Wendy from Tulsa, OK wrote in about
bonsai seeds, among other things.
My reply was as follows:
In browsing through our
site, you may have noticed that we do not sell seeds. This is because
of past experience. Since 1976 when my business began I have spoken to literally
hundreds of people who have tried to grow bonsai from seeds and failed.
Very often only a small percentage will sprout, and in almost all cases,
the seeds will "damp off" in 3
to 4 weeks.
Damping off is very common. It's where a fungus attacks
the seedling at the soil line. The stem will get thinner and thinner
until the sprout falls over and dies. In the handful of cases where there
was success, the people who had that success felt that the results were
not worth the trouble.
Remember, the goal of bonsai is to have something which
looks like a full size, mature tree in miniature. In most cases, a seedling
will need many years (if not decades) to achieve this goal. The photos
you see on the pages of companies selling seeds are usually of trees
many hundreds of years old. I don't know about you, but I don't have
that kind of time.
As an example, a seedling
would take 4 or 5 years to reach the size & maturity of one of our $4.99 pieces of pre-bonsai material.
Considering that most trees live for centuries, starting from scratch
may not be the best way to go. Besides the above, the fact is that many
people believe that once their seeds sprout, they should live and grow.
Seeing them die usually makes people think that they killed them, leading
to feelings of failure. Nothing is further from the truth. In nature,
trees produce thousands of seeds a year. If they all germinated & lived,
trees would have overrun the planet millennia ago. Nature makes sure
this does not happen. If the survival rate under natural conditions is
low, imagine the odds of raising them at home, and especially indoors.
This said, if you already have the seeds, please try
growing them. The soil should never dry out, but should not be kept sopping
wet either. To survive, they'll need direct sun, for at least a few hours
a day. Transplanting will need to be done in 2 to 4 months, depending
on the species. If the above described things happen, PLEASE don't abandon
the art of bonsai, just rethink your approach.