.

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Phase Three – Branch Training

The next thing needed to be done is tying the branches of your plant.

This is achieved in the same manner as with the trunk, so when you envision in which direction you want your branches to go, tie them with wire and connect them with the holes you previously drilled in the pot.

Again, make sure you leave some extra room while wiring, so your branches can grow uninterrupted and without excessive constriction.

If you want your branches to be more horizontal, tie them down with more force, and if you want them in a more traditional vertical style, keep the bondage of that branch light.

Phase Four – Branch Pruning

As your canna-bonsai develops and becomes bigger, you’ll need to limit the number of branches by pruning them.

This will preserve that custom bonsai look, but at the same time it’ll preserve an optimal amount of airflow to your plant, preventing it to become too humid and develop any mold.

Just make sure you only prune the new offshoot branches, because you definitely don’t want to cut any important ones, as this will slow down the growth of your plant to a great extent.

Phase Five – The Harvest

Once your canna-bonsai reaches the flowering stage (you can determine this by viewing the trichomes on your buds), and when they turn creamy white, it’s time to snip them off.

Leave the fresh buds in a ventilated room to dry off, and once you can separate the stem easily from the branch, it’s time for curing.

To properly cure a bud you’ll need an airtight glass jar. Place the buds in the jar and place your jar (or jars) in a dark dry space.

Double check that the buds don’t get too humid, and if that happens, just air out the jars and close the lid again.

You’ll recognize the end of curing once your buds become half dry (with the trichomes remaining still quite sticky), and in this phase you can start to puff your product.

Even now when it’s completely budless, you canna-bonsai will be a living breathing work of art.

It is also possible to keep your canna-bonsai alive for the next, and all other seasons to come. Let’s show you how you can extend the life of your plant, so it flowers for many years.

When the bonsai is ready to be cut, remove the top ⅓ of the plant (this is the area where all the massive buds will be).

The middle (or central) ⅓ of the plant needs to be heavily trimmed, and all the yellow old leaves should be removed.

And for the lower ⅓ of the plant, you shouldn’t remove the small buds from this section, because they are paramount for provoking the regeneration process.

Once you’ve completed all of this, it’s time to set your canna-bonsai into vegetative state, which means 18+ hours of light plus a substantial amount of nitrogen for kick-starting the vegetating phase.

Also note that your plant won’t require so much water as it did during the flowering phase, so water it once and repeat once it’s dry.

The regeneration will do wonders for the look of your canna-bonsai, because you won’t have to start nurturing a new one every time you harvest your buds, and believe me, they will only get more beautiful with time.

Unfortunately it’s possible that there will be a decrease in the potency of your buds after every flowering, but because the end-goal of a canna-bonsai isn’t really the punch your buds can deliver, but the time and effort you put into cultivating it, and a wonderfully intricate design of your plant.