The ginkgo has unique, fan-shaped leaves which turn a beautifully deep yellow colour in the autumn. Also known as the ‘Maidenhair Tree’. It is native to China and is often referred to as a living fossil, since records of its existence date back 270 million years. It is a revered tree both in nature and bonsai for its age and medicinal properties.
Ginkgo Bonsai Care Tips
Choose an outdoor location that receives full sun but is protected from strong wind and scorching sunlight in the hottest part of summer days. The level of sun that your tree receives during the spring and summer will dictate how dramatic the change of colour from green to golden yellow is in the autumn. The more light it receives, the more vibrant the yellow.
During winter, your ginkgo will require a dormant period (approx. 3 months) which can be achieved with temperatures around 2-12 °C but it is important to protect from temperatures lower than this and especially frost. This can be done by moving you ginkgo to a cold frame, unheated greenhouse, garage or shed.
There is no definitive guide to watering and it should be conducted on an observational schedule, not a routine. This means that it is important to keep an eye on the moisture levels of the soil to avoid over and under watering, both which can lead to dropping leaves and/or root death. The amount of water a bonsai requires depends on pot size, climate, airflow, soil and tree type so it is best to use your eyes and fingers to assess whether the soil is damp, wet or dry.
If the top inch or so of soil has dried, it is ready to be watered. When you water, try to get an even coverage over the roots and soil, allowing water to flow out from the bottom of the pot to ensure a good soaking.
If you are a first-time bonsai owner, another way to water is by submerging the entire pot in water until the bubbles stop. If you choose this method, be aware that your bonsai may not need watering for another two to four days, but this will depend on the factors mentioned above such as soil type, pot size and climate.
Using fertiliser on your ginkgo tree will help encourage healthy growth and this should be done periodically from once a week to every two months and only during the growing season. You can start adding Chrysal Liquid Bonsai Feed to your water from March until October and use weekly. Use Naruko Fertiliser Slow Release Bonsai Feed once every one to two months. With Buddhist Pine trees, less is more, and we tend to advise using half the recommended dosage to see how your Buddhist Pine reacts first.
Pruning your bonsai is important not only to maintain or create an aesthetic style but to also ensure light and airflow can reach inner leaves. Constant trimming of new shoots will help to thicken the trunk of the ginkgo. During the early to late spring months use appropriate tools to cut back stems which have grown longer than four leaves, leaving the two leaves which are closest to the stem intact. Keep in mind that unfortunately the ginkgo does not heal well or quickly from wounds and any incisions will leave visible scars. Pruning therefore should be thought about very carefully, wound paste should be used and producing large wounds should be avoided.
The ginkgo can be trained using wires all year round and the branches are quite flexible. The bark however is very delicate, and it is recommended to wire with care and check that the wires do not bite in which will leave scarring. We recommend using wires with a thickness that matches the thickness of the branch: if the wire you choose is too thick you will damage the bark. If it is too thin, it won’t be effective. Ginkgos are usually styled into the flame shape which suits its natural form the best and requires minimal wiring.
Repotting your tree is an important way to provide a fresh and suitable soil mix and ensure appropriate root health. Repot in early spring. Generally, your ginkgo will need to be re-potted once every year if it is young, while older ones can stay in their pots for longer. However, you should always check if it has become root-bound before you change pots. You can do this by lifting the tree gently out of the pot by the main trunk and examining the root system. You will know it is ready if you can see that the roots are circling around each other and the pot. If, however, they still appear contained in the soil, you should place it back and wait until the following spring to check again.
When repotting, do not cut back the root mass by a large amount, and choose a well-draining soil mix that has a neutral or slightly higher PH value of 5-6 but not over 7. We tend to use a mixture of different speciality bonsai soils on our trees. Every species is different so please contact us for free soil-mix advice or to take advantage of our repotting service.
Bonsai trees aren’t only magnificent additions to an indoor oasis, they are more than capable of standing out in any garden. Many Bonsai species are incredibly hardy and withstand nature’s colder and damper turns with aplomb making them worthwhile outdoor plants. We have an extensive library of care guides for outdoor bonsai trees. It’s not about selecting the perfect bonsai, it’s about selecting the perfect bonsai for you.
Ginkgo Bonsai - Typical Queries
Propagating a Ginkgo Bonsai can be done by seeds or cuttings. Seeds can be collected from mature trees in autumn, when the fruits fall to the ground. They need to be cleaned, stratified, and sown in a moist medium. Cuttings can be taken from healthy branches in summer, when the growth is vigorous. They need to be dipped in rooting hormone, planted in a moist medium, and kept in a warm and humid environment. Both methods require patience and care, as the germination and rooting rates are low.
Ginkgo Bonsai can live indoors, but they prefer outdoor conditions. They need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day, which can be hard to provide indoors. They also benefit from the natural changes of seasons, which stimulate their growth and dormancy cycles. If you want to keep your Ginkgo Bonsai indoors, you should place it near a bright window and supplement it with artificial lighting. You should also monitor the temperature, humidity, and ventilation, and avoid placing it near heat sources or drafts.
Ginkgo Bonsai trees are worth it if you appreciate their beauty, history, and symbolism. They are not easy to grow and maintain, but they can reward you with stunning foliage, longevity, and resilience. They are also considered to be symbols of hope, peace, and wisdom, as they have survived many challenges and changes throughout the ages. Ginkgo Bonsai trees are unique and valuable additions to any bonsai collection.