Bonchi is still relatively new which means we’re in trial and error territory. If you’re planning on growing your own bonchi here’s what I use to get mine going:
Like with any hobby there’s levels of investment that you can put into it. Let’s start out with the bare minimum that you’ll need then we’ll move on to the fancier (aka more expensive) stuff.
Proper bonsai pots are a bit expensive so I like to start mine off in old food containers. Make sure the pot isn’t transparent otherwise light can get to the soil causing algae to grow. If it is transparent wrap it in some paper or packing tape or spray paint it.
While your plant is growing it’s first few sets of true leaves you can treat it the same as any other pepper plant so really any old pot will do.
As the plant gets bigger you’ll want to find a pot that’s the right kind of shape and size for your bonchi. Margarine pots tend to be a good choice as they’re shallow and wide. The cut off bottom of a plastic milk cartons are great too.
Make sure there’s lots of drainage holes in the bottom so that your pepper plants won’t get waterlogged.
One of the great things about using plastic food containers is they’re easy to poke holes in if you need to anchor your plant to the pot or give it more drainage holes.
I like to prop my pot up so that the drainage holes aren’t sitting directly against a flat surface which could interfere with draining. I use a one of those things you put hot pots on (pot holder? pot coaster?) that’s got lots of holes in. A sushi mat would work too or even a cup coaster that raises the pot slightly without covering the drainage holes.
In traditional bonsai a layer of akadama is put on the bottom of the pot to help with drainage. Akadama is kind of expensive though so some good alternatives are cheap kitty litter (make sure it doesn’t have chemicals or perfumes in it or they’ll leech into the soil and could kill your plant) or aquarium gravel.
When you water the plant, any excess water that doesn’t drain out of the pot will end up in the gravel layer rather than sitting in the soil where it could cause root rot.
Many people skip the gravel layer so if you don’t fancy it, don’t worry about it, just be a little more careful when you’re watering your plant to make sure it doesn’t constantly have wet feet.
I like to keep things simple so I use regular old potting soil. If you want to get a bit fancy then mix in some perlite (a 50-50 mix should do fine) which will help aerate the soil and prevent it from getting waterlogged.
Your pepper plants will feast their way through the nutrients available in the soil fairly quickly seeing as there’s not that much of it. You’ll need to feed it fairly frequently but in low doses. Nutrients are always a little complicated as it really depends on the type of plant, the soil conditions, the watering requirements and all kinds of other things. It’s going to be trial and error to figure out what works for your plants.
An all purpose tomato fertiliser is a good place to start as it’ll provide pretty much everything your plant needs.
Some people prefer hydroponic nutrients which are great as you can mix your own giving you much more control over exactly what nutrients your plants are getting.
The slow release fertilisers can work well for bonchi too but it can be harder to control the amount of nutrients your plants are getting.
Keep track of the amount of nutrients you’re giving your plants and how frequently so that you can adjust as you see how your plant is responding.
Tap water has a load of chemicals in it which might not be great for plants. It’s not anything that’ll kill your plants (as far as I know!). Leave your water standing out overnight to help evaporate off some of the chemicals before feeding it to your bonchi.
Rain water is supposed to be the best choice. It’s like the organic version of tap water for plants. If it’s raining then pop a pot outside to collect up some rain water to give your bonchi a treat.
Getting a fancy little set of bonsai pruners can help keep your cuts precise but seeing as I’m a cheapskate I use a pair of sharp nail scissors. Before making any cuts (and between cuts) you should wipe your scissors blades with alcohol wipes to make sure you don’t transfer any nasties between the cuts.
I got 70% alcohol from the pharmacy and put a little onto some cotton wool to clean the blades.
Wire & Wire Cutters
There’s two types of wire used in bonsai; anodised aluminium and annealed copper.
Copper wire is stronger so it’s great for old branches that need the holding power but it’s much harder to work with as it hardens as you use it. Considering our bonchis are much more pliable than bonsai trees you probably don’t need something quite as strong.
Aluminium wire is easier to use and even though it’s not as strong as the copper wire it’s still got a decent amount of staying power.
I use aluminium but honestly, I’ll use just about anything that’ll hold the branches in position. Just make sure it’s not something that’ll rust or will damage your plant.
You can get wire in different thicknesses. As a general rule the wire you use should be 1/3 of the diameter of the branch you’re wiring. If you’re planning on getting some of the fancy wire and don’t want to spend a fortune on different sizes then go for a couple of sizes and use that rule as more of a loose guideline.
You can grab wire cutters from your local hardware or craft shop for cheap. Don’t try and use your kitchen scissors or you’ll probably ruin them – learnt that the hard way, RIP kitchen scissors.
This one seems obvious, but when it comes to choosing a variety to bonchi you’ll want to take a good look at the plant itself. Bonchis work best with the more compact varieties that already have small leaves and small peppers. While there are ways to reduce the size of the leaves they can only be reduced so much and you’ll get much better results with smaller leaved types.
Height is another important factor. Plants like Jalapeños can be tough candidates as they love to grow tall and leggy.
Bonchis are like pets and we all love to spoil our pets, right? You can definitely get by without these extra bits and pieces but they will help make things a bit easier.
Being able to quickly and accurately check things like your soils Ph, temperature, light and moisture can make taking care of your bonchi a lot easier – especially when it comes to diagnosing problems.
Root rakes and hooks are useful when it comes to making root over rock bonchis. It makes it much easier to separate out the roots without damaging them. If you’re trying to choose between the hook and the rake I’d go for the rake.
A chopstick is a nice (and cheap) alternative.
You can get all kinds of different pruning devices for all kinds of different pruning needs. Trying to use the tiny scissors you use for trimming leaves to cut off branches isn’t going to be fun and could end up damaging your plant.
Nail scissors are great for leaves and thin branches but for those thicker, juicier branches you’ll want a more heavy duty cutter.
Pepper plants love warm temperatures and if it’s too cold then it can struggle to grow. If you live in a cold climate then a heating mat can help out your plant by keeping the soil warm and at a consistent temperature.
Along with temperature, pepper plants love sun. Most pepper varieties need at least 6 hours of direct light everyday. If your bonchi is indoors then having a grow light can really help make sure your plants getting as much light as it needs to grow strong and healthy.