What do cannabis and bonsai have in common? Evidence suggests both originated in China.
Bonsai is a Japanese term that means, “tree in a tray.” It’s an art form that involves creating miniature landscapes and is “derived from an ancient Chinese horticultural practice, part of which was then redeveloped under the influence of Japanese Zen Buddhism,” notes the online platform Bonsai Empire. Cannabis, for its part, could possibly share some of that history. A research paper published this past June in the journal of Medical Sciences indicates cannabis was smoked 2,500 years ago in Western China.
And since good things are said to come in small packages, it’s no wonder there’s a genuine interest in marrying bonsai and weed in one harmonious package.
Dianna Donnelly, Kingston, Ont.-based writer for U.S.-based cannabis manufacturing company Boveda, agrees. “Cannabis cultivation is often done for the purpose of attaining flowers or bud. With a bonsai, however, the purpose changes. We switch from the ‘more root; more fruit’ mindset to ‘small pot for small plant’. Now, who doesn’t love that?” Donnelly notes in an email.
Then there’s the added value of horticulture therapy that certain studies suggest can improve an individual’s quality of life. “Having so much interaction with the plant, in that every snip or tie-down is done with the future in mind, offers therapy,” Donnelly concurs.
But what stumps many amateur growers is the lack of information available on the topic, driving many enthusiasts to DIY cannabis bonsai. “When I looked online for weed bonsai, I would often find fake photos or mislabelled Japanese Maple bonsai trees. So I figured I’d do my best to put a real one out there!” a cannabis grower from Maine, U.S., who prefers to be identified by his online username, Get Slothed, notes in an email.
Recording the process on his Instagram account, the online user has been growing weed bonsais for a year. “I used to live in Delray Beach, Fl. where we had the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens,” he notes. “It blew my mind that people would train a plant for over 40 years. Recently, I moved to Portland, Maine, where recreational weed was legalized this year. So I figured now was a good time to get started,” he adds.
Apart from the visual appeal, “one of the primary reasons why people grow canna-bonsai trees is to produce clone clippings — it helps in growing a new plant. Because each mother plant remains small, cannabis bonsais takes up much less space than a full-grown mother plant,” explains Royal Queen Seeds in the 2019 article, How to grow a marijuana bonsai.
Adds Donnelly, “Who has time to wait for a Juniper plant to grow? Cannabis, being a fast-growing ‘weed’ is perfect because it offers close to instant gratification due to its speedy growth. For the most part, growing cannabis is easy.”
The speed at which a cannabis bonsai grows sets it apart from the traditional one — the latter could take up to five years. “Cannabis bonsai can evolve over months and months, even years. But if you had to fast-track it, you could get one to hold its shape in about three months. For instance, I’m playing with the idea of gifting some to loved ones for Christmas. Unlike regular bonsai, if I were to begin now, I would be able to get its desired shape by mid-Dec.”
Meanwhile, the challenge of maintaining a healthy bonsai can sometimes be daunting. “I just recently lost my favorite plant. Fungus gnats — found commonly among plants grown indoor — have been hard for me to control when combined with the stress put on the plant after re-potting and frequent pruning,” notes Get Slothed.
For Donnelly, it was remembering to regularly hydrate the plant that took some getting used to. “The plant won’t die if you miss a day, but it starts to look worse. Then there is some difficulty with tying down branches, but the dexterity sharpens in time,” she explains.
Patience, Donnelly emphasizes, goes a long way. “Bonsai pots can be difficult to find, but don’t let that stop you,” she says. “I began training my first bonsai, a cutting of Sweet Purple strain from a legal clone from B.C.-based THC BioMed, in a plastic planter that I cut down to be about two inches deep. Cost, too, has been minimal so far,” she adds.
Early on, one might end up making many mistakes “but I’ve found the most enjoyment in the process itself, not the end result,” notes Get Slothed. “You have to maintain it without over-maintaining it… if that makes sense. When wire wrapping branches, you have to constantly be rewiring because new growth comes on fast. Always plan for what shape you want far in advance and even with planning in advance, you still may not get the exact shape you want. In the face of such unexpected happenings, patience is mandatory.”
Then, there’s a possibility that “there will be a decrease in the potency of your buds after every flowering,” notes Greencamp in a 2019 article, How to grow a cannabis bonsai tree from scratch.
But cannabis users maintain the real charm of weed bonsai lies in its aesthetic appeal. “The cute factor gets me every time!” admits Donnelly.
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