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Indoor versus outdoor bonsai

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Creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis), from temperate regions, is therefore an outdoor bonsai
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Michel Tremblay)

The trees sold as bonsai often come from temperate regions. This means that, just like the trees in those regions, they require full sunlight, well aerated soil and a winter dormancy period at near-freezing temperatures. Kept in the artificial environment of a home, these trees will become weakened and die. This category includes junipers (Juniperus), spruces (Picea) and most other conifers.

Plants from tropical regions, however, where temperatures remain warm year-round, are able to survive and even thrive when grown as indoor bonsai. To check the list for the best species, see the Selecting species page.

It is very important to be able to distinguish between outdoor and indoor bonsai in order to choose the right plant.

The importance of choosing the right specimen

When buying a bonsai, be sure to point out that you want an indoor bonsai. This will be easier if you buy from a recognized, specialized plant dealer.

No matter where you shop, before you bring a bonsai home, ask about the plant's needs and get its full identification, including its genus and species, e.g. Serissa foetida - Serissa.

Make sure that the plant is healthy by examining its leaves. Check under the leaves and along the stems as well for any signs of insects.

Serissa foetida 'Pleniflora', or common serissa, is frequently recommended for the beginner.

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