February 11, 2022

What's in a Grow Tent? The Science and Tools Behind Keeping Indoor Bonsai Healthy

Source material: November 21, 2021

        While we're on the subject of my latest Youtube ventures such as the Todd Schlafer demonstration I posted on the Columbus Bonsai Society's new Youtube channel last week, I wanted to also take a moment to share another recording from a recent CBS Meeting. Last November while the final few deciduous leaves were falling in Ohio and the first nightly frosts were appearing, CBS held a meeting focused on preparing trees for winter. One of our seasoned members lectured on how to protect outdoor bonsai over winter and I volunteered to present on preparing an indoor space for your tropical bonsai over winter. Given my background in academia and in science, my lecture focused on the biology of tropical trees, the physical aspects of tropical environments compared to the conditions inside typical homes, and how we can improve those conditions to help our trees grow better. Although many parts of the northern hemisphere are already exiting winter, for many apartment-dwelling bonsai hobbyists or those who otherwise are only focused on indoor growing, this lecture will be relevant at any time of year. A tree growing indoors on a windowsill will simply never grow at its full potential unless we supplement things like light, humidity, airflow, and warmth. You can watch the full lecture below to learn more about how you can improve the health of your indoor bonsai and develop them faster. I'll include some additional details at the end of the article including the exact products I've used in the past just to give you an idea of the possibilities.


  1. Full Lecture - Time-Saving Tools for Growing Tropical Bonsai Indoors
  2. Supplies to Improve Indoor Growing
    1. My starter supplies:
    2. My current supplies with grow tent:
    3. Current setup with pictures:
  3. Blog Announcements
Apparently, I'M in a grow tent! But seriously, read on to see what type of lights I've been using. This picture is from when I first got my grow tent in the fall of 2020. I have definitely noticed it helped my tropical trees stay happier in winter.

I. Full Lecture - Time-Saving Tools for Growing Tropical Bonsai Indoors

        Here is my full lecture on the science of keeping your bonsai their healthiest while growing indoors. It all comes down to making their environment as similar to their natural environment as possible! I'll continue to update and improve this lecture and update information in it as I was recently invited to give it again for the Central Ohio Cactus and Succulent Society this fall.

The most detailed explanations are in the lecture and below. The rest of this post will be focused on the specific products I use in my setup.

II. Supplies to Improve Indoor Growing

        Note: Some of these supplies can also be found in hardware stores, or used on your local online marketplaces. If you find them used they'll certainly be cheaper - it's worth looking.

IIA. My starter supplies:

        I started out with these for a while, but they didn't fit in the car during my cross-country move.

IIB. My current supplies with grow tent:

        Below are the supplies for the upgraded setup I started using post-move to Ohio.

IIC. Current setup with pictures:

        Lastly, see below for some pictures of the setup with the grow tent.

Note the reflective lining on the grow tent - this is one chief advantage of it as no photons get wasted in there!

Also note, the crossbar on top is perfect for hanging your grow light from.

If using shelving, you'll quickly note that the lower level needs a supplemental light source, hence the strips were added.

Much better! Definitely not as intense as the top light but better than nothing!
If I wanted to improve this setup, I may add many more of these LED strips all along the lower level.

Upper light in action + flowering bougainvillea. The bougainvillea has always struggled to get through winters, but the grow tent definitely has it looking better than ever this winter.

It is helpful to have one of these to know how your setup can improve!

III. Blog Announcements

  1. Now is a perfect time to start preparing to cold-stratify seeds for them to germinate in spring, so check out my new seed stock for 2022!  As always, all sales come with my 10-Year Bonsai From Seed Guide. See my Sales Page for more details on my offerings. New species will be added by the end of the month.
  2. Check out my Before & After Portfolio! I've added some new gifs of work that I had done during my apprenticeship at Elandan Gardens, on my trees, and for past clients.
  3. The Columbus Bonsai Society has a new website! If you're in the area, join us at our next meeting on February 20th where we will go over bonsai basics on soil types and wiring/styling your tree. More info here.
  4. For our Seattle-area bonsai friends, make sure you don't miss this month's PSBA general meeting. My teacher, American bonsai legend, and friend Dan Robinson of Elandan Gardens will be demonstrating carving and leading workshops for members Sunday 2/27, and Monday 2/28. See here for details.

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